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PostWas Jamal Khashoggi Murdered in Saudi Consulate? (Yusuf Kanli, Turkey, 10/11/18 7:09 am)
It appears that an unprecedented diplomatic crisis is brewing between Turkey and Saudi Arabia. If allegations that Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside his country's consulate in Istanbul are true, can we assume that the Saudi executives in Istanbul and Ankara, as well as those in the Kingdom, were unaware of the probable consequences of such a cold-blooded, blatant act?
It is not of course wise to assume that the Turks were naïve to accept claims that Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate through the front door, tried to complete the required paperwork to marry Hatice Cengiz, his Turkish fiancée, and left the building from the back door without being captured by any one of the cameras of the rather exaggerated CCTV system in the building. Did the Saudis really believe the Turks were not monitoring the entrances and exits of the consulate? Even if so, the Saudis must have known that in this country--which has turned into an Orwellian state with cameras all over the cities--would not have excluded districts that host diplomatic buildings.
If Turkish officials claim they believe Khashoggi was murdered, dismembered and his remains were carried out of the consulate in diplomatic parcels, this is a very serious charge. If a presidential advisor claims that Khashoggi was probably murdered by a 15-person special squad which came from Saudi Arabia and left the country immediately after the "operation" was completed, it shows that at the top executive levels of the country there is some degree of information about what might have happened.
Furthermore, if the Turkish president publicly declares that he had some idea about the fate of Khashoggi but believed that before speaking further on the issue, he should wait for the outcome of the investigation, Saudi Arabia should know that it might not be easy to play the role of innocent. Particularly, if claims that a team flew in from Saudi Arabia expressly to carry out a planned murder in the consulate are to be verified, I wonder how the Saudis will react other than refuting the findings with some lofty conspiracy charges.
These are all signs that a crisis is brewing between Ankara and Riyadh. The Saudis underestimated the probable complications of their action.
Even if the murder was carried out in the consulate, which is a territory under Saudi jurisdiction, it has to be considered an act of extrajudicial killing and totally incompatible with the diplomatic code of conduct. What might be the response of the Saudis to a probable Turkish decision to declare the consul-general persona non grata? Perhaps the Saudis will retaliate and send a Turkish diplomat home as well. What will come next?
International rights groups have always been complaining that the Saudi regime routinely resorts to draconian laws to crack down on peaceful dissent at home. Well aware of the crimes of the Wahhabi regime, as well as the allegations of its role in many heinous crimes, it has preferred so far to play the role of the three monkeys. Interests, of course, speak louder than values and norms.
The Turkish investigation must be supplemented with a probe by the International Court of Justice. After all, does Islam not teach that the murder of one innocent is tantamount to the murder of all humanity?
If it is proven that the Saudis indeed carried out an extrajudicial killing in Istanbul, perhaps the international community this time should stop its deafening silence on the Saudi crackdown on fundamental rights, of which freedom of expression is first.
JE comments: I'm glad Yusuf Kanli brought up this very important development, which could seriously hurt Turkish-Saudi relations (two of the the biggest "frenemies" of the US). Yusuf, do (did?--yikes) you know Khashoggi personally?
Maybe this is an inappropriate question, but why do you need fifteen people to carry out a murder?
Jamal Khashoggi Case
(David Duggan, USA
10/12/18 2:28 AM)
As a former journalist, I have followed the Jamal Khashoggi case with dismay.
Unanswered to me (despite some effort at inquiry) is what this means as to the relationship between Khashoggi and arms-dealer to the Middle East and protectorate of the Saudi Royal family, his cousin Adnan Khashoggi who died in 2017. I understand that the Khashoggi surname is Turkish in origin, perhaps not surprising given the Ottomans' centuries-long control of the peninsula and Islam's holy sites.
Does this murder also signal an end to the Saudis' out-sourcing their unsavory, perhaps even menial tasks (e.g., the brick-laying bin Laden family, Yemeni in origin, which built most of the palaces in which the Saudis live)?
JE comments: Turkish investigators now say they have video and audio recordings to prove that Khashoggi was murdered at the Saudi consulate. This just came in from The Guardian:
The Saudi Role in the Khashoggi Murder: Is Trump Putting Arms Profits above Decency?
(Istvan Simon, USA
10/13/18 5:11 AM)
David Duggan (October 12th) asked what is the relationship of arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi and Jamal Khashoggi. I found the answer in Wikipedia:
Adnan Khashoggi was the uncle of Jamal Khashoggi. Mohammed Khashoggi, the personal doctor of King Abdul Aziz, was the father of Adnan, and the grandfather of Jamal. A sister Samira was the mother of Dodi Fayed.
