Despite the traditional anti-Israeli rhetoric, the monarchies of the Persian Gulf are cooperating with the Jewish state, fearing Iran (or for practical reasons related to strengthening the economy). Moving from assurances of mutual aid and Arab unity to tough confrontation, they compete in the Maghreb, Mashreq, the states of the Sahara, the Sahel, or sub-Saharan Black Africa. They flirt with the USA and weave complex intrigues with the EU countries. They are competing not only with Iran, but also with Turkey expanding its zone of influence. And they are increasingly afraid of Russia, which has shown its viability in Syria.
An article based on the materials of the IBI experts A. Bystrov and Y. Shcheglovina will tell about some aspects of Saudi (and not only) activity in Africa and the Middle East.
In an interview with the Arab newspaper Elaf, the head of the IDF General Staff, G. Aizenkot, said that KSA and Israel have common interests in relations with Iran, seeking to "establish their dominance in the Middle East through two Shiite crescents - from Iran through Iraq to Syria and Lebanon .. and across the Persian Gulf from Bahrain to Yemen and all the way to the Red Sea. ” He added: "... we are ready to share experience and intelligence information with moderate Arab states to counter Iran ... If necessary, we are ready to provide intelligence information to Riyadh." Sensation? By no means.
According to French sources, the active exchange of information between the political and military intelligence of Israel (Mossad and AMAN) and the General Intelligence Agency (CRO) KSA has been going on at least since October 2016. It was then that the leadership of the RBM noted in the report to the king: “The exchange of intelligence information with the Israeli side has never been so intense. It covers all aspects of intelligence work, including intelligence data, radio interception and analysis. ” The topic of intelligence reports is Iran, its activity in the region, the pro-Iranian groups of the Lebanese Hezbollah, the Iraqi Shiite People’s Mobilization Forces and the Yemeni Housits.
Exchange on different channels was relatively long. But until last year, this communication format was irregular and inactive. Since October last year, a constant exchange of information began. An agreement on cooperation in radio intelligence was reached in 2014. Riyadh became interested in modernizing the old and building a new radio interception station in KSA with an Israeli technical filling. It was about updating the Command & Control system (C4I). At that time, the Saudis, apart from the American base of the NSA, did not have modern structures. The customer was the UOR KSA. The modernization was carried out by the specialists of Elbit Systems, which none of the project participants advertised. The main mediator in establishing contacts for the exchange of intelligence information was the former head of Mossad, T. Pardo. When he was the head of this special service, he several times met with the then head of the UOR KSA Prince Bandar. Before him, the predecessor M. Dagan did it, but it was Pardo who developed the cooperation and made it real. He was also the main lobbyist of the Israeli Defense Ministry, who gave unofficial "good" to Israeli firms for sale in KSA and other Gulf countries for the production of UAVs and medium-range missiles. This project is still being implemented, mainly through intermediaries in South Africa.
At the same time, there are no direct partnership contacts between KSA and Israel due to the absence of diplomatic relations. Information is exchanged through the Jordan General Intelligence Directorate, which has established channels of cooperation with Israel and its special services. Israel’s Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain also have partnership exchanges of information on the Iranian dossier through Jordanians. On Bahrain Island, the subject is overseen by Crown Prince S. Bin Hamad Al-Khalifa. The UAE maintains partnerships with the Mossad through the former head of the Palestinian Preventive Security Service, M. Dahlan. So there is nothing new in Eisenkot's words.
The question is: why did the chief of the Israeli General Staff voice this in public? Perhaps, in order to sharpen the Iranian danger and demonstrate willingness to cooperate, even with the current internal turmoil in the KSA. The rocket attack on Saudi territory by the Khousits with the help of Lebanese Shiites aggravates the concern of Israel and Saudi Arabia with the expansion of Tehran and pushes them to intensify contacts in the intelligence sphere. Israelis, in connection with the Iranian reinforcement in Syria, are afraid of setting up launch sites for missiles there, bearing in mind the example of KSA. At the same time, there is no need to talk about a military alliance between KSA and Israel. This is unrealistic because of the Palestinian issue and the differences over Jerusalem.
French President E. Macron is trying to rectify the situation with French contracts in the field of military-technical cooperation with the KSA and the UAE. He spoke out in favor of tightening control over the Iranian nuclear and missile programs, trying to interest Saudi Crown Prince M. bin Salman, who is inclined towards the French weapons companies are extremely skeptical. Experts believe that this skepticism intensified with the advent of Macron to power, but at the time of F. Hollande the situation was no better, although more definite.
