The Middle East, with the continuous struggle of external and internal players for power and control over resources, remains one of the most troubled regions of the planet. And this applies to such rich countries as Saudi Arabia, and to the periphery: Yemen, Libya and Somalia - to the de facto “former” states.
Consider some of the processes taking place there based on the materials of experts of the Institute of the Middle East A. Bystrov, P. Ryabov and Y. Shcheglovina.
The plot of the princes
The purge of the state, power and financial Saudi elite, begun in the struggle for power by the heir to the throne, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is in full swing. 320 people have been summoned to the High Committee against Corruption since the start of the investigation. A part was sent to the Prosecutor General’s Office, 159 people were arrested. However, the processes initiated by the heir come with big problems. The billionaire prince Al-Walid bin Talal, who was detained on suspicion of corruption, refused to accept the pretrial settlement proposed by the authorities and was ready to defend himself in an international court. He denies guilt and demands to attract foreign audit companies in order to establish the sources of his income and funds, insisting on the investigation of the case with the participation of independent experts and international judicial instances.
In Riyadh, they faced an insurmountable obstacle: the arrested offspring of an influential branch of the royal family realized that the time and reaction of its foreign partners were working in his favor, because from the very beginning the campaign organizers ruled out the option of a judicial investigation, especially international. The evidence against the arrested is weak and information about the commercial activities of King Salman himself and his inner circle can emerge. As a result, the Saudi authorities are stumped. They need as quickly as possible to collect and transfer to the treasury the confiscated “corrupt” money, thereby weakening the potential opponents of M. bin Salman. Moreover, the main goal of this entire campaign is not even the replenishment of the treasury, but the consent of the detainees to the transfer of all business channels to it in the US and EU countries, which is also stalled.
According to Arab media reports, former Minister of National Guard Prince Miteb bin Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud and head of the royal protocol under King Abdullah Mohammed al-Tabishi agreed to the proposed conditions. According to a number of data, they transferred more than a billion “misappropriated funds” to the authorities and left the walls of the Ritz Carlton Hotel, where they were kept in custody. Prince Miteb was one of the main goals of this campaign, but it was not fully possible to convince him that his behavior was incorrect. What was listed in the treasury was about a billion dollars, says exactly that. Saudi authorities said they were planning to receive about 800 billions from the detainees, and it is already clear that this is unrealistic.
Mohammed bin Salman is clearly losing pace. Opponents of the regime are stepping up to compromise it, including through the lobby in the United States and in the West as a whole. Representatives of the branches of the royal family, bin Talal and bin Abdullah, are consolidating their efforts to organize resistance to the Crown Prince. They hold secret consultations with the head of the clan of the royal family Sudayri Ahmed bin Abdelaziz, encouraging him to come forward as an alternative to M. bin Salman. A. Bin Abdel Aziz 40 was the Minister of the Interior for years and was removed from the direct line of succession from 2014 of the year. He was replaced by Mukrin bin Abdulaziz as Crown Prince. The ex-minister has one instrument of influence on the situation: communications established among the jihadist circles and representatives of the radical clergy that had been established during the time he worked at the Interior Ministry. The latter are extremely dissatisfied with the actions of the young heir, and some have already been arrested. However, not all. And their influence on radical circles is hard to overestimate: these people oversee the kingdom's charitable foundations, through which contacts with Islamist circles around the world are maintained. In the highest echelons of KSA, there is a link of representatives of the three main opposition branches of the royal family represented by the inner circle of Al-Walid bin Talal, bin Abdullah and the Sudari family. Who will win the battle, time will tell. It is clear only that the struggle for power in KSA is not over and it is still impossible to predict its results.
Yemen after Saleh
The assassination of ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh has simplified the situation in the country. In Yemen, the power has disappeared, much that has determined and complicated the last 15 years. The main mistake of the politician who actively participated in the “Yemeni revolution” was that they did not eliminate Saleh at the very beginning. Although such an attempt was made, the former president lost his leg and arm, but survived. Everything that we see in Yemen, in fact, disintegrated, is to a large extent the work of the late Saleh.
He took advantage of the civil strife in the ranks of the United Opposition and stimulated the strengthening of the Housits, using them to punish recent allies from the Islah party and his vice-president Abd Mansur Hadi. To this end, Saleh provided rocket arsenals weapons, heavy machinery and finance, which accumulated on the accounts in the UAE, and then transferred to Yemen. The ex-president was also behind the “march of the rebels” to Aden, which changed the course stories in the country. There was actually no march from the north to the south. They gave him the uprising of the Republican Guard, which was garrisoned from Taiz to Aden and military bases in its vicinity. "Lightning" March is associated with this circumstance. There were few of the Houssites themselves who did not object to the isolation of South Yemen.
Saleh initiated the active intervention of KSA and the UAE in the Yemeni conflict, provoked centrifugal trends in South Yemen. Before this, the Housits in their fight with the Islah party were supported by Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and the rest of the Yemeni players. The campaign to the south, provoked by Saleh, changed the situation, predetermining the creation of the Arab coalition and protracted political, military and humanitarian crises. Against this background, Saleh planned to return to power as the sole stabilizing force.
