TBR News June 29, 2017

Jun 29 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., June 29, 2017:”The bleatings of official Washington about a Russian menace are aimed at stirring up the EU to threaten Russia.

Although the Russian armed forces have been reduced in size under Putin, they have been increased in capability and superior armament.

But aside from advanced nuclear weaponry, the most powerful weapon the Russians have today, and are using to deadly effect, is cyber warfare.

With the greatest of ease they destroyed the campaign of Hillary Clinton, released devastating information about the CIAs domestic spying, and shown how easy it would be to infiltrate and obliterate western business, political and military internet communications.

And if there is any truth to the allegations that Trump cut some kind of a deal with Putin, it would be very ill-advised for him to renege on it.

There is no question at all that the Russians have a trove of information about Trump which, if released to the public, via WikiLeaks of course, would destroy his credibility and also his presidency.”

Table of Contents

  • No, most working-class Americans did not vote for Donald Trump
  • Low-income workers who live in RVs are being ‘chased out’ of Silicon Valley streets
  • Iraq declares end of caliphate after capture of historic Mosul mosque
  • How much of a threat does Russia pose, and to whom?
  • Advise, Assist, Arm: The United States at War
  • Trump’s Chaos is Covering for Stealth Escalation Overseas
  • Analysis: Wahhabism: A Saudi Time Bomb
  • Deposed Saudi Prince Is Said to Be Confined to Palace


From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2017, Issue No. 50

June 29, 2017


The Defense Intelligence Agency yesterday launched a new series of unclassified publications on foreign military threats to the United States with a report on the Russian military.

“The resurgence of Russia on the world stage — seizing the Crimean Peninsula, destabilizing eastern Ukraine, intervening on behalf of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and shaping the information environment to suit its interests — poses a major challenge to the United States,” the report said.

The 116-page report provides DIA data and perspective on Russian military strategy, force structure, defense spending, intelligence, nuclear weaponry, cyber programs, foreign arms sales, and more. Though unclassified and citing open sources, it is presumably consistent with DIA’s classified collection. See Russia Military Power 2017 published by the Defense Intelligence Agency, June 2017.

The new publication is inspired by the Soviet Military Power series that was published by DIA in the 1980s to draw critical attention to Soviet military programs. Both informative and provocative, Soviet Military Power was immensely popular by government document standards though it was viewed by some critics as verging on, or crossing over into, propaganda.

The new report usefully describes official US perceptions of Russian military programs and intentions, allowing those perceptions to be scrutinized, discussed and corrected as necessary. “These products are intended to foster a dialogue between U.S. leaders, the national security community, partner nations, and the public,” DIA said.

A companion report on China Military Power, among others, is expected to be published shortly.


The role of Secretary of Defense Harold Brown in managing the Pentagon, boosting the military and confronting the Soviet Union during the Jimmy Carter Administration is examined in a new Department of Defense historical volume that was declassified and published this month.

It was during Secretary Brown’s tenure that the Carter Administration reversed a decline in defense spending and began a military buildup that is usually associated with the Reagan Administration. Stealth aircraft, precision bombs, cruise missiles and other new weapons programs were championed by Brown, a physicist, and brought into production.

“Unlike previous secretaries of defense, Brown faced the Soviet Union at the apex of its Cold War military might,” wrote historian Edward Keefer in the new DoD volume. “Flush from new discoveries of oil and natural gas in an era of high energy prices, the Soviet Union of the Carter years came closer to matching the United States in strategic power than it had in any other period. By most reckonings, the Kremlin held advantages over the West in conventional weapons and forces in central Europe. Brown and his staff worked diligently and creatively to offset the formidable Soviet military challenge. Yet the achievements Brown amassed as secretary have been overshadowed by one horrendous failure, the Iran hostage rescue mission. As a result, history has paid scant attention to his successes. Similarly, it has ignored the foundation that the Carter administration built for the Reagan revolution in defense. This volume aims to remedy the oversight.”

“This is an authorized history, but not an official one,” wrote DoD Chief Historian Erin R. Mahan. “There is a distinction.” That is, it is based on authorized access to classified source materials and underwent internal peer review, but it represents the author’s own judgment.

Among other areas of friction and public controversy, Secretary Brown defended the nuclear weapon targeting policy set forth in Carter’s Presidential Directive 59. “To liberal arms control advocates, such as the Federation of American Scientists, PD 59 seemed warlike and dangerous,” the Pentagon history said.

See Harold Brown: Offsetting the Soviet Military Challenge, 1977-1981, Office of the Secretary of Defense, June 2017, 840 pages.

The new volume is the latest in a series of scholarly histories of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and one of several new publications from the OSD History Office.


As of May 31, more than 46,000 refugees from around the world were received in the United States in FY 2017 and were settled in every state except for Wyoming, a new report from the Congressional Research Service found.

Though that is a small number compared with the hundreds of thousands of refugees accepted annually in Germany and some other Western countries, it is roughly consistent with the number of refugees accepted by the US in the last several years, according to data compiled by CRS. See Reception and Placement of Refugees in the United States, June 21, 2017.

Other new and updated publications from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Paris Agreement: U.S. Climate Finance Commitments, June 19, 2017

Political Status of Puerto Rico: Brief Background and Recent Developments for Congress, updated June 12, 2017

India-U.S. Relations: Issues for Congress, June 19, 2017

Arms Sales: Congressional Review Process, updated June 22, 2017

When Is Running Guns From the Philippines to Mexico a Federal Crime?, CRS Legal Sidebar, June 26, 2017

The Budget Control Act: Frequently Asked Questions, June 22, 2017

Freshwater Harmful Algal Blooms: Causes, Challenges, and Policy Considerations, June 20, 2017

Global Research and Development Expenditures: Fact Sheet, updated June 16, 2017

Violence Against Members of Congress and Their Staff: A Brief Overview, CRS Insight, June 15, 2017

In new legislative report language, the House Appropriations Committee endorsed public access to all non-confidential CRS reports. Subject to approval or amendment by the Committee today, CRS was tentatively told to develop recommendations for implementing such access within 90 days.

“The Committee directs the Library of Congress’s Congressional Research Service (CRS) to make available to the public, all non-confidential reports. The Committee has debated this issue for several years, and after considering debate and testimony from entities inside the legislative branch and beyond the Committee believes the publishing of CRS reports will not impede CRS’s core mission in any impactful way and is in keeping with the Committee’s priority of full transparency to the American people,” the draft Committee report said. (Wash Post, June 28).


No, most working-class Americans did not vote for Donald Trump

Contrary to a popular belief, working-class voters did not make up the bulk of the Trump vote. Instead, the electorate that put Trump in the White House looks pretty much like the classic Republican coalition.

