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Dangerous signs that Trump, Netanyahu and the Saudi Crown Prince are planning wider Mideast war

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Béchir Ben Yahmed, at age 89, is probably the most experienced journalist in the world today. He is warning that he has inside information that an alliance of Saudi Arabia and Benjamin Netanyahu, urged on privately by the Trump administration, is deliberately moving toward starting a much wider “New War in the Mideast.”

Ben Yahmed is not some obscure conspiracy theorist holding forth in a coffee house in Cairo or Beirut. He is the Tunisian-born founder of the distinguished French-language weekly Jeune Afrique (Young Africa), which he has headed since 1960 and where he still writes his influential, measured weekly column, “What I Believe.” So when he reports that he has learned that the 32-year-old de facto leader of Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and his pliable father, King Salman, are actively plotting to launch a far-reaching war with Israeli backing, attention must be paid.

Bechir Ben Yahmed

Ben Yahmed recognizes that Saudi Arabia has already been at war in Yemen for 2 years. He says the kingdom’s next target is the Hezbollah political/military movement, in Lebanon. He writes that the Saudis plan “at the right moment, to unleash, with the help of Israel and the United States, a war aimed at defeating, disarming and putting Hezbollah completely out of action.”

But the real ultimate target is Iran, Hezbollah’s ally and patron. Ben Yahmed continues, “King Salman and his son, Netanyahu and Trump, four men of the extreme right who hold supreme power in three wealthy nations, are armed to the teeth and have the same enemy: Iran.” He argues that a wider war may be imminent partly because the Saudi crown prince and his father know they must act quickly, while Trump and Netanyahu are still in power. He cites, as evidence for this conspiracy, Trump’s tweet the very day that the Saudi twosome staged a de facto coup and arrested their domestic enemies: “I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing. . . .”

So in the months to come, the Korean peninsula may not actually be the most dangerous place in the world. Take a 32-year-old Saudi prince, intoxicated by having more real power than possibly anyone else in the Kingdom’s history, add the opportunistic Benjamin Netanyahu, who is anxious to act decisively to ward off the growing political threat from the Israeli far right, mix in the volatile, ignorant Donald Trump — and you have the makings of a regional cataclysm.

Béchir Ben Yahmed’s sober warning contrasts with another pathetic instance of journalistic malpractice by Thomas Friedman, whose recent gushing praise of the crown prince is already notorious. Friedman spent 4 hours with Mohammed bin Salman, whom he affectionately humanizes by calling him “M.B.S.,” and completely fell for the prince’s pose as a “reformer.” Friedman did not mention the rising threat of a wider Mideast war, (and he was also silent about the kingdom’s air attacks in Yemen, in a conflict in which more than 5000 people have already died, and a cholera epidemic has killed another 2000 Yemenis).

Friedman’s failure to report the real news is characteristic. We are still living with the consequences of the disastrous U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, which Friedman — the most influential foreign affairs columnist in America — enthusiastically (and viciously) endorsed. Once again, the call goes out to “Fire Thomas Friedman.” Until he is replaced, Americans have to read a French-language magazine to find reporting that should be in their own newspapers, in English.

James North

James North is a Mondoweiss Editor-at-Large, and has reported from Africa, Latin America, and Asia for four decades. He lives in New York City.

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22 Responses

  1. jd65 on December 1, 2017, 12:33 pm

    Thank you for this excellent article, James. I will be looking for more from Yahmed. And thank you for pointing out the consistently awful Thomas Friedman. He is likely the best representative to show how conservative politics and attitudes on the issue of Palestine are now being called “liberal,” or at best “moderate.” [He beats out H. Clinton by a hair…] What makes Friedman particularly frustrating – aside from his clever-clever, self-amused, glib, and often simply confused style of writing – is the fact that he’s so widespread in the media spectrum that you know he’s effecting the minds of a large portion of the population with his transparently Israel-first ideas.

    As you know, James, we’re far from alone in this view of Friedman’s rhetoric and writing. Glenn Greenwald wrote this of Friedman’s writing:
    “He literally negates his own principal claim… in the very same column in which he advances it… But incoherence is the least notable aspect of this column.

    This is to say nothing of the warped imagery Friedman often uses of the invading U.S. as a ‘midwife’ — as though Muslim countries are our little babies who need and pray for our parental imperial guidance out of their primitive wombs.

