Al Jazeera & Juan Cole / Informed Consent & Ryan Parry and Josh Boswell / The Dailymail.com – 2018-03-21 00:38:59
Trump and Mohammed bin Salman Meet in White House
President hopes kingdom will ‘give some of [its] wealth’
to US ‘in form of jobs’ by buying ‘finest military equipment’
(March 20, 2018) — US President Donald Trump has welcomed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on his first visit to the White House.
Referring to the political shake-up that Saudi Arabia has witnessed in recent months, Trump praised the 32-year-old crown prince, popularly known as MBS, in his new role.
Trump and MBS discussed an agreement last year for $200 billion worth of Saudi investments with the US, including large purchases of US military equipment. He said the military sales contributed to the creation of 40,000 American jobs.
Trump held up charts to show the depth of Saudi purchases of US military hardware, ranging from ships to missile defence to planes and fighting vehicles.
“Saudi Arabia is a very wealthy nation, and they’re going to give the United States some of that wealth, hopefully, in the form of jobs, in the form of the purchase of the finest military equipment anywhere in the world,” he said.
Meeting a ‘Tragicomedy’
Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera‘s senior political analyst, said the reception in the Oval Room was a “tragicomedy”. “On the political level, the American president is trying to sell the crown prince to the American public, when Saudi Arabia’s image is really bad,” he said.
For his part, MBS, who is 39 years younger than Trump, pointed to the history of the alliance between the two countries.
“We are the oldest ally of America from the Middle East,” he said, “with more than 80 years of alliance and big interests — politically, economically, security. The foundation of the relation is really huge and deep.”
Al Jazeera‘s Bishara said: “Certainly the crown prince is coming in to pay up at least in part his commitments to the United States in terms of commercial deals and buying arms.” But at a more strategic level, he said, the visit has more to do with realigning Saudi Arabia and the US against Iran.
Gulf Crisis in Focus
Trump was expected to urge MBS to find a solution to the Gulf crisis with Qatar during White House visit, according to a senior White House official. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Trump still hoped to hold a summit with Arab Gulf leaders in May.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar on June 5, 2017, accusing Qatar of supporting “terrorism”. Qatar rejected the allegations as “baseless”. The US has repeatedly called on the countries to engage in dialogue.
MBS’s visit is the first by an Arab Gulf leader in a series of bilateral meetings that Trump is scheduled to have over the next couple of months.
MBS will be in the US for about two weeks, meeting politicians and business leaders on a trip designed to “rehabilitate” the kingdom’s image in the country, analysts say.
Last month, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Qatari foreign minister, said that his country would be willing to participate in a US-GCC summit next spring, provided that the blockading countries’ motivation is based on real will and not coercion.
Asked about the summit at a briefing in Washington, DC on Monday, Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi foreign minister, said he was unaware of any specific plans for a summit. “Qatar is irrelevant,” he said.
The last US-GCC summit was held in May 2017 in the Saudi capital Riyadh, just before the crisis unfolded. Trump and MBS would also discuss Iran, Russia and possible investments in US companies, among other issues, the White House official said on Monday.
Saudi Crown Prince Implicated in Torture and Murders in Ritz Carlton
Juan Cole / Informed Consent
(March 19, 2018) — The late Saudi Maj. Gen. Ali al-Qahtani is said to have shown up at the morgue from the Riyadh Ritz Carlton where he had been imprisoned by Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, 32, with a broken neck, bruises and swelling all over his body, and burn marks from electric shock.
‘American Mercenaries Are Torturing’ Saudi Elite
Rounded Up by New Crown Prince â€“
Prince Alwaleed was hung upside down ‘just to send a message’
Ryan Parry and Josh Boswell / The Dailymail.com
(November 24, 2017) — Saudi princes and billionaire businessmen arrested in a power grab earlier this month are being strung up by their feet and beaten by American private security contractors, a source in the country tells DailyMail.com.
The group of the country’s most powerful figures were arrested in a crackdown ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman three weeks ago as he ordered the detention of at least 11 fellow princes and hundreds of businessmen and government officials over claims of corruption.
Just last month, the Crown Prince vowed to restore ‘moderate, open Islam’ in the kingdom and relaxed a number of its ultra-conservative rules, including lifting a ban on women driving.
DailyMail.com can disclose that the arrests have been followed by ‘interrogations’ which a source said were being carried out by ‘American mercenaries’ brought in to work for the 32-year-old crown prince, who is now the kingdom’s most powerful figure.
‘They are beating them, torturing them, slapping them, insulting them. They want to break them down,’ the source told DailyMail.com.
‘Blackwater’ has been named by DailyMail.com’s source as the firm involved, and the claim of its presence in Saudi Arabia has also been made on Arabic social media, and by Lebanon’s president.
The firm’s successor, Academi, strongly denies even being in Saudi Arabia and says it does not engage in torture, which it is illegal for any US citizen to commit anywhere in the world.
The Saudi crown prince, according to the source, has also confiscated more than $194 billion from the bank accounts and seized assets of those arrested.
The source said that in the febrile atmosphere in the kingdom, Prince Mohammed has bypassed the normal security forces in keeping the princes and other billionaires at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Riyadh.