June 29, 2017

by Michael Knigge


The standard narrative explaining Donald Trump’s rapid ascent from the Republican primaries up to his unexpected victory in the presidential election goes something like this:

Trump, the brash New York real estate mogul and reality television personality, had managed to awaken and politicize a slumbering working-class base that was attracted by his unorthodox style and some of his key topics. These fired up working-class voters then turned out in droves, first at his rallies and later at the ballot boxes, assuring Trump’s win over his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.

This narrative sounds alluring, but it has one problem. It is not accurate.

That’s because, according to two recent authoritative studies, the Trump electorate actually looks very similar to the standard Republican electorate in which working-class Americans play a role – but not the outsized role that is often ascribed to them in the Trump vote.

Trump’s base was not mostly working class

“With that data there is no reason to think that his base was majority or even close to majority working-class people,” said Noam Lupu, a political scientist at Vanderbilt University, who analyzed the latest results of the American National Election Study, the leading academically-run national survey of voters in the US.

Instead what Lupu and a colleague found when they looked at who voted for Trump was pretty traditional Republican fare.

Approximately a third of the Trump electorate had household incomes below the US median income, roughly a third earned between $50,000 and $100,000 (around 43,825 – 87,650 euro), and one third earned more than $100,000.

Since participants’ professions, typically a good indicator of class status, are usually not sampled in US surveys, the scholars had to rely on income data as the defining criteria of working-class status.  Accordingly, individuals who earned below the median household income were considered working-class voters for the purposes of the study.

Standard Republican coalition

“People have been surprised by the data,” said Lupu, because the Trump electorate “looks very similar demographically to the standard Republican coalition.”

This, he added, is also supported by the early policy goals pushed by Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans – doing away with the Affordable Care Act and tax reform – both traditional Republican ideas, but not necessarily ones advocated by working-class voters.

The scholars also found that Hillary Clinton received more votes from working-class Americans than Donald Trump, a result which again shows working-class voting patterns that tend to favor Democrats over Republicans. Clinton also won the popular vote by nearly three million.

Emily Ekins, director of polling at the libertarian Cato Institute, also zeroed in on the Trump electorate in an analysis of the Democracy Fund’s Voter Study Group data. Her research likewise shows that working-class Americans comprised only one (out of five different) segments that made up the Trump coalition.

No single type of Trump voter

“There is no such thing as a single type of Trump voter who voted for him for one single reason,” said Ekins. “Of the five groups, the one that fits the media account of the stereotypical Trump voter is what I call the American Preservationist.”

This is the often mentioned working-class American who is deeply concerned about immigration and racial minorities, but leans economically progressive and supports raising taxes on the wealthy as well as large government programs like Medicare.

While the American Preservationists may have been the most vocal – and most unusual – slice of the Trump coalition, they comprised only 20 percent of the president’s electorate.

Its polar opposite, labeled Free Marketeers by Ekins, made up 25 percent of Trump voters, while the so called Staunch Conservatives made up 31 percent. Both groups were less enthusiastic in their support of Trump; especially the Free Marketeers, said Ekins, voted explicitly against Hillary Clinton instead of for Donald Trump.

Rallies can be misleading

Still, in the end both groups – traditionally more loyal Republicans than the American Preservationists, a fifth of whom voted for Barack Obama in 2012 – held their noses and voted for the Republican candidate.

This is important, because without the support of traditional Republicans, Trump, despite the fierce backing of working-class voters, would not have been able to win the election.

Lupu and Ekins’ research into the Trump electorate has several implications for the public, the media and politicians.

Relying on the people who turn up and have the loudest voice at political rallies may not be a reliable indicator of a candidate’s electorate, said Lupu, referring to journalists who tend to feature rally participants prominently in their coverage.

“I think in this particularly case that can be misleading,” he said. “A lot of standard Republican coalition voters were probably not that excited about Donald Trump, and so they were not showing up at his rallies, but they still voted to [sic] him. Who shows up at rallies is not a very representative sample of the voter base.”

Republican coalition is diverse

Lupu also warned against what he considers the common typecasting of working-class voters as irrational actors who vote against their economic interests because they vote Republican, said Lupu.

“There is an element of stereotyping and condescension towards working-class people, so this idea that they were especially duped by Donald Trump and his sort of populism fed into that myth that already kind of existed.”

For Ekins, a key take away from her research is the sheer diversity of the Republican coalition. “It is far more diverse than people realize.”


Low-income workers who live in RVs are being ‘chased out’ of Silicon Valley streets

In the ‘highest income region of the universe’, people trying to make ends meet face a ban on vehicles from parking in the same spot for longer than 72 hours

June 29, 2017

by Alastair Gee

The Guardian

Palo Alto, California-In a Silicon Valley town where the median home value is $2.5m, next to a university with a $22.5bn endowment, not far from a shopping mall with Burberry and Cartier outlets, they present an eye-popping sight: dozens of run-down RVs and trailers parked in a line along a main road.

Their homeless inhabitants must live in a way that is, to put it mildly, not the norm for somewhere like Palo Alto. “I try not to use the restroom unless I have to because it costs money to go and drain it, and I don’t want an odor to build up,” said a man called Frank Aldama on Tuesday, with the forested outskirts of Stanford University visible through his screen door.

To keep the grungy carpet in the 30-year-old vehicle clean, he sprays it with Febreze every morning. And he is fastidious about the exterior, “so people don’t have a reason to want you to leave, other than maybe being an eyesore”.

The number of RVs in this part of Palo Alto has spiked this year, and no wonder. For Aldama and others like him, the city feels like a respite. Crime is minimal. Some trailers face groves of oak and eucalyptus trees, others look onto playing fields where parents cheer children playing soccer. But their toehold here has begun to feel tenuous.

Amid complaints from residents, Palo Alto has announced it will enforce a rule that bans vehicles from parking in the same spot for longer than 72 hours. The RV dwellers must accede – they have few other options. Silicon Valley was recently ranked the second most inaccessible region in the country for low-income workers trying to find a place to live. Palo Alto’s minimum wage is $12 an hour, but someone would have to earn $42.69 an hour to rent a two-bedroom apartment while having enough left over for other necessities.

Iraq declares end of caliphate after capture of historic Mosul mosque

June 29, 2017

by Stephen Kalin and Maher Chmaytelli


MOSUL/ERBIL, Iraq-After eight months of grinding urban warfare, Iraqi government troops on Thursday captured the ruined mosque in Mosul from where Islamic State proclaimed its self-styled caliphate three years ago, the Iraqi military said.

Iraqi authorities expect the long battle for Mosul to end in the coming days as the remaining Islamic State fighters are now bottled up in just a handful of neighborhoods of the Old City.

The seizure of the 850-year-old Grand al-Nuri Mosque is a huge symbolic victory for the Iraqi forces fighting to recapture Mosul, which had served as Islamic State’s de facto capital in Iraq.