As for the future, the departure of Saleh means the collapse of the influence of his clan and the Universal National Congress Party (WOC) on the development of the situation in Yemen. All units of the Republican Guard loyal to him will disappear from the military disposition of forces, since there is no funding. They will side with Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar or the Housits, but they will not be independent. The alignment of forces in the country is indicated, and this simplifies the situation. Now only the position of the Housits and Iran determines the position in the north. It is difficult to expect stratification within the Housits, because the wing of the “Compromisers” is neutralized.
On the other hand, South Yemen, which is under the protectorate of the United Arab Emirates, has de facto become isolated. For Abu Dhabi, control over the ports on the coast of the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean within the former Democratic Republic of Yemen, as well as the creation in the north of a force counterweight to the Yemeni counterpart of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islah party, is important. Sanaa Sana UAE will not.
Saudi Arabia has a different situation: the monopolization of power in the hands of pro-Iranian Housits does not leave Riyadh an alternative to a forceful influence on the situation.
In this regard, it is possible that the tribal militias of Hashid and Vice-President Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, in the absence of his half-brother and his children, who became the only candidate as leader of Yemen (at least in the north) for KSA, would liven up it was he who was identified by the Sheikhs of Hashid as the successor to Saleh. However, as far as he is able to mobilize the tribal resource, time will tell. This will not be welcomed in Abu Dhabi, where A. M. al-Ahmar is believed to be the leader of the Islah military wing. Approximately the same attitude to the “legitimate” president of the country A. M. Hadi, who is under the control of KSA and has no influence in the country. So for the medium term, the main thing is the possibility of the military success of the forces of al-Ahmar in the siege of Sana'a. If this does not happen in the coming weeks, it means that the Khousits have managed to stabilize the situation, and the conflict will again become sluggish.
According to recent data, a picture of the conspiracy of Abu Dhabi and Saleh (co-ordinated by his son Ahmed, who lives in the UAE) appears in secret negotiations with the participation of KSA. After they ended in nothing (Riyadh decided to wait), the Emirates and Saleh went all in. Saleh was supposed to raise a rebellion, beat the Khousits of Sana'a, and the coalition forces (UAE) would support him by advancing on the capital. As the head of the "military council", which was supposed to lead the capital garrison after the success of the insurrection and could claim the supreme power in the country (at least in the north or part of this territory), was Saleh's nephew - commander of the VNK, Brigadier General Tarek Mohammed Abdullah Saleh (killed in Sanaa at the very beginning of the unsuccessful insurrection). The United Arab Emirates planned to announce at the GCC summit in Kuwait the success of the uprising against the Housits and to demand from its participants that they officially support the creation of a new authority in Sanaa.
Riyadh, on the one hand, would welcome the defeat of the Housits, their ousting and blocking in Sa'ad. On the other hand, the Saudis did not like the strengthening of the UAE also in the north, despite the fact that they already controlled South Yemen. Moreover, such a scenario meant the forgetfulness of the main Saudi creature in Yemen, A. M. Hadi. The Saleh clan would do everything possible to keep Hadi from entering the capital and disavow his powers. Riyadh would lose the opportunity to influence the situation through the "legitimate and officially recognized government of Yemen." Hence the expectant passivity of the KSA at the beginning of the insurrection. The kingdom stimulated the mutual weakening of opponents, not interfering in the situation. This suggests that Riyadh is experiencing a shortage of support "on the ground" in Yemen, which will determine the vague position of the KSA for a long time.
Fight for the ports of Somalia
The elections of the head of the Somaliland enclave, which took place on November 13, according to experts, did not make major changes in the alignment of internal political forces. The candidate from the ruling party "Kulmiye" Musa Bihi Abdi became president. Now he is busy settling relations with the main sponsors who have given him financial support. These are the heads of the Etablissements Djama Omar Said and the Ominco Group Abdurahman Mahamoud Bor. They sponsored the success of the president in exchange for the promise of reducing duties on imported food and consumer goods. With the head of Somcable, Mohamed Saeed Gouedi will have to pay by providing a monopoly in the telecommunications sector and stakes in future contracts for the import of electricity.
For the victory of Abdi stand and the UAE, trying to consolidate and legalize the deal to acquire and expand the former Soviet air force and naval base in Berbera. Most likely this Abu Dhabi will succeed. The new president is influenced by the former first lady, President Silanyo’s wife, Amina Mohamed Jirde. She is the main lobbyist of the deal with the United Arab Emirates, for which the Clan Silanyo, in addition to cash, has received a free luxury villa in the UAE and life insurance in the prestigious medical center of this country. A review of the status of the base will mean at least the termination of benefits for the clan of the former president. Danger to the UAE is the position of the President of Somalia Formaggio, who based on Saudi Arabia initiated a review of the transaction in international arbitration. He will win the suit, as Somaliland is a self-proclaimed state enclave, not recognized by any country. Mogadishu can block not only the Berbera deal, but also the alleged issuance by Hargeisa of mineral exploration and mining licenses in the enclave.