Adnan Khashoggi was an alumnus of Stanford University and California State University, Chico. His super yacht The Nabila was bought by Trump.
Interesting as these tidbits of information are, which make it evident that the family was well connected, I am surprised that no WAISer raised the issue of the reaction and policies of the United States to the murder of a journalist of the Washington Post by orders of Mohammad bin Salman al Saud, the current "reformist" king of Saudi Arabia.
Will the Trump administration do the right thing or will it essentially do nothing? All signs seem to point to the latter. To start with, the president emphasized the irrelevant fact that Jamal Khashoggi was not an American citizen. This is irrelevant, because he was certainly a legal resident of this country and a journalist of an American newspaper. Sergey Magnitsky was not an American citizen either, not even a resident of this country, but his murder in custody by Putin's regime led to the Magnitsky Act, now adopted by multiple countries, simply because it was the right thing to do. Several United States senators have called for the Magnitsky Act to be invoked against the Saudi royal family in the case of this outrageous murder.
The president also found it necessary to invoke in this context the $110 billion 2017 arms deal with Saudi Arabia, and how this is important for American jobs. Never mind that those arms are being used to commit war crimes in Yemen by the "reformist" king. For this administration, murdering children in school buses in Yemen is not a reason to forego the profits from a $110 billion arms deal.
To be fair to Trump, it would be right to point out that he is not the first that puts American profits from arms deals above decency, but perhaps the first one to do it so blatantly. The Trump administration has sold our independence and long-standing policies for human rights for money. We have become literally the laughing stock of the world. The president's usual lies about the great "achievements" of his administration were greeted by uproarious laughter at the United Nations. It took him by surprise, because he was accustomed to applause for the same lies at his rallies with the die-hard supporters of his administration.
These sad facts about the Trump presidency are not the only ones that point to his lightweight frivolity. The nation has been gripped for days now by the utter devastation caused by Hurricane Michael in Florida. Mexico Beach looks like Hiroshima in 1945. Yet in the last two days while this devastation was taking place, the president's attention was elsewhere. Two days ago he went to a political rally in Pennsylvania, where he mocked victims of sexual assault and the Me Too movement. Not a word about Hurricane Michael battering Florida at that very moment and causing terrible losses and suffering, including deaths. Until yesterday, six deaths have been reported, but it is certain that the number of victims will climb. Yesterday, while hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens were suffering these life-altering blows, the president was occupied with receiving Kanye West in the Oval Office, inviting national television cameras documenting this major historical event. (I trust it is unnecessary to point out the sarcasm in my last remark.)
The rapper engaged in a 10-minute plus love-fest rant for the president, which the president patiently listened to with big smiles on his face, never tired of adulation by anyone, no matter how ridiculous. All you have to be to be invited into the Oval Office nowadays in front of TV cameras is to be a celebrity and complimentary to Trump. You will then receive the royal treatment, like West has, and at the end of his embarrassing, all-over-the-place incoherent rant, receive great encomiums about the wisdom of your remarks. I should mention perhaps that during his wise remarks, Kanye used the word "motherfucker" in a nationally televised event.
To bring my remarks full circle, this event with Kanye also included the presence of our expert on Middle East policies of the Trump administration, Jared Kushner, who also has close personal relations to King Mohammad bin Salman al Saud.
JE comments: I believe David Duggan was inquiring about the relation (correlation or causality) of the Jamal Khashoggi murder to his uncle's arms dealing, not about their kinship relationship per se.
And what are we to make of Donald Jr.'s tweetstorm that describes Jamal Khashoggi as an ally of "jihadists"? A cheap smear campaign, or is there some substance?
Why the Outcry about Khashoggi?
(Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, USA
10/15/18 2:27 AM)
In response to Istvan Simon (October 13th), what I find amazing is that Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been relentlessly bombing Yemen with our bombs and targets without an outcry, yet the killing of a journalist has taken center stage and has become a 24-hour news cycle. What does that say about us as a nation?
Regrettably, journalism has always been a hazardous profession, not least because for decades the United States (and no doubt other countries) used journalists as spies. This places a target on every journalist, and it is a travesty. We share a huge share of the burden not only because we disguise our spies as journalists and editors, but because we have been guilty of killing journalists.