“Their fictitious state has fallen,” an Iraqi military spokesman, Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, told state TV.

The insurgents blew up the medieval mosque and its famed leaning minaret a week ago as U.S.-backed Iraqi forces started a push in its direction. Their black flag had been flying from al-Hadba (The Hunchback) minaret since June 2014.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi “issued instructions to bring the battle to its conclusion,” his office said.

The fall of Mosul would in effect mark the end of the Iraqi half of the IS caliphate even though the hardline group would still control territory west and south of the city. Its capital in Syria, Raqqa, is also besieged by a U.S.-backed Kurdish-led coalition.

The cost of the battle has been enormous, however. In addition to military casualties, thousands of civilians are estimated to have been killed.

About 900,000 people, nearly half the pre-war population of the northern city, have fled the battle, mostly taking refuge in camps or with relatives and friends, according to aid groups.

Those trapped in the city suffered hunger and deprivation as well as death or injury, and many buildings have been ruined.


Civilians living nearby were evacuated in the past days through corridors, he added.

CTS units are now in control of the mosque area and the al-Hadba and Sirjkhana neighborhoods and they are still advancing, a military statement said.

Other government units, from the army and police, were closing in from other directions.

An elite Interior Ministry unit said it freed about 20 children believed to belong to Yazidi and other minorities persecuted by the insurgents in a quarter north of the Old City.

A U.S.-led international coalition is providing air and ground support to the Iraqi forces fighting through the Old City’s maze of narrow alleyways.

But the advance remains an arduous task as the insurgents are dug in the middle of civilians, using mortar fire, snipers, booby traps and suicide bombers to defend their last redoubt.

The military estimated up to 350 militants were still in the Old City last week but many have been killed since.

They are besieged in one sq km (0.4 square mile) making up less than 40 percent of the Old City and less than one percent of the total area of Mosul, the largest urban center over which they held sway in both Iraq and Syria.

Those residents who have escaped the Old City say many of the civilians trapped behind IS lines — put last week at 50,000 by the Iraqi military — are in a desperate situation with little food, water or medicines.

“Boys and girls who have managed to escape show signs of moderate malnutrition and carry psychosocial scars,” the United Nations Children’s Fund UNICEF said in a statement.

Thousands of children remain at risk in Mosul, it said.

Baghdadi proclaimed himself “caliph,” or ruler of all Muslims, from the Grand al-Nuri Mosque’s pulpit on July 4, 2014, after the insurgents overran vast swathes of Iraq and Syria.

His speech from the mosque was the first time he revealed himself to the world and the footage broadcast then is to this day the only video recording of him as “caliph”.

He has left the fighting in Mosul to local commanders and is believed to be hiding in the border area between Iraq and Syria, according to U.S. and Iraqi military sources.

Islamic State last week broadcast a video showing much of the mosque and brickwork minaret reduced to rubble. Only the stump of the Hunchback remained, and a dome of the mosque supported by a few pillars which resisted the blast.

The mosque was named after Nuruddin al‑Zanki, a noble who fought the early Crusaders from a fiefdom that covered territory in modern-day Turkey, Syria and Iraq. It was built in 1172-73, shortly before his death, and housed an Islamic school.

The Old City’s stone buildings date mostly from the medieval period. They include market stalls, a few mosques and churches, and small houses built and rebuilt on top of each other over the ages.

The Iraqi state’s failure to prevent Islamic State from overtaking as much as a third of the country in 2014 is fueling arguments in favor of greater self-determination of Christian and other minorities it failed to protect.

A group of Assyrian, Chaldean and Syriac Christians published a document on Thursday after a conference in Brussels this week calling for the self-governance of Christians in the Nineveh Plains east and north of Mosul, where they have a strong presence.

(Writing by Maher Chmaytelli,; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

How much of a threat does Russia pose, and to whom?

June 29, 2017

by Jonathan Marcus

BBC News

Nato defence ministers are reviewing progress in what’s known as the alliance’s “enhanced forward presence” – its deployment of troops eastwards to reassure worried allies, and deter any Russian move west.

Nato has dispatched four battalion-sized battle groups, one deployed in Poland and one in each of the three Baltic republics: Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

The US has also begun to bring back heavy armoured units to western Europe.

The whole effort is prompted by the shock emanating from Russia’s seizure and subsequent annexation of the Crimea, and its continuing support for rebel groups in eastern Ukraine.

If Moscow could tear up the rule-book of security in post-Cold War Europe by carving off a slice of Ukraine (as it previously did in Georgia), many feared the Baltic republics – also territory of the former Soviet Union – could be next.

Russia says that in response to these Nato moves, it is making new deployments of its own. But the reality is rather more complex. I’ve been speaking to some of the leading Western experts on the Russian military to get a sense of what is behind Russia’s modernisation effort, and to determine what threat it really poses and to whom.

“Russia would like us to think that its current militarisation and preparations for conflict are a response to Nato doing the same, but it’s simply not true.”

That’s the view of Keir Giles, director of the Conflict Studies Research Centre, and probably Britain’s leading watcher of Russian military matters.

“Russia’s enormously expensive reorganisation and rearmament programme,” he told me, “was already in full swing well before the crisis over Ukraine, while Nato nations were still winding down their militaries.

“As late as 2013, the US withdrew all its armour from Europe – while Russia was already busy investing billions in upgrading its forces.”

Analyst Dmitry Gorenburg of Harvard University dates the start of the Russian modernisation programme to 2009. It was a response, he says, to the evident shortcomings in the Russian military campaign against Georgia.

He says the main focus was “the improvement of the speed of decision-making and communication of decisions to the troops, and interoperability among military branches, followed by the replacement of Soviet-era equipment that was rapidly reaching the end of its service life”.

The results have been significant. According to Michael Kofman of the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute, “by 2012 Russia had reorganised its armed forces from a Soviet mass mobilisation army into a permanent standing force, and began improving quality across the board”.

This was coupled with an intense regimen of snap checks on readiness and countless exercises, to the extent that “by 2014 the Russian military was markedly improved compared to its lacklustre performance in the Russia-Georgia war in 2008,” he says.

All the experts I spoke to insist that the initial focus of the Russian effort has been on Ukraine, not the Baltics. Indeed, Michael Kofman argues that the war in Ukraine imposed unexpected requirements on Russia’s military, which found itself lacking permanently stationed forces on the country’s borders, and ill-positioned for the conflict.

“Russian armed forces,” he says, “were, and still are, in transition.”

To address the prospect of war with Ukraine in the medium to long term, he says, Russia “has spent much of the past three years repositioning units around Ukraine, building three new divisions, rebasing several brigades, and creating an entire new combined-arms army. The intent is for Russian ground forces to be in place just across the border should they need to reinforce proxies in the Donbas, invade from several vectors, or simply deter Kiev from thinking it could quickly retake the separatist regions by force”.

