Saudi Arabia’s 32-year old crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, is on a whirlwind tour of Egypt, Britain, and the United States. What he is selling is a Middle East that should worry everyone on the planet, but most of all, the Palestinian people.
MBS, as the crown prince is known, has put on the face of modernism and moderation. However, MBS’s decision to allow Saudi women to drive and serve in the military was a ploy to mask his cobbling together of a Wahhabi-led Sunni alliance that is waging an all-out war against the Shi’a-aligned Houthi rebels in Yemen and the secular government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. This alliance has the backing of Israel, which has been caught providing training and logistics to Islamic State and Al Qaeda-affiliated jihadist groups fighting in Syria and Yemen and others, which operate out of Eritrea and Libya.
In advance of his visit to Britain, the Saudi government commissioned advertisements on billboards and on the sides of buildings in Britain featuring an unsmiling MBS and proclaiming—in quite Orwellian terms—“HE IS BRINGING CHANGE TO SAUDI ARABIA,” “HE IS OPENING SAUDI ARABIA TO THE WORLD,” and “HE IS CREATING A NEW, VIBRANT SAUDI ARABIA.”
Of course, MBS is bringing “change” to Saudi Arabia. In transforming “Saudi” Arabia to “Salmani” Arabia to bring about his “Vision 2030” program, MBS wasted no time in eliminating any other Saudi prince, including those like former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who were in the line of succession. Any prince, businessman, military commander, diplomat, or government minister who threatened MBS’s elevation to the Saudi throne was rounded up and detained. Scores of Saudi princes, including billionaire investor Alaweed bin Talal, were imprisoned in the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh. Alaweed was, according to some press reports, hanged upside down by his feet until he agreed to turn over billions from overseas bank accounts to MBS. In addition, Blackwater mercenary firm founder Erik Prince’s offshore firm of veteran Colombian, Chilean, and South African torturers—Reflex Responses (R2), based in Abu Dhabi and co-owned by United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MBZ)—was said to have supplied interrogators to MBS. These R2 interrogators reportedly participated in the torture of MBS’s Ritz-Carlton “guests.” Other princes, who did not willingly submit to arrest, were reportedly executed after gun battles with pro-MBS security forces.
Donald Trump tweeted his approval of MBS’s coup and the torture of rival princes: “I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing . . . Some of those they are harshly treating have been “milking” their country for years!” It was no coincidence that Erik Prince’s sister, Betsy DeVos, was chosen as Trump’s secretary of education.
MBS’s visit to Egypt was highlighted by his announcement of a joint Saudi-Egyptian planned “mega-city,” called “Neo Mostaqbal” (“New Future”), to be built on the Saudi side of the Gulf of Aqaba in the present region of Tabuk and connected to Egypt via a bridge transiting through the island of Tiran. In preparation for the project, Saudi Arabia recently convinced Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to cede to Saudi Arabia the uninhabited Egyptian islands of Tiran and Sanafir. The decision resulted in tremendous opposition from the Egyptian people.
MBS recently met with Israeli officials in Cairo and invited them to join the mega-city project. The mega-city will include the Sinai city of Sharm-el-Sheik, once occupied by Israel and where Israelis continue to own hotels and resorts. There is a legitimate fear among Palestinians that MBS and his friend, Trump son-in-law and Middle East adviser Jared Kushner, secretly worked out a “deal of the century” with the Israelis to build Neo Mostaqbal as a future home for the Palestinians.
Some Palestinians and others fear that Israel—with Saudi, Jordanian, and Egyptian connivance—plan to forcibly move Palestinians from the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza to Neo Mostaqbal in preparation for the Israeli annexation of what is now considered Palestine. For the proponents of Neo Mostaqbal, the Palestinians are the best candidates to be the city’s “guinea pigs.” Highly-educated, the Palestinian people have long been sought as workers in such places as Kuwait, Dubai, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq that lacked indigenous specialists in such fields as engineering, medicine, computers, and other disciplines.
Far from having their own state or homeland, the Palestinians would become residents of a NEOM international zone, a 10,230-square-mile swath of present-day Saudi territory, under joint Saudi, Jordanian, Israeli, and Egyptian economic suzerainty. Neo Mostaqbal will have its own judicial system separate from the Islamic Sharia system of Saudi Arabia. The Palestinians would have no political privileges but, initially, before the zone transforms to full robotic labor and drone transportation, those who are less-skilled would enjoy full employment rights to clean hotel toilets, drive taxis, and cook food for wealthy tourists and businessmen visiting the mega-city.
MBS has, according to some Israeli news reports, exerted extreme pressure on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to accept the mass migration of Palestinians to Neo Mostaqbal. This has led Abbas and his top advisers to conclude that MBS is nothing more than an Israeli shill placed by Mossad as the next in line for the Saudi throne to help engineer the transformation of the Middle East into a “Greater Israel” allied with a “reformed” Saudi Arabia, a compliant Egypt, and a vanquished Syria, Iran, Yemen, Qatar, and Lebanon.
In October 2017, Kushner and MBS discussed their plans for the Middle East during marathon all-night strategy sessions held in Riyadh. Every one of Trump’s Middle East portfolio holders, including Kushner, Middle East Special Assistant Jason Greenblatt, and U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman, are committed Zionists who favor Israeli expansionism and do not recognize a Palestinian people or state.
MBS’s visit to Washington was expected to solicit Trump’s support for Neo Mostaqbal and garner U.S. investment for the project. MBS planned stops in New York, Boston, Houston, and San Francisco to interest potential investors in the mega-city project. The project has already received the attention of Western investors, as witnessed by MBS’s recent appointment of Dr. Klaus Kleinfeld, the former chairman and CEO of Alcoa, as CEO of NEOM, Inc., the corporate umbrella for the mega-city. MBS is said to have directed much of the $100 billion extorted from those detained at the Ritz-Carlton in return for their freedom to the Neo Mostaqbal project. But Neo Mostaqbal will cost $500 billion to build, so additional revenue must be obtained.
There is little doubt that Trump is an enthusiastic supporter of Neo Mostaqbal, so long as there are guarantees for Trump Hotels, Trump condominiums, Trump office towers, and Trump golf courses in the planned mega-city. Such a deal may have already been cut between Kushner and MBS. Standing in the way, of course, were the Saudi princes and bureaucrats opposed to such a wasteful expenditure. MBS’s coup against the princes had as much to do with eliminating their opposition to Neo Mostaqbal as in ensuring his own future as king. Trump’s joy over the arrest and torture of the Saudi opponents to MBS and Neo Mostaqbal was no different than a Mafia don being ecstatic over seeing a group of his enemies “taken care of.”
Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.
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Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and nationally-distributed columnist. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).