Saudi Arrest Roundup, Trump in Asia
Sunday, November 5, 2017
Vol. 6, No. 296
Saudi Roundup: Arrests and a missile. In what’s described as an anti-corruption sweep that may really be a consolidation of power, Saudi Arabia has arrested one of the world’s richest men, 10 other princes, and perhaps dozens of current and former Saudi ministers.
The billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal owns major stakes in News Corp, Citigroup, Twitter as well as satellite networks that inform the Arab world. He bought the Plaza Hotel from President Trump.
The arrests took place only hours after the announcement of a powerful new anti-corruption committee under King Salman’s son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The Ritz Carleton Hotel in the capital Riyadh was cleared out, possibly to be used as a holding tank for those arrested. The private airport was closed to keep rich businessmen from fleeing arrest.
At 32, Crown Prince Salman pretty much controls the Saudi military and has ambitious social and economic plans, in particular to move his country to an economy that can survive without depending on oil. He has fractured the giant family that controls the kingdom.
As if that wasn’t enough action for one day, Saudi Arabia shot down a ballistic missile fired from Yemen that came close to Riyadh. Saudi Arabia has been at war with Yemen for two years. The Yemen government said the missile, a Burqan 2H, was aimed at the Riyadh airport in retaliation for a Saudi attack Wednesday that killed 26 people in a hotel and a nearby market.
The Diplomatic Front: President Trump, who doesn’t like to spend a night away from home … or homes … is off on a 12-day trip to visit 5 countries in Asia. Leaders on that side of the world are worried that Trump’s “America First” credo presents the danger of ceding power to China.
Trump was in Japan playing golf today with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He’s going to have to do some reassuring on matters of trade and diplomacy, particularly on the issue of North Korea, which could dominate the agenda. Trump can be expected to urge Asian allies to keep putting the sanctions squeeze on the Hermit Kingdom.
“No one — no dictator, no regime and no nation — should underestimate, ever, American resolve,” Trump told US and Japanese troops at the Yokota Air Base in Tokyo.
NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristof says that experts who watch the situation, tell him the chances of war with North Korea range from 20 percent to 50.
Kristof writes that, “Almost no expert believes that sanctions will force Kim Jong-un to give up his nuclear weapons or halt his missile program. That puts us on a collision course, for North Korea seems determined to develop a clear capacity to target the U.S. with nuclear weapons, while the White House hints that it would rather have a war than allow the North to become a nuclear threat.”
By some estimates, as many as 300,000 people could die in the first days of a conventional war, and a million if it goes nuclear.
Blowhard: The White House has kicked back against both former Presidents Bush, who have been quoted as sharply critical of President Trump.
In a new book, “The Last Republicans,” George W Bush said, “This guy doesn’t know what it means to be president.”
The senior Bush said, “I don’t like him. I don’t know much about him, but I know he’s a blowhard. And I’m not too excited about him being a leader.”
A White House statement said, “If one presidential candidate can disassemble a political party, it speaks volumes about how strong a legacy its past two presidents really had.” The statement continued, “And that begins with the Iraq war, one of the greatest foreign policy mistakes in American history.”
The Numbers: The Washington Post reports that, at 37 percent, President Trump has the lowest approval rating of any president in 70 years of polling. His disapproval rate is 59 percent.
Nation: Massachusetts has become the first state to ban bump stocks, the device that turns a semi-automatic rifle into a machine gun like several used in the Las Vegas massacre. Owners of bump stocks have 90 days to get rid of them.
Fight Club: Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul suffered a minor injury Friday when he was assaulted by an acquaintance in his home, police said. Police arrested Rene Boucher, 59, of Bowling Green Friday afternoon. A spokeswoman for Paul said he had been “blindsided.”
Even though he’s a Libertarian, Paul didn’t seem to mind government intervention.