Ukraine may be the immediate strategic concern of the Russian general staff. But as Keir Giles notes, “Russia is developing its military infrastructure all the way along its western periphery – not just opposite Ukraine, but also Belarus, the Baltic states and even Finland. They have re-organised in order to be able to deliver combat troops to the western border as rapidly as possible”.

This includes “setting up new heavy road transport units in order to reduce their traditional reliance on railways to deliver armour to the operational area. That gives them a lot more flexibility to move in areas where road networks are better developed – primarily the west of Russia, including across the border in Russia’s western neighbours,” he tells me.

Given Moscow’s focus on Ukraine, have some Nato countries over-reacted to the perceived Russian threat? Not at all, says Keir Giles. On the contrary, he insists, the concern is that Nato has under-reacted.

“The direct military challenge from Russia, and confirmation of Russia’s willingness to use military force against its neighbours,” he argues, “with few exceptions, hasn’t translated into European countries taking a serious interest in defending themselves.”

He adds that the failure of many Nato allies to meet even symbolic commitments, like the pledge to spend 2% of GDP on defence, let alone urgent real measures like regenerating the capacity for high-intensity warfare to match Russia’s developing capabilities, “speaks of an unwillingness to recognise politically inconvenient reality”.

That reality, according to Michael Kofman, is nothing short of a transformation of the Russian military. “Reform, modernisation and the combat experience gleaned from Ukraine and Syria will have lasting effects on the Russian armed forces,” he told me.

“Russia,” he says, “retains the ability to deploy decisive force anywhere on its borders, overpowering any former Soviet republic. In terms of its strategic nuclear arsenal, Russia is not only a peer to the United States, but actually ahead in modernisation and investment in non-strategic nuclear weapons.

“Meanwhile Russia’s conventional forces are now capable of imposing high costs on even a technologically superior adversary such as Nato in a high-end conflict – i.e. a fight would be quite bloody for both sides.”

That is hopefully an unthinkable situation. At root, though, Dmitry Gorenburg believes that “Russia’s conventional capabilities will be nowhere near as strong as those of the US military or Nato forces as a whole”.

Above all it is readiness, proximity, and the ability to mass fire-power quickly that gives Russia an immediate local advantage. But Nato needs to get the threat into perspective.

As Michael Kofman notes, “Russia is a Eurasian land power, bringing a lot of firepower to the fight, but its strength shines when fighting close to home.”

Nato’s defence and research budget dwarfs Russia’s, as does the base capacity of the alliance to generate forces and equip them in a prolonged conflict.

“The bottom line,” he says, is that “while Nato has genuine worries on what a short-term conflict with Russia might look like, the reality is that this is the world’s pre-eminent military alliance, at the core of which is still an incredibly potent military power, and a sustained fight would probably end disastrously for Moscow.”

The Russian military is simply not structured to hold substantial territory, or to generate the forces needed for a prolonged conflict. Nato needs to be ready, in the view of experts. If deterrence is going to be credible it needs to restore its ability to fight high-intensity combat, a capacity that has atrophied during the counter-insurgency campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The consensus among the experts seems to be that Ukraine was a warning bell. Russia’s newfound assertiveness is not to be confused with a desire to launch a military attack westwards.

Indeed, the immediate Russian threat may come from its information warfare and cyber campaigns directed against the West. That’s a battle that has already been joined. And it is one the West is equally ill-prepared for.

Advise, Assist, Arm: The United States at War

June 29, 2017

by Mel Gurtov


During the Cold War, the US military and the CIA were involved in a multitude of “indirect” interventions in developing countries. A few – most dramatically and tragically, Vietnam – evolved from a supporting US role to large-scale combat missions. The Pentagon typically defined these missions as “low-intensity conflicts,” though they hardly seemed as such to the innocent people caught up in them. Now, just below the radar, the US military is engaged in an ever-increasing number of “advise-and-assist” missions, supplemented by major arms deals and CIA-run drone strikes, that commit the US to long-term intervention in Africa and the Middle East. And Donald Trump, unlike Barack Obama, is happy to cede operational control – to “let the war fighters fight the war,” as Stephen Bannon told CNN.

The Growing US Footprint in Africa

The US Africa Command oversees a vast array of “outposts” – categorized in Pentagon-speak as “consisting of two forward operating sites [including the one official base in Djibouti], 13 cooperative security locations, and 31 contingency locations.” Secret documents in 2015 listed thirty-six outposts “scattered across 24 African countries. These include low-profile locations – from Kenya to South Sudan to a shadowy Libyan airfield – that have never previously been mentioned in published reports. Today, according to an AFRICOM spokesperson, the number of these sites has actually swelled to 46, including ‘15 enduring locations.’ The newly disclosed numbers . . . shed new light on a constellation of bases integral to expanding U.S. military operations on the African continent and in the Middle East,” Nick Turse writes.

These outposts support “seventeen hundred members of the Special Forces and other military personnel [who] are undertaking ninety-six missions in twenty-one countries,” according to one writer. In Somalia, for instance, Navy SEALs are pursuing an al-Qaeda affiliate, al-Shabab, with the Somali National Army. Seals are not simply advising and training; they are involved in combat too, as part of a force of 200-300 Special Forces soldiers. About all that is known about the air and ground assaults is that they are increasing. As the Times reports: “The decision to allow more expansive operations in Somalia is a signal of the Trump administration’s willingness to delegate decision-making power to military commanders and authorize a greater use of force against militant groups.”

The US mission in Africa relies increasingly on training of African troops. The latest report by the Security Assistance Monitor indicates training in fiscal year (FY) 2015 of nearly 34,000 troops, mainly from Burundi, Cameroon, Tanzania, and Niger. Such security assistance is about $2.5 billion in FY2017.

It is essentially substituting for other forms of US assistance that would be so much more meaningful, such as rule-of-law training, development aid, and humanitarian relief such as treatment of AIDS. Ordinarily, the US accounts for about a quarter of humanitarian aid to Africa, but that is now subject to major cuts under Trump. Aid to Africa is slated to be reduced from about $8 billion to $5.2 billion in FY2018 – a plan that senior military officers as well as diplomats consider wrongheaded.

The Africa locations are also essential to US military operations in the Middle East, such as in Yemen, Iraq, and Syria. In Yemen, for example, US drones support Saudi air strikes, which are being carried out with fewer restrictions than before as the White House allows the military to determine strategy. High civilian casualties are practically guaranteed to continue. Were it not for US protection, Saudi Arabian officials would be on trial for war crimes.

