Saudi Arabia

A series of attacks on Saudi oil installations have set sparks flying once again in the Middle East. Only months after a last-minute cancellation of a US strike on Iran – and weeks after reaching out for talks without any preconditions – US President Donald Trump is yet again filling the twittersphere with threats and intimidation. Meanwhile, oil prices shot up by 20 percent and the ripple effects are already working their way through the sensitive oil and currency markets.

On 2 October, Jamal Khashoggi walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, to complete some paperwork so he could marry his Turkish fiancé. He was greeted at the door by a smiling Saudi official. He never came out again. Turkish officials insist they have evidence from inside the Saudi consulate that confirms that Khashoggi was tortured and killed there, his body dismembered and secretly disposed of.

Over the past week, tensions within the Saudi led coalition fighting Houthi forces in Yemen have reached a critical point. Between Sunday and Wednesday, troops loyal to the Southern Transitional Council (STC) took hold of all but a few remaining areas of the port city of Aden and surrounded the presidential palace in which the cabinet was essentially besieged.

Two statements were made on the same day, 21 November. Both declared the end of the war on Islamic State in Syria. The first was made by Vladimir Putin, in a meeting with Bashar al-Assad in Sochi, the second was released by Qassem Suleimani: the Iranian general at the head of the Quds Force (the Islamic Revolutionary Guards). Both, almost simultaneously, stated that “terrorism was defeated” in the country.

Last week Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud announced Saudi Vision 2030, an ambitious plan that would see Saudi Aramco, the state oil conglomerate, partially sold off in a move that is supposed to wean the kingdom off of oil revenues by the year 2030.

The recent execution of Al-Nimr, a Shia cleric leader who was arrested on 8 July 2012 during protests, along with 46 other men, mostly Sunnis, highlights the crisis facing the regime. Increased repression indicate a fear of the rulers at the top of an impending movement from below.

Yesterday, hundreds of thousands of people attended the funeral of 4 victims of a terrorist attack by the Islamic State (IS) which took place last week in the north eastern provinces of Saudi Arabia. This was the second mass funeral in two weeks. The events have brought to the fore the deep contradictions which exist in Saudi Arabia, but which for decades have been more or less hidden by the totalitarian nature of the reactionary regime.

After the initial misadventure of attacking the Houthis in Yemen, arrogantly promoted by King Salman’s youngest, the more serious strategists within the despotic regime are trying to calm down and bring Prince Mohammad bin Salman to some degree of sanity. The despotic regime is wavering in the face of the failure of its acts of aggression.

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia, one of the foremost allies of the USA in the Middle East, brutally exploits its migrant workers. The visa regime keeps the workers in a state of permanent dependency on their employers and abuses are common. At the other end of the spectrum members of the royal family, including the king himself, are among the richest people in the world with billions of dollars in wealth. This contradiction has revolutionary implications.

At the funeral of Crown Prince Sultan we had the spectacle not only of the Saudi monarchs but most of the rulers who had flown in to attend the ceremony. Fear of the mass revolt that has been raging in the region was palpable at the gathering.

On Tuesday, April 5, in Riyadh the (female) literacy campaign teachers staged a protest in front of the Ministry of Civil Services, demanding full time employment.

Over a week ago there was a big protest held at the main office of Saudi Telecom (STC) in Mursalat (Riyadh) by workers at the company (Saudi nationals) while the Saudi Telecommunications Minister was on a visit to the company. The protesters were demanding an increment in wages, bonuses, overtime pay and other economic demands.

According to different reports that have been coming in, at least 90 people have been killed in three suicide bomb attacks carried out in the Saudi capital Riyadh. A further 160 were injured. Ten of the dead have been confirmed as American citizens. A fourth attack was aimed at the headquarters of Siyanco US-Saudi-owned company. Contractors for a U.S. defence firm were based in one of the compounds that was hit.

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