Following the Iraq invasion, we took aim at journalists. On October 30, 2003, al-Jazeera accused US-led forces in Iraq of harassment, after one of its journalists was detained. Their cameraman, Samer Hamza, was freed after two days in custody. Does anyone recall the documentary Control Room? What of the soldiers who fired at the Palestine hotel, the base for almost all the foreign media crews in Baghdad? Their fire killed a Spanish TV network crew member and a Ukrainian cameraman working for Reuters. In June 2005, American troops opened fire on and killed an Iraqi television journalist, Ahmed Wael Bakri. American soldiers also shot and wounded Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena as she was headed for Baghdad airport in April 2005. There was a great deal of controversy surrounding this shooting--still unresolved, I believe.
One could argue (inaccurately in my opinion) that we were at war. International law protects journalists in war zones as they are deemed war correspondents. But what of the Obama-era Justice Department's secret directive targeting journalists? https://www.commondreams.org/views/2018/09/17/revealed-justice-depts-secret-rules-targeting-journalists-fisa-court-orders In fact, according to Politico, in 2017 journalists filed lawsuits. "Former Al Jazeera Islamabad bureau chief Ahmad Zaidan and freelance journalist Bilal Kareem filed a lawsuit Thursday in US District Court in Washington, contending that they were erroneously placed on the 'kill list' during the Obama administration and that Trump has illegally maintained that designation. The suit also alleges that Trump has loosened some of the safeguards the previous administration placed on the program." Mr. Trump's attack against journalists has not made journalism an enviable profession. As Istvan stated, Trump's overt embrace of killers and putting a monetary value on America is despicable, abhorrent, but he is less hypocritical than other presidents have been.
JE asked: " In your view, Soraya, how should Turkey respond if its claims of Saudi guilt in the Khashoggi murder are proven? Also, what is the Iranian press saying about the case?"
Turkey has been very smart about this incident and has put the ball in America's court--and that of the public opinion. I cannot imagine it taking another step that would benefit it more.
As for the Iranian press, the ones I have read so far, cite other news reports. For the most part, they are citing the $110 billion arms sales! One other report caught my eye. Khalij Online reported: "Possibly, that Saudi official will be Saud al-Qahtani, the adviser to the Royal Court, and they will claim that he has masterminded the operation (to kill Khashoggi) without the senior Saudi officials' knowledge."
Of course, the arms sales is in return for the Saudi oil. One can always find clients for American arms, but it would be difficult if not impossible to find a substitute for Saudi oil, especially at a time when Trump is demanding an embargo on Iranian oil and sanctioning Venezuela. Surprisingly, and completely out of character, this is something that Donald Trump does not like to speak about openly. In other words, the global dependency on Saudi oil at this particular time makes it feasible for the US to look the other way--even if the hideous crime took place as it is being reported.
JE comments: I'll take Soraya's word for it, but to my mind it would be easier to find a different source of oil (a fungible commodity) than a new customer for the $110 billion in weapons.
Is the West guilty of "speck vs. log in the eye" thinking on Khashoggi's presumed murder? The party that stands most to benefit may indeed by Iran, as its two biggest regional rivals (Saudi Arabia and Turkey) are forced to a showdown. For starters, I cannot imagine Erdogan doing nothing. As a final question, is the Iranian press suggesting that the Saudis will find a sacrificial fall guy to blame for Khashoggi's death?
- Khashoggi Affair; an Upcoming Conference in Moscow (Mendo Henriques, Portugal 10/15/18 11:33 AM)
I want to compliment the authors of recent WAIS entries about the Jamal Khashoggi case. I am learning a lot and think this is WAIS at its best.
I am invited to be a speaker in a conference at RUDN university, Moscow, in November, where I propose to say that we must fight the spread of the far-right--of which the Saudi Arabia regime is a particular brand--with interfaith bridge-building.
JE comments: Congrats on your upcoming Moscow trip, Mendo! I'll be pestering you for a report.
And much success with your proposal, although bridges few and far between these days (euro banknotes excepted).
- Khashoggi Case: Nothing is as It Appears on the Surface (A. J. Cave, USA 10/17/18 12:39 PM)
As of this writing (Monday afternoon, Silicon Valley time), other than hearsay, there isn't much in terms of actual concrete evidence to explain the disappearance of the Saudi journalist and court insider Jamal Khashoggi. On October 2, he walked into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul and vanished. The horrific bloody account by the Turkish officials reads like the Gone Girl playbook.