Outsourcing in the Middle East

President Trump dramatized the policy of outsourcing to the military by giving General James Mattis, the defense secretary, authority to determine force levels in Afghanistan. “Several thousand” more US troops may be deployed there, news reports say, as officials acknowledge the war there, fifteen years in, is being lost. (About 9800 US troops are in Afghanistan, out of a total force of around 13,000.) Drone operations have increased fourfold over the Obama years. Nothing the Trump administration has said so far deviates from Obama’s Afghanistan objective, which was to “advise and assist” to the point where government forces could at least keep the Taliban threat at manageable level. But what is different is the delegation to the Pentagon of authority over troop levels and development of a new strategy. Even as the new strategy has yet to materialize, the US commitment gets deeper – another sign that the Trump team is in over its head and that Trump’s supposed distaste for foreign adventures – on behalf of “people that hate us,” he once said of Afghanistan – is a fiction.

US policy on Qatar is another indication of an administration without a consistent message beyond meeting immediate military needs. While Secretary of State Rex Tillerson seeks to calm relations between Qatar and the other Persian Gulf states that have blockaded and threatened it, Trump remains oblivious to diplomatic solutions. He’s still back in the Middle East, fawning over the Saudi royals and, incredibly, praising their anti-terrorism efforts while denigrating Qatar as a “funder of terrorism at a very high level.” (The US ambassador to Qatar, a career Foreign Service officer, resigned June 13, apparently as scheduled but reportedly also in protest of Trump’s meddling.) But let’s also follow the money here: at the same time Washington is selling the Saudis $110 billion in weapons, it has also announced a $12 billion arms sale to Qatar, thus assuring continued access to the major US air base there.

While the US military gets virtually everything it wants, the UN reports that about 20 million people in Africa and the Middle East are starving. It has requested $4.4 billion to “avert a catastrophe.” Famine is particularly afflicting South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, and Nigeria. One well-informed report from South Sudan indicates ethnic cleansing and possible genocide by the US-supported government forces, causing massive flight from the country amidst widespread hunger (Nick Turse, “Ghost Nation,” Harper’s, July 2017). The Trump administration has done nothing to address the problem.

Trump’s Chaos is Covering for Stealth Escalation Overseas

June 27, 2017

by Katrina vanden Heuvel

The Washington Post

While Washington is fixated on President Trump’s tweets, antics, lies and Russiagate, the administration is ramping up a stealth escalation of our military involvement across the Middle East. As Naomi Klein warns, Trump’s “rolling shock of the chaos and spectacle” distracts from radical actions both at home and abroad. Across the Middle East, the administration drives the United States ever further into wars without end, increasing the dangers of direct military confrontation with Russia and Iran, with little awareness and no mandate from the American people. This is a recipe for calamity.

The deepening military involvement has accelerated in recent weeks. The administration will dispatch 4,000 more troops to Afghanistan, plus 400 to Syria. The president fired 23 cruise missiles at a Syrian air base in retaliation for alleged Syrian use of chemical weapons against civilians. In recent weeks, U.S. forces have bombed Iranian-supported militia forces moving forward in southern Syria and shot down a Syrian jet flying over Syrian airspace. Russia has cut off coordination designed to avoid air collisions and announced that U.S. planes flying west of the Euphrates would be targeted. As the battle against the Islamic State reaches its final stage, the Pentagon seems intent on sustaining a presence in Syria, aimed at preventing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from regaining control of the country.

In Yemen, the United States is escalating its direct and indirect support for the Saudi air assault that is leveling that impoverished country. As fighting intensifies, civilian casualties and refugees are rising, more and more are driven from their homes, and hunger and deadly diseases such as cholera are spreading as health systems break under the strain. Seventeen million Yemenis suffer from lack of food, while a cholera epidemic infects another child every 35 seconds.

The escalation directly contradicts Trump’s stances during the election campaign. Back then, he indicated his skepticism of regime change, claiming — falsely — that he had opposed the Iraq invasion and denouncing the intervention in Libya. He indicated that he saw no reason to take sides in the Syrian civil war, suggesting that perhaps the United States could join with Syria and its ally Russia to take out the Islamic State. He promised he would “bomb the s— out of ISIS” but would not get bogged down in the Middle East. This stance appealed strongly to voters weary of war and looking for a leader who would focus on our challenges here at home. That promise has now clearly been trashed.

The escalation is also striking for the absence of any discernible strategy. It suffers less from strategic incoherence than from strategic vacuum. We’ve been in Afghanistan for 16 years, expending thousands of lives and almost a trillion dollars without being able to create a government that would defend itself, yet the Taliban now controls more territory than it did before the last surge under President Barack Obama. In Syria, the United States appears to be gearing up to take on the brutal Assad regime but has neither the plan nor the will to displace him. Adding troops in either area only ensures that the conflicts will go on without end and without victory. As a candidate, Trump certainly would have mocked the gestures as part of a “dumb war.”

The escalation is also flagrant in its illegality — both under U.S. law and under international law. Unlike Russia, the United States has not been invited into Syria by the government, so when the America shoots down a Syrian jet in Syrian airspace, it is an act of war, in direct violation of the U.N. charter. Like Obama before him, Trump claims the post-9/11 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) provides the domestic legal authority for the intervention in Syria. But that document authorizes force only against those who committed the 9/11 attacks and those who aided or shielded them. Syria’s Assad had nothing to do with the attacks on the United States and has fought against the Islamic State and al-Qaeda. Ironically, it is our supposed ally Saudi Arabia that has been the source of funds and doctrine for al-Qaeda and its Sunni offshoots.

Some on Capitol Hill are concerned about the legality. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) has joined with Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) to introduce a congressional authorization that would repeal the 2001 AUMF and the 2002 authorization for force against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, while explicitly authorizing five years of war against the Islamic State, al-Qaeda and the Taliban as well as “associated forces” to be defined later.

But the reality is that we are headed into more war without public support, without a sensible strategy or a clear purpose. Americans are tired of wars without end. The response is to fight wars on the quiet: substituting technology for troops to lower our casualties. What is needed now is not a blank check but public hearings that will expose the increasingly dangerous reality to the American people. We don’t need a rubber-stamp Congress. We need someone with a backbone to stand up as Sen. J. William Fulbright (D-Ark.) did in 1966, convening hearings that exposed the folly in Vietnam and explored ways to bring the conflict to an end. Where is the Republican Fulbright of today who will question our current course before it is too late?


Wahhabism: A Saudi Time Bomb



For more than two centuries, Wahhabism has been Saudi Arabia’s dominant faith. It is an austere form of Islam that insists on a literal interpretation of the Koran. Strict Wahhabis believe that all those who don’t practice their form of Islam are heathens and enemies. Critics say that Wahhabism’s rigidity has led it to misinterpret and distort Islam, pointing to extremists such as Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. Wahhabism’s explosive growth began in the 1970s when Saudi charities started funding Wahhabi schools (madrassas) and mosques from Islamabad to Culver City, California. Here are excerpts from FRONTLINE’s interviews with Mai Yamani, an anthropologist who studies Saudi society; Vali Nasr, an authority on Islamic fundamentalism; Maher Hathout, spokesperson for the Islamic Center of Southern California; and Ahmed Ali, a Shi’a Muslim from Saudi Arabia. (Also see the Links and Readings section of this site for more analyses of Wahhabism and Saudi Arabia.)