    If I had to pick just a single fact that most powerfully reflects the nature of America’s political and media class in order to explain the cause of the nation’s imperial decline, it would be that, in those classes, Tom Friedman is the country’s most influential and most decorated ‘foreign policy expert.’”

    And this from Rolling Stone’s political writer/reporter Matt Taibbi:

    “…This is Friedman’s life: He flies around the world, eats pricey lunches with other rich people and draws conclusions about the future of humanity by looking out his hotel window and counting the Applebee’s

[Re: Friedman’s method of creating an argument or making a point]: It’s crazy, a game of Scrabble where the words don’t have to connect on the board, or a mathematician coming up with the equation A B -3X = Swedish girls like chocolate.”

  2. Mooser on December 1, 2017, 1:12 pm

    Planning a wider Mid-East war? Wh-wh-what ever happened to Trump’s non-interventionist foreign policy? He was gonna get us out of those Democratic wars.

    Well, Flynn pled guilty to only one minor charge (working for Obama) and so the Russia-Trump investigation will be over, so Trump won’t be tempted to produce distractions. Pax Trumpia here we come!

    • HarryLaw on December 1, 2017, 1:30 pm

      That one lie possibly involved Flynn trying to influence a vital UN vote on 23 December 2016 Resolution 2334 on Israeli settlements, the Israeli Government went apoplectic with OBama because he refused to withdraw it. If Flynn did try to influence other UN members into changing their votes, that would be a clear breach of the never used [until possibly now] Logan Act.

      • Mooser on December 1, 2017, 2:32 pm

        Like you say, it can’t amount to much. Certainly no reason for decompensation. Obama will most likely escape prosecution for firing Flynn.

      • HarryLaw on December 1, 2017, 2:48 pm

        I think it will be a big deal for Trump since it would appear he or a very senior member of his team tried to change Obama’s policy at the UNSC by negotiating with other countries voting at the UN before Trump came to office.
        “According to the Bloomberg report, “one of Flynn’s lies to the FBI was when he said that he never asked Russia’s ambassador to Washington, Sergey Kislyak, to delay the vote for the U.N. Security Council resolution. The indictment released today from the office of special prosecutor Robert Mueller describes this lie: “On or about December 22, 2016, Flynn did not ask the Russian Ambassador to delay the vote on or defeat a pending United Nations Security Council resolution.” At the time, the U.N. Security Council resolution on Israeli settlements was a big deal. Even though the Obama administration had less than a month left in office, the president instructed his ambassador to the United Nations to abstain from a resolution, breaking a precedent that went back to 1980 when it came to one-sided anti-Israel resolutions at the U.N”.

        “This was the context of Kushner’s instruction to Flynn last December. One transition official at the time said Kushner called Flynn to tell him he needed to get every foreign minister or ambassador from a country on the U.N. Security Council to delay or vote against the resolution. Much of this appeared to be coordinated also with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose envoys shared their own intelligence about the Obama administration’s lobbying efforts to get member states to support the resolution with the Trump transition team”

      • Mooser on December 1, 2017, 6:01 pm

        “I think it will be a big deal for Trump”

        One small oversight in a lifetime of irreproachable probity? Trump makes Ceaser’s Wife look like one of the girls from the Arctic Hotel
        Besides it was Obama who pushed Flynn on Trump, insisted he be hired.

      • HarryLaw on December 1, 2017, 7:15 pm

        General Flynn has recieved a sweetheart deal from the Prosecutors because they think the investigation will go to the top of this administration. One of Flynns lies concerned UNSC Resolution 2334 to be voted on 23 December 2016.
        a. On or about December 21, 2016, Egypt submitted a resolution to the United Nations Security Council on the issue of Israeli settlements (“resolution”). The United Nations Security Council was scheduled to vote on the resolution the following day.

        b. On or about December 22, 2016, a very senior member of the Presidential Transition Team directed FLYNN to contact officials from foreign governments, including Russia, to learn where each government stood on the resolution and to influence those governments to delay the vote or defeat the resolution.