At the same time, it is unrealistic to impose sanctions on Iran because of its missile projects that are not covered by the UN resolution, without canceling the deal on the Iranian nuclear program. It is impossible to separate the organizations and state structures of the Islamic Republic involved in these works. Any sanction steps will lead to automatic cancellation of the Iranian nuclear weapons transaction by virtue of Tehran’s withdrawal from it. An attempt to ban Iran’s missile program automatically puts the state itself under sanctions, which limits the conclusion of contacts in any sphere. What did the Americans face on the example of the Boeing? The EU is unlikely to voluntarily drive itself into this dead end.
The appointment of M. Bin Salman as Crown Prince of June 21 was for Paris the starting point of the “stage of uncertainty” on the PTS. The rapprochement of Riyadh with Washington against the background of billion-dollar arms contracts with US companies has questioned not only Paris’s plans for new ones, but also the implementation of already signed agreements. The Crown Prince is actively changing the system of international intermediaries in Europe and “business anchors” within the kingdom, establishing control over cash flows, weakening competitors from opposing clans and breaking the mediation scheme built by the French.
It's not even about the financial losses incurred in the form of kickbacks to intermediaries and their patrons. The main problem is in the prospects of complete ousting of the French business from the MTC market. In the middle of summer there were still some options left, and Paris tried to maintain its position, primarily in the clan of the former Minister of the Interior, the second crown prince M. Bin Nayef. Moreover, his nephew A. Bin Nayef, the son of the governor of Eastern Province, S. Bin Nayef, became the new head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The French kept in touch with them through their “business anchor” - A. Almisehal, who in addition to business with the Americans was promoted to the French arms market. He represented the state defense agency of France ODAS and manufacturers in contracts under the Saudi Fransi Military Contract (SFMC) program.
According to ODAS, the first crown prince struck the main blow, announcing that the line of credit from Riyadh under the AMWAJ program (modernization of the KSA Navy ships) would be frozen in January of 2018. This deprived the agency of the lion's share of financial resources. Instead, in Riyadh, French companies were offered to sign contracts directly with the newly created Saudi Arabia Military Industries Defense Agency (SAMI). Officially, he is headed by M. Bin Salman himself, in fact, led by his adviser A. al-Khatib, to whom Paris had no approaches. Al-Khatib, the creator of SAMI, was in a difficult relationship with the main French intermediary in the Saudi market M. al-Zier. One of the reasons for the recent visit of President Macron to Riyadh was unblocking this situation. And he failed.
Against this background, French companies were forced to find ways out of contracts already concluded (they were blocked by Bin Salman’s administrative decision) with switching efforts to SAMI. In fact, the French “Safran” contract with the Somo al-Mamlyak company for the supply of navigation equipment and systems has been frozen. Moreover, the Saudi structure was headed by T. Al-Sudayri and A. Al-Shugeir, who were closely associated with the head of the personal office of King Salman H. Al-Issa. And it did not affect the situation. The Airbus, whose main lobbyist in the Saudi market, M. Dahuk, is in disgrace, is also out of work.
In the middle of summer, the French still had prospects with contracts on the line of the KSA National Guard, which was then headed by Prince M. Bin Abdullah. The Corsican company Caesar International F. Francioli, working through Prince Miteb’s main “business anchor”, through his uncle S. Fustok, and also the broker of the French companies Thales and Nexter, acted in this direction. The latest personnel purges and arrests nullified these projects, although the authority to enter into contacts with the National Guard was taken away from the arrested Miteba at the end of summer. Fustok disappeared on November 4 and may have been killed. In Paris, this was regarded as the end of the training program for the National Guard fighters and the supply of equipment, carried out by the French “daughter” Northrop Grumman through the contractor Vinnell from 1975 year.
4 in November, when mass arrests and dismissals took place in the Saudi political and business elite, is regarded by the French as a “day of the coup d’etat”, which eliminated the system of individual defense contracts with representatives of royal clans. From now on, all contacts should go through SAMI, which means Bin Salman’s monopolization of all financial flows from arms contracts. Together with the establishment of full control over the power unit, this completes the creation of conditions for the transfer of power by the king to his son. If everything goes according to the original plan, it should happen at the end of this year - the beginning of next year.
French intelligence notes that the arrest of Prince Miteb, unpopular with senior and middle officers of the National Guard, did not cause fermentation among the personnel. H. al-Mukrin, the representative of the Shammar clan from the north of Neja, was appointed in his place. He is popular in the National Guard, since the son of its founder A. Al-Mukrin. Prior to this appointment, he was number two in the RBM and supervised the Iraqi-Syrian bloc, including through the channels of tribal diplomacy, since Shammar is widely represented in Syria and Iraq.