Q: Why is there a debate about what the true image of Islam is?

A: There is debate in our mind. But the perception of others about Islam indicates to us that what they perceive is not what we really believe is the real Islam. We have Islam that has been hijacked, tampered with, and projected according to sometimes bias of special agendas, or just mere ignorance.

Q: But tell me, this organization … do you differentiate between Sunni Islam or Shiite or…

A: I’m not in this center. I’m not in that organization. As a matter of fact, we believe that Islam is documented in the Koran and modeled by the personality of prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him; and anything else is manmade. So it is a give and take, and Islam should adapt and accommodate the different cultures. This is why there is an Egyptian Muslim identity, there is an Indian Muslim identity, and there should be an American Muslim identity.

Q: Are you aware of the Muslim World League, for instance?

A: Yes. … The Muslim World League is supposedly a nongovernmental organization. Nonetheless, it was sponsored and supported by Saudi Arabia, and played a certain role in building mosques and giving … imams to different mosques in America. This one is not included. …

Q: Is the Muslim World League not around?

A: I think it is around. But what I’m saying is that certain groups like our group, we don’t deal with it, because we believe that the American Muslim identity should be completely independent, should neither receive money or support from an environment that is different from the American environment.

An Egyptian-born cardiologist, Dr. Maher Hathout is now an American citizen. He is a senior adviser to the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the spokesperson for the Islamic Center of Southern California. In this interview, Hathout says that Islam has been hijacked and tampered with by radicals. He describes his mosque’s progressive philosophies, its insistence on creating a Muslim identity that gels with American pluralism, and explains why his mosque decided to protect its independence by refusing foreign funds. He also discusses the Saudi money flowing into the U.S. to build and support mosques during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. This interview was conducted on Oct. 26, 2001.

Q: Let’s go back to the very beginning and talk about when you came here.

A: I came to Los Angeles. Before that, I was in Buffalo, N.Y., for seven years. I was Islamically active also. Then I came to Los Angeles, to this particular Islamic Center. And with a group of men and women, we started working very hard to illustrate what we mean by American Muslim identity and how to find a space for the future of Islam in America, being part of the American pluralism.

Q: So was this particular location, this particular mosque, ever approached with donations of money?

A: Oh, yes.

Q: Can you tell a story about that?

A: Yes. I don’t recollect the specific story. But the modus operandi was: a group of Muslims will gather to try to collect some money. They will send their emissaries to Saudi Arabia or to the Gulf states and collect money. Sometimes they collect from individuals, which I think there is nothing wrong with that. But sometimes also they ask the government to officially give money. And so they build their mosque and they pay their debts, et cetera.

This particular school of thought here opted not to do that. We believe that a community that cannot sustain itself does not probably deserve to be. And if people believe in you and in your line, they will support you, people here in the locality. And so we were very strict about that.

Q: Now, is that unusual, your philosophy?

A: I would say now it is very common. At that time — I’m talking about 17 years ago or so, or 20 — it was odd. Because people always ask, “Why not? It is money of Muslims for Muslims, for Islam,” et cetera. They say money with no strings attached. I think money itself is strings. It doesn’t have to be attached to anything. So…

Q: And what do you mean?

A: Once someone pays you, you would be more careful in your statements. You will say the party line of that person. We feel that this is not for the best interest of Islam in America, not for the best interest of American people who’d like to look at Islam afresh, not tinted by what they see all over the world.

Q: Well, what’s the harm in [accepting money for the mosques from foreign countries]?

A:The harm is that Islam here will be a foreign entity. As a physician, I know that foreign bodies are eventually rejected. And this is not what we wanted; this is not the mission. Islam is a universal religion. So if it is in America, it becomes an American Muslim identity. And we felt that to be a component of the American pluralists, we have to be Americans to the core, who are guided by Koran and following the model of the prophet, without carrying the baggage of the Middle East or Far East or whatever.

Q: But what’s the difference between you, let’s say, and another mosque, let’s say, in this area? …

A:The difference is that we are trying to find our own way, not to follow a way that somebody came from abroad and told us, “This is the way.” For example, in this center early on, the language was always the English language except when we recite scripture, when we recite it in the original language followed by translation. We never segregated genders. We never imposed any code. We educated — but no imposing of anything.

So this gives a different flavor than a traditional mosque, which is an extension to an area. Whether this area is Egypt, Saudi Arabia, or Pakistan or Iran, it carries the flavor of that area which will make persons who are not from that area feel foreigners inside the mosque. And we felt that this is wrong. This a pluralism within the pluralism, and should have its own identity.

Bear with me, because we’re going to try to educate the particulars of the Saudi Arabia influence in this country. What would that be? What is it that they bring to this country in terms of their interpretation of Islam?

Number one, I don’t want to play down their generosity and their genuine belief that they are doing something good. This is not what I mean. But definitely, they come with their own local culture to a different culture. So they are very, very strong about gender issues, while we believe that the Koran gave equal rights and duties to both genders. And they are very strong about segregation; we believe that actually the early model of Islam was complete integration. So we don’t have to follow that model.

I knew about some of their imams or leaders. They deliver their sermons in Arabic, while we have a large component of African-American Muslims and white American Muslims and Pakistanis and Indians who don’t understand the language. So the performance there and the execution of the mission is completely different.

Also you don’t expect them to be critical about certain issues of that part of the world [that] we are very critical about from an American perspective. We believe in democracy and this area should be democratized. We believe in equal distribution of the wealth. It is very wrong to see that the natural wealth that came from the land belongs to a certain family. It is the property of all the people, and so on and so forth. If you are taking money from those people, you will not be feel free to criticize.

If I go to, let’s say, King Fahd Mosque and I say to them, “Well, you’ve been criticized that you’re taking money from a foreign country that has different ideas than the pillars of American society.” What do you think they’re going to say to me?

I really don’t know. I can’t speculate and read their mind. I have never been in King Fahd Mosque. But I expect that you will find, for example, a very luxurious building, not like a humble one like this. I expect that you’ll find gender segregated. And I expect that you’ll find the line about talking about traditional issues. This is what I expect. I don’t know whether this is the truth or not. As I said, I have not been there, ever. …

Q: So, for instance, the imams in King Fahd Mosque… How are they different? …

A: It’s very interesting. Number one, we don’t have an imam here. We call the imam a “religious service coordinator,” because the word “imam” — nothing wrong with it, imam means “in front,” it means “leading” — carried connotation. Sometimes it carried the same connotation of clerical person, holy man, who knows the word of God more than the common people. We felt that this is not right and is not conducive of an environment of free debate and a democratic environment that will lead to better ideas, collective ideas, and collective thinking.