I don't know any more than the publicly available accounts. But nothing in the Middle East is what it appears on the surface. I reckon Saudis themselves are even more surprised than anyone else about the media firestorm that has followed Khashoggi Gate. The most straightforward way to put out the flames is to show Jamal Khashoggi, dead or alive.
If the Turkish accounts are indeed factual, then the Saudis have an unexpected PR nightmare on their hands that has gotten away from them. We (USA) have traditionally dismissed similar Saudi situations as domestic affairs that are outside of the zone of our national interests. As President Trump has already socialized the scenario, "rouge" Saudi agents took it upon themselves to rid the crown and the crown prince of one of their pesky critics. Some or all of the Saudi agents who supposedly hanged and quartered Khashoggi would be given the same eye-for-an-eye justice and the rest would be swept under some fancy carpet somewhere.
The Saudi signature in dealing with their dissidents outside of Saudi Arabia is usually kidnapping and doing the rest of the dirty work inside of their own borders and away from international limelight. So, why allegedly go to such bloody length to get rid of this one?
I think it has to do with the order of succession in the House of Saud. I leave it to other WAISers who are more knowledgeable in the matter than me.
In a nutshell, the crown has been tossed from the head of one brother to another, among the 7 sons of Ibn Saud (all sons from his favorite wife). The current Saudi king, King Salman, changed this order in 2017, by bypassing his still living brothers in favor of his own sons. How complicated this change is fills a few books. The change by the order of the king doesn't necessarily mean the current designated crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), would automatically and peacefully become the next king. There are trillions of dollars at stake. The "easy" button to push to get this done and done, is to remove all (and I mean all) those who would stand between the young king-in-waiting and those trillions.
Last year, all the royal sons of the house (of Saud) who could have opposed MbS were rounded up and kept in golden handcuffs until they broke and agreed with the de facto king and paid a hefty ransom for a "get out of ritz" monopoly pass. In exchange, they got to keep their heads.
With the main royal family factions neutralized and the minor members put on notice, the (now very public) Khashoggi disappearance signals the intimidation and liquidation of the prominent non-royal Saudi families who oppose the crown prince. I couldn't find the name and whereabouts of Jamal Khashoggi's father, but his uncle was the wealthy infamous arms-dealer, Adnan Khashoggi, who died in June 2017. If my hunch is in the ballpark, his death removed the entire Khashoggi family from the royal favor, and his house (all of Khashoggi family male members) were put in play. Jamal saw the handwriting on the wall and fled Saudi Arabia in September 2017.
As for the Silicon Valley's love affair with the bottomless Saudi money, we should take a note of what might happen to us if the Saudi crown prince is not pleased with the rate of return on his investments.
JE comments: Spy novels couldn't get more intriguing than this. A. J., do you believe the Saudi crown thought they could be rid of Khashoggi and no one would notice? I suspect they never imagined it would become a major geopolitical scandal.
Khashoggi Case: Some Nagging Questions
(A. J. Cave, USA
10/18/18 8:02 AM)
I think we have to wait for some sort of official Saudi and Turkish reports on what has happened to Khashoggi. They are investigating on the scene now and should have something soon. Without solid evidence, we only have circumstantial evidence, keeping us in a holding pattern. Then we can see if the report works or not.
In a situation like this, there are 2 options:
1) clear the charges, or
2) cover them up.
Until then, here are some nagging issues that no one has mentioned so far.
Jamal Khashoggi was no doubt cautious in visiting the Saudi consulate, but probably didn't expect Saudi operatives to be waiting for him--either to interview/interrogate, or ultimately to silence him. Whatever happened to him after he was grabbed inside the Saudi consulate, as described by the Turkish authorities, is not trivial. Allegations of torture and murder could be credible. However, dismemberment of the body is at an entirely different level.
I will get to the Islamic law on this in a minute, but let's think through the dismemberment, which needs a separate set of tools and skills altogether.
Are Saudi consulates generally equipped with such tools as a matter of course? Sharp enough swords? Or, were they brought into Turkey for this gruesome mission? And if so, how? On board a private Saudi plane? On a commercial flight? How, exactly? What about Turkish security? I can't get on a flight (any flight) with my small Swiss Army knife. How did Saudi assassins managed to travel with chainsaws and swords? And how was the chopped-up body taken out of the consulate and out of the country? And a bunch more. And more importantly, why bother with such a messy mission? Surely there must be at least 50 other ways to dispatch a dissident without creating such a bloody mess--even if no one was watching.