        c. On or about December 22, 2016, FLYNN contacted the Russian Ambassador about the pending vote. FLYNN informed the Russian Ambassador about the incoming administration’s opposition to the resolution, and requested that Russia vote against or delay the resolution

        d. On or about December 23, 2016, FLYNN again spoke with the Russian Ambassador, who informed FLYNN that if it came to a vote Russia would not vote against the resolution.
        A senior Trump transition team member said Kushner instructed Flynn to try and nobble the Resolution, did Trump instruct Kushner or did Kushner do it alone? Either way both are in trouble, this was not the act of an incoming administration ensuring a smooth transition, this was a blatant act to kill an important OBama initiative on Israeli settlement building and a clear breach of the Logan Act…
        (1 Stat. 613, 18 U.S.C. § 953, enacted January 30, 1799) is a United States federal law that details the fine and/or imprisonment of unauthorized citizens who negotiate with foreign governments having a dispute with the United States. It was intended to prevent the undermining of the government’s position.[2] The Act was passed following George Logan’s unauthorized negotiations with France in 1798, and was signed into law by President John Adams on January 30, 1799. The Act was last amended in 1994, and violation of the Logan Act is a felony.

      • Mooser on December 1, 2017, 7:28 pm

        I don’t see what this is all about. Obama gave Flynn permission to contract Kislyak . And that KT MacFarland lady told Flynn to do it.

        Anyway, Hillary Clinton’s immanent arrest on various charges will take the focus off Trump.

      • Donald on December 1, 2017, 9:41 pm

        I sort of doubt that someone will be prosecuted because they tried to help Israel. There should be enough in the way of perjury and corruption to prosecute people in the Administration without dragging Israel into it.

        Many of the Beltway people who hate Trump are just as much a bunch of neocon warmongers as the people in Trump’s Administration. They just don’t trust Trump to be a competent warmonger. McCain hates Trump, for instance. People like that will try to keep Israel out of it.

        All this is farcical. Trump’s biggest crime is not his corruption, but the fact that he is mentally unstable and incompetent. Think of all the people we could be quietly killing without the embarrassment of having Trump as our President.

    • Keith on December 1, 2017, 5:12 pm

      MOOSER- “Wh-wh-what ever happened to Trump’s non-interventionist foreign policy?”

      It was either wishful thinking or campaign rhetoric. The President basically implements the fat-cat game plan with perhaps some slight modifications. Imperial foreign policy is quite consistent. And Trump is perhaps one of the weakest Presidents we have had, his primary focus to avoid impeachment. Wall Street, the State Department, and The Council on Foreign Relations more-or-less establish foreign policy, Trump’s former Generals implement it. In the case of the Middle East, Israel and the Lobby have a large influence.

      • Mooser on December 1, 2017, 7:32 pm

        “It was either wishful thinking or campaign rhetoric.”

        You don’t say? How could I have been so taken in? I was waiting for a Presidential pivot, and Trump was out making divots!

  3. HarryLaw on December 1, 2017, 1:16 pm

    I don’t see a war on Hezbollah in the immediate future, it would have to be a huge false flag or pure aggression on Israel’s part, in such a case the Russians with their s400’s just to the north in Syria would have a big say on the outcome, maybe even Syria would be involved. It must be noted that Hezbollah have over 100,000 missiles and other surprises which Nasralla said can reach all areas in Israel, including Dimona and the Israeli gas fields, such destruction of vital infrastructure in Israel and the massive loss of life is not something Israel will contemplate especially when Lebanon is destroyed but Iran is still standing. As for the Saudis they may have billions of dollars of military equipment but their army is a joke, I doubt they can wipe their own behinds, who will fly their aircraft? The Israelis know and respect Hezbollah they know it will be no walk in the park, Israels problem is that every day that goes by, Iran and Hezbollah grow stronger, what a conundrum.

  4. Citizen on December 1, 2017, 1:39 pm

    This Ben Yahmed article is astute.

  5. Bandolero on December 1, 2017, 5:07 pm


    Béchir Ben Yahmed’s article is fine, but when published on November 16 it was already a bit outdated.

    On November 16 even Time published this: The Saudi Crown Prince’s Plot to Reshape the Middle East Backfires

    On November 17 Alastair Crooke illuminated the background a bit brighter: Trump’s Saudi Scheme Unravels.