So right there, you will find a difference. We don’t have an imam. I lead the prayers here. I’m Dr. Hathout, not Imam Hathout.

Q: What is the influence, as far as you know? How does the influence pervade, perhaps, that congregation?

A: I tell you. For example, they send imams and books in Arabic. And these books are translated into English and the translation is not always very good. And they are talking about an environment that is obsolete, the world-view of the unbelievers fighting the believers. So it comes very irrelevant to the diversity and the pluralism in America

These books are all over the place, because they can afford to make very glossy magazines and distribute it for free. As I said, their intention is probably good; but the out-product is an image that’s not fitting in what we are living through.

They send the imams, who are speaking a language that our new generation does not understand. … It alienated the new generation from the mosques to a great extent. And they send books that, when the critical mind of a young American Muslim will read, will not exactly accept. It creates an environment where the family comes together, then at the doorstep, the woman go this way and the man go this way, which I don’t understand why. So that influence definitely was there.

And sometimes in the attire itself. … When you look at [clothing] like this, say, “My God, they are not from here.” And this is something that I don’t think is very conducive. … [People] should not lose their cultural complexions, but should definitely adapt to the American environment without losing their principles or their beliefs or their model of behavior. But they don’t have to do that. They don’t have to be the foreign team that’s coming to play a game and leave. They have to be indigenous in a way, part of America, part of the fabric of America.

Q: I know that you don’t fundraise in Saudi Arabia, so you don’t know the inside thing. But you said that maybe a congregation might get together and go to Saudi Arabia to look for funds. But are the funds not offered, as well?

A: In certain years, they were very generous in offering funds. And I know that King Fahd Mosque cost several millions — I don’t know exactly how much. I know that the inauguration of that mosque itself, the price tag was several million dollars. That could have worked wonders for the refugees or the homeless or the African-American mosques that were emerging, trying to carry a message.

So I don’t believe in that style at all. … I am not picking on the Saudis in particular. But I feel that each community should be able to carry its own load. And the people, if they are rich and generous as individuals, they might help whatever cause they feel is meeting their aspirations and helping life to be better.

Q: We’re talking about Kind Fahd Mosque and you say that the inauguration itself cost several million. Was it a congregation of American Muslims who went to Saudi Arabia and said, “Please build a mosque here?”

A: I don’t know how the process started. But I know that when the mosque asked to be opened and inaugurated, [the] prince for Saudi Arabia came with a huge entourage, with people flown from all over America to come to attend to the inauguration. And if I remember, something took place in Century Plaza Hotel, very lavish, luxurious thing.

Money itself is not bad. But what I’m saying is, let money be spent by communities according to their priorities, and not necessarily coming from abroad saying, “Here is the money.” And the expectation, whether it is spelled out clearly or not, is that, of course, “Islam is what I say.”

Q: We’ve touched on this. But what is the creed of Islam that is preached in Saudi Arabia? What is it called?

A: Well, the word “creed” is important because the creed of Islam is the same: the belief in one God, the belief in the oneness of his message, the oneness of the human family. And the devotion to God should be expressed in human rights, good manners, and mercy, peace, justice, and freedom. No two Muslims will argue about this creed. It is documented in the Koran as the highest authority, modeled by the authentic teaching of the prophet, and the authenticity has always been subject of study and debate.

So the creed is crystal clear. But the interpretation or the way you approach life, which should be a dynamic thing, should change from time to time. When you freeze it at a certain period or at a certain interpretation, problems happen. I know that people called it Wahhabism; I don’t subscribe to the term. [Muhammad bin Abd al-Wahhab] at his time was considered a progressive person.

If you freeze things at his time — which was the eighteenth century, or the late part of the seventeenth century, I don’t remember the dates exactly — it becomes very stagnant and very literalist. And a very straitjacketed puritan approach that does not cater to the changeables and the dynamics of life. People call this Wahhabism.

Saudis, by the way, never say, “We are Wahhabis.” They say, “We are just Muslims.” But they follow the teachings, and the major booklets taught in all schools are the books of Muhammad bin Abd al-Wahhab. Anyone who’s subscribing to someone else is not very much welcomed.

Q: So there’s a quote in the [New York Times] article that we were looking at before that basically says that Saudi Arabians believe that their form of Islam … is the real true form of Islam, and that pretty much any other kind of way of practicing Islam is wrong.

A: Yes

This is probably some of the Saudi scholars. … They are playing the role of clergy; there should be no church in Islam. There should be no theological hierarchy. But they acquired that position and, of course, them and the ruling family are very close. After all, Muhammad bin Abdul al-Wahhab is the one who paved the road for Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, the patriarch of the family, to conquer the rest of the [Arabian] Peninsula and to rule. So there is very great cohesiveness between the two.

And so they believe that that’s it, this is the truth. And not only that that is it, it does not change, which is very problematic. Because we know that even at the early history of Islam, as new issues emerged, new jurisprudence was created to suit the change of the time and age. That’s early on, at probably 25 years after the death of the prophet, peace be upon him.

So they, that group of people, believe that this is the only form and it does not change. This of course creates major problems, and it creates some kind of schizophrenic situation. … I don’t think that Wahhabism … will condone or accept lots of things that are done by some of the elite of Saudi Arabia who come to Las Vegas and have fun and do this and do that. And we don’t hear a very strong voice exposing this or condemning them for that.

But if they see a woman driving a car, they consider this a major sin. There is confusion here. We wanted to actually protect Islam from that very narrow tunnel-visioned look that will make it irrelevant, will marginalize Islam as one of the shaping factors of human civilization, as it has always been. Once you are irrelevant to the civilization of the time and age, you can have your own cocoon and say whatever you want. But who cares?

Q: You touched on the idea that it’s not compatible, this form of Islam. … You also mentioned that there was a time when the Saudis really were spending a lot of money in this country. Can you go back to that and talk about that a little?

A: Yes, they definitely spent lots of money on what they considered training of imams and building mosques and some schools to follow that model. And I consider it, sometimes, wasted money, because it created something that’s totally irrelevant and had to change.

And it is very interesting. Some of the people who received this money are now changing their mind completely and say “No, we are not going to go this way,” whether amongst indigenous Muslims, or people like myself who are immigrants. Lots of people who received the support are realizing now that they are on the margin of America, they are not within America. And by now, they have children and grandchildren who are Americans to the core, so it doesn’t work.

Q: But when was the time when all the money was coming in?