As a side note, historically only the head of an enemy was sent back to the king as proof of death. If the Saudi crown wanted to make an example of Khashoggi and send a message to his subjects (especially journalists), they would have done it by kidnapping him and beheading him in public with a sword on sovereign Saudi soil.
On top of the normal diplomatic and forensic mess, spilling of blood (any blood) would render the site (consulate building) "unclean" (ritualistically impure, called najisin Arabic and najes in Persian) in Islamic jurisprudence. Blood and dead bodies and matters are categorically dirty/impure/unclean in Islam, and there is no way to clean them and render them pure again. Muslims can't pray or work in such a place. It would be the equivalent of an untouchable slaughter house.
That's why Saudi capital punishment (in form of beheading with a sword) normally takes place in public square on soil. The critics normally focus on the barbaric nature of these public executions, without taking note that the spilled blood on the ground has to be cleaned 7 times with clean soil to cover the blood and let it bake in the sun (using 2 purifying agents, earth and sun). Still, you can't do anything on that site, other than another execution.
JE comments: The macabre logistics of body disposal aside, A. J. Cave asks a brutal but important question: why didn't the Saudis merely arrest and publicly execute Khashoggi? Any trumped-up charge would have been convincing enough. They could even have made a behind-the-scenes deal with the Turks to get him out of that country.
A. J. makes another fascinating observation: according to Islamic law, the Saudi consulate in Istanbul is now unclean. Might this problem be conveniently overlooked by the people who work there?
- Jamal Khashoggi Case; Some Possible Explanations (John Heelan, UK 10/16/18 5:31 AM)
David Duggan (October 12) might like to consider which members of the Kingdom's Royal family could be embarrassed if it were to be revealed that they acted as conduits enabling the lucrative arms deals negotiated by Western governments two or three decades ago.
Good start points might be the Boeing Shield, the Al-Yamamah Project, ARAMCO, missile defence systems, fighter aircraft and spares, etc.
JE comments: CNN reports that the Saudis are preparing to admit to Khashoggi's death in an "interrogation gone wrong." The killing took place without "clearance or transparency." My translation: the Kingdom is going to produce a couple of scapegoats.
- Jamal Khashoggi Case (from Gary Moore) (John Eipper, USA 10/12/18 3:13 AM)
Gary Moore writes:
WAIS is fortunate to have Yusuf Kanli on the scene (October 11) for Istanbul's bizarre
magic act--Saudi journalist walks into his consulate, vanishes into thin air, and keeps the world guessing. Yusuf asks: just how medieval is the consolidation
of power under Saudi Arabia's new strongman, Prince bin Salman?
First there was the
Lebanese president/surrogate summoned and slipping into limbo. And now the question
about...a bone saw? Can any WAISers supply technical background on how sawn body
parts might be preserved from ostentatious decomposition in parcels the size of a diplomatic
These kinds of questions were supposed to have gone out of fashion with Philip IV and the
JE comments: What gruesome logistics. Just surf onto the Investigation Discovery channel, and you'll see how hard it is to dispose of a body. Wouldn't the Turkish investigators be able to pick up some of Khashoggi's DNA outside the consulate? At the Instanbul airport? Did the Saudis need the fifteen operatives to carry all those drippy diplomatic pouches?
The big question: Do the Turkish authorities really want to know what happened?
- What Did Khashoggi Know about the Saudi Royal Family? (John Heelan, UK 10/12/18 3:31 AM)
One wonders if Jamal Khashoggi--an investigative journalist--was threatening to release information that would have embarrassed the Saudi Royal family.
JE comments: Yes, indeed. And who can walk us through the legalities of a country murdering its own citizens in a consulate or embassy abroad? Technically, a Saudi consulate anywhere is Saudi territory--correct? So since the Saudis are fond of executions, couldn't they kill one of their own in their consulate without even hiding it?
Veteran diplomat Tim Brown could answer this.
- Jamal Khashoggi Case; Some Possible Explanations (John Heelan, UK 10/16/18 5:31 AM)
- Khashoggi Affair; an Upcoming Conference in Moscow (Mendo Henriques, Portugal 10/15/18 11:33 AM)
- Why the Outcry about Khashoggi? (Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, USA 10/15/18 2:27 AM)
- The Saudi Role in the Khashoggi Murder: Is Trump Putting Arms Profits above Decency? (Istvan Simon, USA 10/13/18 5:11 AM)