    My comment: destroying Hezbollah and/or Iran with a new big war is a wet dream of Bibi and MbS. MbS wants to use Israel to do the fighting, Bibi wants the Saudis to do the fighting, and both of them want to use the US military as their proxy, but the US military doesn’t want to be used as a proxy of Bibi and MbS. Bibi and MbS want war, but both are afraid of fighting it themselves. And that’s why the Bibi-MbS plan to destroy Hezbollah and Iran stayed now after years of brutal war in Syria, Iraq and Lebenon what it it was from the beginning: a wet dream.

  6. Stephen Shenfield on December 1, 2017, 7:13 pm

    I don’t understand how exactly Saudi Arabia can attack Hezbollah. Israel can attack Hezbollah by invading Lebanon again. Saudi Arabia can encourage its proxies in Syria to attack Hezbollah forces in that country, but in itself that hardly counts as a ‘wider Mideast war’. So what can the phrase mean, short of a direct attack on Iran?

  7. wondering jew on December 1, 2017, 10:54 pm

    Certainly the saber rattling by Saudi Arabia has been noteworthy. Also certainly the outcome of the Civil War in Syria is not to Israel’s benefit: Iran with a foothold a short distance away, strengthened Hezbollah, not good results.
    But I still cannot imagine the circumstances of a war and what Israel would gain from such a war. How suddenly is Hezbollah going to disappear? I don’t see it and the logic of 1982 and 2006 plus endless supply of missiles in Hezbollah’s possession seems to argue against it.
    But here are some questions: Is there a natural position for the Arab states to be opposed to Iranian influence? Is the Arab world looking for leadership? Certainly world peace might be threatened by “leadership” just as Nasser delivered disaster to the Arab world, any new leadership might just be the same, but is the vacuum in leadership natural and is the filling or attempt to fill the vacuum natural?
    I certainly can’t see Bibi launching a war before the next Israeli elections. I think right now winning the next elections is Bibi’s primary concern and war would not serve him well or at the very least could serve him very unwell, so I don’t see Bibi being the sponsor of some war at least until elections.

  8. Helena Cobban on December 2, 2017, 8:47 am

    Bandolero (above) has it exactly right. Ben Yahmad was already ways behind the curve when his piece was published and Alastair Crooke got it right with his piece:

    Luckily (for the benighted peoples of Yemen and Palestine, and indeed the rest of the world) MBS is now starting to drown in the sea of his own hubris. The Israelis refused to be the “stick” with which he could “beat” the Hizb and their Iranian allies. Israel and Hizbullah have had a fairly stable balance of mutually assured devastation since 2006 which neither side wants to upset.

    And no-one else (French, US, etc) wanted to proceed with his plan to massively destabilize Lebanon, either.

    Now, if only the numerous Saudi princes and business leaders whom MBS has stuck it to very seriously could figure out how to unite effectively against this dangerous whipper-snapper and get him out of the way, the whole region could breathe more easily.

    But wait! He has Tom Friedman on his side!

    (How many “Friedman Units” till MBS’s demise, I wonder? I’m guessing three or fewer.)

  9. Citizen on December 2, 2017, 12:14 pm

    “if only the numerous Saudi princes”–U mean B4 JaredKushner met with the guy who just arrested scores of them?

  10. Brewer on December 6, 2017, 12:32 pm

    Israel Shamir has an interesting article called “The Dog That Didn’t Bark” – highlighting the media’s absence of coverage of what is actually a sensational story – billionaires including Prince Al-Walid bin al-Talal, a billionaire 18 times over, an “important partner” to Bill Gates, co-owner of 21st Century Fox and Twitter, of Paris’ Hotel George V and London’s Savoy Hotel being hung upside down, Mussolini-style until they cough up. As he puts it:
    “Not a single voice, neither from liberal left nor from authoritarian right objected to this amazing deed of mass torture and extortion. While the co-owner of Twitter has been subjected to daily beatings, the prime voice of liberal conscience, Tom Friedman of the New York Times, eulogised MBS as the bearer of progress. In an article as panegyric as they come, titled Saudi Arabia’s Arab Spring, at Last and subtitled “The crown prince has big plans for his society”.

    Tom Friedman does not use the word “extortion”, saying that [MBS’s] “government arrested scores of Saudi princes and businessmen on charges of corruption and threw them into a makeshift gilded jail — the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton — until they agreed to surrender their ill-gotten gains.” No condemnation at all! Can you imagine what he would say if Putin were to arrest his oligarchs “until they agreed to surrender their ill-gotten gains”?”

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