A: Late 1960s and 1970s and 1980s, there was lots of money coming in. … The Muslim World League was spending money. There were lots of donations and grants from the government given to people and to institutions. This created that marginalized school that eventually found that it is not taking root, especially with the new generation. The new generation is different. They’re brought up in America, they elected their student government, they argue with their teachers, they ask questions. …

Q: Why does this form take off so well, let’s say, with the Taliban? I know that they received a lot of money indirectly from the kingdom. And it seems like their brand has taken off pretty well in…

A: But not in America. … That’s the point. You might find a special kind of performance to suit a certain place. But definitely within a pluralistic society, an open society with a great democracy like ours, definitely the brand of Taliban or whatever will not will never tick with the people here, and will lose its relevance completely. So while this formula might work with an angry, oppressed crowd, it will not work in an open, pluralistic affluent society.

Whether Saudis gave money to Taliban or not… I guess they probably did. And so did the CIA and so did the Pakistani intelligence. So we can’t just pick on the Saudis. We just cannot point a finger to them. I think there was that expediency, that Pakistan wanted a friendly government on their border. They didn’t like the Northern Alliance for their own reasons. And the Americans wanted to defeat the Soviet Union and wanted stability in the area, and so they help they created the monster. …

Q: We’re trying to explain charity to people, and what charity means in a certain part of the world. Somebody said to me how everybody says, “Oh charity, charity’s good.” … We also have looked into … schools and mosques in Kuwait, and places that are very poor, like the Comoros Islands on the coast of eastern Africa. And they get money from the Saudis. One of the embassy bombers is from the Comoros. What’s the influence there? What do you think about that?

A: I am a firm believer that it’s not enough to be charitable. You’ve got to know what this money is producing, and I believe that the Koran supports this idea. God doesn’t like those who squander the money. Squander[ing] money is not that you are spending too much; you are spending the money for something that’s not conducive of the goodness that is supposed to come out of that.

So if I give money and the final result of this money is people buying guns to kill people, I am not a charitable person. Or teaching people how to hate, this is not charity. This is squandering the money or spending it against the cause, actually, not for it.

Deposed Saudi Prince Is Said to Be Confined to Palace

June 28, 2017

by Ben Hubbard, Eric Schmitt and Mark Mazztti

The New York Times

BEIRUT, Lebanon — The recently deposed crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Nayef, has been barred from leaving the kingdom and confined to his palace in the coastal city of Jidda, according to four current and former American officials and Saudis close to the royal family.

The new restrictions on the man who until last week was next in line to the throne and ran the kingdom’s powerful internal security services sought to limit any potential opposition for the new crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, 31, the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity so as not to jeopardize relationships with Saudi royals.

It was unclear how long the restrictions would remain in place. An adviser to the Saudi royal court referred queries to the Information Ministry, whose officials could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday. A senior official in the Saudi Foreign Ministry reached by telephone on Wednesday night described the account as “baseless and false.”

The Saudi monarch, King Salman, shook up the line of succession last week with a string of royal decrees that promoted his favorite son, Mohammed bin Salman, to crown prince and removed Mohammed bin Nayef, 57, from the line of succession.

The elder prince was also replaced as interior minister by a 33-year-old nephew, marking the end of a career that had won him deep respect in Washington and other foreign capitals for his work dismantling Al Qaeda’s networks inside the kingdom after a string of deadly bombings a decade ago.

Supporters of Mohammed bin Salman, often referred to as M.B.S., have lauded his promotion, saying it empowered a young, ambitious prince who has laid out a positive vision for the kingdom’s future.

But his elevation effectively ended the political prospects of many older princes, some of whom consider him rash, power hungry and inexperienced. Prince Mohammed also serves as the kingdom’s defense minister, putting him in charge of Saudi Arabia’s costly military intervention against the Houthi rebels in neighboring Yemen.

Saudi state news media has gone out of its way to portray a smooth transition, repeatedly broadcasting a video showing Mohammed bin Salman deferentially kissing the hand of Mohammed bin Nayef, often referred to as M.B.N., who wishes him well.

But the restrictions placed on the elder prince suggest fear that some members of the sprawling royal family are upset with the change, and that public appearances by him could exacerbate such sentiments.

“It’s an indication that M.B.S. does not want any opposition,” a senior United States official said. “He doesn’t want any rear-guard action within the family. He wants a straight elevation without any dissent — not that M.B.N. was plotting anything anyway.”

The official said the United States government was in contact with the Saudi Interior Ministry, but that American officials had not had any formal contact with Mohammed bin Nayef and were monitoring the situation closely.

“M.B.N. has been such a great friend and partner of the U.S., we would not want to see him treated inelegantly or indecorously,” the senior American official said.

Since Mohammed bin Nayef’s removal from the line of succession, several veteran American counterterrorism and intelligence officials who had strong relationships with him have privately expressed outrage at his treatment. But they were wary of speaking publicly given the strong support for King Salman and his son from President Trump and other top aides, including Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law.

Mohammed bin Salman dined with Mr. Trump at the White House in March. That cleared the way for Mr. Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia, where he declared the Saudis key allies in combating terrorism and extremism

The restrictions have also been imposed on Mohammed bin Nayef’s daughters, according to a former American official who maintains ties to Saudi royals. A married daughter was told that her husband and their child could leave their home while she had to stay, the former official said.

One Saudi close to the royal family said the new restrictions had been imposed almost immediately after Mohammed bin Salman’s promotion.

After the announcement, Mohammed bin Nayef returned to his palace in Jidda to find that his trusted guards had been replaced by guards loyal to Mohammed bin Salman, according to the Saudi and a former American official. Since then, he has been prevented from leaving the palace.

Another former American official with close contacts with the royal family confirmed that Mohammed bin Nayef had been barred from leaving the kingdom, but said he had not heard that he had been restricted to his palace.

The promotion of Mohammed bin Salman last week followed his meteoric rise from near obscurity since his father came to the throne in early 2015 to the summit of Saudi power. Since then, he has been put in charge of the Defense Ministry, given oversight of the state oil monopoly and spearheaded the development of a plan called Saudi Vision 2030 that seeks to reduce the kingdom’s dependence on oil, diversify the economy and loosen some social restrictions.

His rise came at the expense of Mohammed bin Nayef, who has maintained a low profile while developing strong relationships with successive American administrations and intelligence officials.

During Mohammed bin Salman’s rise, American officials had struggled to build relationships with both princes while trying not to be used as leverage in any rivalry between them.

Mohammed bin Salman’s elevation has been accompanied by that of a number of other young princes. One of his brothers, Khalid bin Salman, was recently named the ambassador to Washington. He is believed to be in his late 20s.

Mohammed bin Nayef was replaced as interior minister by a nephew, Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef, who has no clear experience in law enforcement or intelligence matters. In a unique arrangement in a country traditionally guided by deference to elders, he is the son of Saud bin Nayef, the governor of the Eastern Province, effectively making the young prince his father’s boss.

Ben Hubbard reported from Beirut, and Eric Schmitt and Mark Mazzetti from Washington. Nicholas Confessore contributed reporting from New York.







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