Riyadh is trying to reduce the UAE’s military presence in the Horn of Africa. The basis of Abu Dhabi’s strategy in the Indian Ocean and Red Sea region is the construction of dozens of large and small military bases on the coast, which will allow controlling not only maritime logistics in this strategically important area, but also ports. Any UAE initiatives to support governments or regimes are linked to this strategy. Riyadh first provoked a scandal between Djibouti and Abu Dhabi, with the result that the UAE abandoned plans to place its naval base in this country (their place was taken by the Saudis). Now KSA is trying to do the same with Berbera.
In this situation, Hargeisa is forced to compromise with Mogadishu and is trying to achieve this through Ethiopia. Addis Ababa has always stood behind Somaliland, considering it as a buffer in countering the Islamist Al-Shabab penetration into Ethiopia. At the same time, the Ethiopians were alarmed by the advances of President Silagnao with the United Arab Emirates in the Berber deal. The Emirates is an ally of Egypt, and Addis Ababa’s relations with it are strained due to the construction of the Renaissance dam on the Blue Nile. Due to the strengthening of the UAE in Berber, the appearance of the Egyptian air force near the Ethiopian borders is becoming a reality. By organizing consultations between Mogadishu and Hargeisa, Addis Ababa tries to reformat relations with the new president Abdi and strengthen his influence on him, and through the compromise agreement between Mogadishu and Hargeisa to limit the ability of the UAE to use the Berber base against Ethiopia. But to achieve the cancellation of the transaction, taking into account the interest in it of the strong clans of the enclave of the Ethiopians is unlikely to succeed.
Where is the money, Rome?
On November 30, the tribal militias of the Tubu in the southern region of Libya, Fezzanah, took the airport of the administrative center of this Sebha region under protection. An event with far-reaching consequences for stability not only here, but also for the prospects of activating the channels of illegal migration to Europe. Tuba was taken under control of the airport of the administrative center of Fezzan to block it. This is a clear signal to the Minister of the Interior of Italy, Marco Minitti. The tuba is reminded of promises to pay reparations for victims of vendetta between the tuba and the auliad Suleiman tribe. Rome also promised the last “bloody money”, but did not give it.
Minitti spent a year setting up a joint “border guard” of two tribes to patrol Libyan frontiers in the south and block illegal migration flows. To conclude this agreement, the Italians had several times to convene meetings with representatives of the tribes in Rome, promise the leaders treatment and training of their families in the Apennines and the payment of "bloody money." What does it have to do with Italy, the minister could not explain to the senate, and no money was allocated from the budget. The minister did not search for other financial sources, since, as a result of the actions of tribal groups in Fezzan, the number of illegal migrants has decreased. Instead, he began to lobby for the opening of appropriate funding from the EU box office for a program to combat illegal migration.
However, the tribes in Fezzan all care a little. They will not allow the Italian Minister of the Interior to forget the promise. Perhaps the migrants will soon again flow through Libya into Europe. Minitti’s actions not only violate the agreements reached (the head of the Interior Ministry signed his contract in Rome), but also the reputation of the structures of the Prime Minister of the Government of the National Accord (PNS), Faiz Saraj, negatively affected by the Italians. His appointee Abdusalam Kajman was the main guarantor of the fulfillment of the terms of the contract by Tripoli, and there the compensation provided by the Italians should have been placed on specially opened accounts of the Central Bank. A native of Fezzan Kazhman risks answering for the delay in his head.
All this is happening against the backdrop of a plan to combat slave trade in Libya announced by President of France Emmanuel Macron with a limited military-police operation with funding from the EU. The fight for EU money goes between Paris and Rome for a long time. At first, he tried to fit into the EU budget with the initiative to create the border guard of Fezzan Rome. This attempt was blocked by Paris, which did not want to strengthen the competitor (the French put on field marshal Khalifa Haftar). Italians are trying to thwart Macron’s plans to rally all the forces of the European Union under the banners of the “anti-slave operation”. Brussels has also not responded to the initiative of the French president thanks to the efforts of the EU foreign policy coordinator Federica Mogherini. As a result, funding for the tribal militia is postponed.
The shortage of funds affected not only the tuba and auliad Suleiman, but also other pro-Italian formations in Sebha. There broke out unrest Chadian and Sudanese mercenaries, members of the group of the tribe of the tribe Gaddafi Nasser Bin Jarad. At the same time, Jarad himself was wounded, five Chadians died. The reason - the requirement to pay salaries for the year. The Italians are to blame for first luring Ben Jared's troops from Field Marshal Haftar (by breaking off the seizure of the airport at Sebha this summer), and then leaving him without a salary. Jared deserted a year ago, believing the promises of the Italians. Now he puts on the son of Gaddafi - Seif al-Islam. Nostalgia for the era of the colonel becomes evident in Fezzan, as well as in the west of Libya, where S. al-Islam is in the honorable captivity of the clan zintan. If the Italians fail to find financing for their projects in Fezzan in the near future, this will provoke the transfer of the key region of Libya to Haftar’s wing and Paris behind it. That recalls the struggle of France and Italy for Africa in the colonial era.