According to Paris, although the KSA Ministry of Defense avoided cleansing and arrests, there were no people in it who lobbied for French interests. This is primarily the head of the meteorological department of the Ministry of Defense of Moscow Observatory T. Bin Nasser, who promoted the Al Yamamah project, and T. Bin Mukrin, who had relations with the British company BAE Systems in addition to French companies. They pushed aside. The entire former system of contracting through the ministry, created at the time by the Minister of Defense, S. Ben Abdelaziz, has been completely dismantled. This was partially affected by the Americans - General Dynamics was left out of business. At the same time, the arrest of M. bin Nayef put an end to the ODAS contract to equip the Ministry of Internal Affairs with a cyber-intelligence system.
This is the background of the visit of the President of France to KSA. His main motive was not the decision of the fate of Lebanese Prime Minister S. Hariri, who, as a result of joint EU efforts, is likely to depart for Paris. The main reason is the destruction of the entire former system of defense orders in KSA and an attempt to find its place in the new structure. But so far, apparently, it does not work, despite Macron’s “anti-Iranian” statements made during the visit.
The Ugandan energy sector has become a competitive arena for the Gulf states. Kuwait Sovereign Fund Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA) announced plans to invest in the energy sector in an African country. This follows from the report of the Ugandan energy company Umeme: KIA increased its stake in the company's shares from 0,8 percent (as of August 2015 of the year) to 1,1 percent. The report says that KIA is in the top twenty of the largest foreign investors in the country's energy sector with a total investment of 524 million dollars. Kuwaiti funds allowed Umeme to begin implementing projects within Uganda, seriously reducing tariffs. Experts believe that the entrance of the emirate to the country's energy market is explained by the open support of President J. Museveni, who is struggling with the internal opposition. His interest in this project is evident in the fact that he gave personal guarantees to foreign investors to increase their share in the section of future profits, which should reach the maximum volumes by 2025 year.
Experts explain the Kuwaiti activity against the background of unclear prospects for being in control of Museveni by the struggle for influence in the region between the “Pro-Saud influence group”, the AER axis - the UAE and Qatar. Doha signed a loan contract with Museveni for the construction of a hydropower plant in Bujagali with a capacity of 250 megawatts. The commissioning of this station will reduce electricity tariffs from 0,11 to 0,07 dollars, which will make Museveni more stable. The struggle for influence on the population using the Ugandan energy market illustrates the interest of the Arabian monarchies in creating strong positions in this country.
The Qatari-sponsored hydropower plant will be located on the Nile. Taking into account the fact that construction of a wide network of irrigation facilities is also envisaged there, this aggravates the problem of spillway even more and worsens prospects for agriculture of Qatar's main competitor - Egypt. Especially since the Ethiopian Rebirth dam on the Blue Nile will reach its design capacity already in 2018. All of this can seriously affect the political survival of the Egyptian regime, given the prospect of a projected food crisis.
One of the conditions for granting Doha a soft loan to Kampala was to allocate Qatar a platform for building a military base in Uganda. This moment is acutely experienced in Riyadh, Cairo and Abu Dhabi. Relations between Kampala and Cairo were upset to such an extent that the Ugandan president in the summer shied away from talking with an Egyptian counterpart. Museveni at the last moment refused to meet with A. al-Sisi in Germany and flew to Addis Ababa, although it was the Ugandan leader who was viewed by the Egyptians as one of the main allies in the confrontation with Addis Ababa over the Blue Nile dam. Cairo has increased its security and agricultural presence in Uganda over the past two years. This included the training of military and police for her in the schools of Egypt, the participation of Egyptian intelligence officers in surveillance of the internal opposition and the fight against the LRA group. But due to the construction of the Ugandan hydroelectric power station on the Nile Museveni, he went over to the side of Ethiopia. He began insistently demanding a revision of the current agreement on spillway quotas on the program of the new "road map" of the six countries in the basin, and Cairo accused of an overly dogmatic approach.
A change in the mood of Museveni became apparent in July. This affected the work of Egyptian agricultural investors in Uganda. At the same time, the intelligence services of Egypt took note of the passivity of colleagues in sharing information about the Egyptian Islamists, who are advancing to Sinai through Uganda. Egypt and the United Arab Emirates behind it could not compete with Doha in granting concessional loans to Kampala. This was the decisive factor for Museveni to give preference to Qatar. For him, political survival is important, not the problems of the Egyptians with a decrease in the spillway in the Nile or the confrontation with Doha.
However, Kuwait’s entry into the Ugandan energy market is not related to requests from the UAE or Egypt. Here is the role of Riyadh, fighting both Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar. The increased Saudi presence in Uganda worries the Egyptians. In September, Kampala was visited by the head of the General Intelligence Agency of Egypt, X. Fawzi, to change Museveni’s vision of the prospects for revising the Nile agreement. Nothing was achieved, but the countries agreed to cooperate to "deter Pro-Saud Salafist groups in Uganda."