‘All the guards in charge are private security because MBS (Mohammed Bin Salman) doesn’t want Saudi officers there who have been saluting those detainees all their lives,’ said the source, who asked to remain anonymous.
‘Outside the hotels where they are being detained you see the armored vehicles of the Saudi special forces. But inside, it’s a private security company. They’ve transferred all the guys from Abu Dhabi. Now they are in charge of everything,’ said the source.
The source said that Salman, often referred to by his initials MBS, is conducting some of the interrogations himself.
‘When it’s something big he asks them questions,’ the source said. ‘He speaks to them very nicely in the interrogation, and then he leaves the room, and the mercenaries go in. The prisoners are slapped, insulted, hung up, tortured.’
The source says the crown prince is desperate to assert his authority through fear and wants to uncover an alleged network of foreign officials who have taken bribes from Saudi princes.
The source said that the name ‘Blackwater’ is being circulated as providing the mercenaries. The controversial private security company, however, no longer exists under that name and is now Academi.
A spokesperson for Constellis, Academi’s parent company, denied the claims. The spokesperson told DailyMail.com that it has no presence in Saudi Arabia and does not carry out interrogations.
‘Constellis through Academi does not now or have we ever provided interrogative services,’ they said. ‘We do not provide security services in KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia), we have no contact or connection with any government official or private party regarding this allegation.’
When asked if Academi workers were involved in any kind of violence during these interrogations, the spokesperson said: ‘No. Academi has no presence in KSA. We do not have interrogators, nor do we provide any interrogators, advisors or other similar services.’
They added: ‘Academi does not participate in interrogative services for any government or private customer. Academi has a zero tolerance policy for violence. We operate legally, morally, ethically and in compliance with local and US laws.’
The name Blackwater, however, has previously surfaced in the Middle East in the wake of the round-up. The Lebanese President tweeted that the country’s former prime minister Saad Hariri was being detained in Riyadh by Blackwater guards, but later deleted the tweet.
‘Lebanese authorities have unconfirmed information that the Blackwater firm is guarding Hariri and his family — not official Saudi security forces,’ Michel Aoun, the President of Lebanon, tweeted last Wednesday.
A high-profile Saudi twitter account, @ Ahdjadid, which posts what is said to be inside information, also claimed Salman has brought in at least 150 ‘Blackwater’ guards. Saudi whistleblower Ahdjadid tweeted:
‘The first group of Blackwater mercenaries arrived in Saudi Arabia a week after the toppling of bin Nayef [Salman’s predecessor as crown prince]. ‘They were around 150 fighters. Bin Salman sent some of them to secure bin Nayef’s place of detention and the rest he used for his own protection.’
The abuse claims were also raised recently in an article in the New York Times. A doctor at a hospital in Riyadh and a US official told the Times that as many as 17 detainees had needed medical treatment. But Fatimah Baeshen, spokeswoman for the Saudi Embassy in Washington, told the newspaper that the arrests were for ‘white collar’ crimes and that the country’s public prosecutor was ensuring that the arrests are ‘complying with the relevant laws and regulations’.
Among those arrested on allegations of corruption is Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, the Saudi King’s nephew who is worth more than $17 billion according to Forbes, and owns stakes in Twitter, Lyft and Citigroup.
DailyMail.com‘s source claims the crown prince lulled Alwaleed into a false sense of security, inviting him to a meeting at his Al Yamamah palace, then sent officers to arrest him the night before the meeting.
‘Suddenly at 2.45 AM all his guards were disarmed, the royal guards of MBS storm in,’ said the source. ‘He’s dragged from his own bedroom in his pajamas, handcuffed, put in the back of an SUV, and interrogated like a criminal.
‘They hung them upside down, just to send a message. They told them that “we’ve made your charges public, the world knows that you’ve been arrested on these charges.”‘
After the arrests, a picture was given to DailyMail.com of the Saudi royals sleeping on thin mattresses in the ballroom of the five-star Ritz Carlton Hotel in Riyadh.
A US State Department source told the New York Times Salman was ‘behaving recklessly without sufficient consideration to the likely consequences of his behavior, and that has the potential to damage US interests.’
However, the arrests drew praise from President Donald Trump, who tweeted that he had ‘great confidence in King Salman and the crown prince of Saudi Arabia’ after the corruption crackdown earlier this month.
Torture by a US citizen abroad has only been prosecuted in America once. In 2008 the Boston-born son of former Liberian President Charles Taylor was found guilty by a US court of horrific torture.
The jury in Miami found Charles ‘Chuckie’ Taylor Jr. guilty on all eight counts brought against him, including allegations he and his cohorts tortured victims in Liberia by applying electric shocks to their genitals, burning them with hot irons and melting plastic and rubbing salt in their open wounds.
At the time, Sigal Mandelker, the then deputy assistant attorney general with the crime division of the US Department of Justice, said: ‘It sends a very powerful message to human rights violators worldwide that they are not welcome here.’
Taylor was arrested at Miami International Airport in 2006 and pleaded guilty to a charge of lying about his father’s identity on a passport application. He was later indicted for torturing victims when he was the commander of a paramilitary security force called the Antiterrorist Unit — known as the ‘Demon Forces’ — that protected the elder Taylor while he was president of Liberia.
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