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PAX, LUX ET VERITAS SINCE 1965
Post Jamal Khashoggi Case
Created by John Eipper on 10/12/18 2:28 AM

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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:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/oct/12/recordings-prove-jamal-khashoggi-killed-turkish-investigators-claim


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  • 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:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adnan_Khashoggi


    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?


    https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-jr-jamal-khashoggi-tweet_us_5bc14ddce4b0bd9ed55a59db


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    • 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?

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    • 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).


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    • 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.

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      • 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?

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        • Khashoggi Case: The Facts are Clear (Istvan Simon, USA 10/20/18 4:11 AM)
          I am somewhat baffled by the speculation around Jamal Khashoggi's murder in WAIS. Unless the reports in the press are completely inaccurate and fake, which I find very unlikely, it is fairly clear what happened to him.

          First of all, it is clear that Turkey knew what happened to Khashoggi from the start, having announced publicly that he was murdered right after his disappearance. They might not know all the exact details, but they know enough to have had a consistent story from the very start.


          Second, the Saudis of course know exactly what happened with all the gruesome details, and the fact that they pretend they do not, points to their lying all along about this premeditated murder. They are involved in a panicky search for a lie that would placate the world, which is probably impossible, but at least the Trump administration, which is more likely.


          Third, it is unseemly and ridiculous that Secretary Pompeo went to Saudi Arabia for "facts" about the case, and then two weeks after the murder thought it was "reasonable" to wait for the results of the Saudi "investigation," Clearly you do not let the murderer do the investigation in any murder. Also we have excellent intelligence services, so it seems obvious to me that the United States pretty much knows as much as the Turks do, perhaps even more. It follows that the Trump administration is part of the coverup of this horrendous murder.


          So what happened to Khashoggi?


          Fact 1: He entered the Saudi Consulate in Turkey.


          Fact 2: He never emerged from the Consulate.


          Logic dictates from Facts 1 and 2 that he was either murdered, or was arrested and is alive at the consulate. The second possibility is improbable beyond reasonable doubt, because of the subsequently known facts. Therefore it follows by logic that Khashoggi was murdered at the consulate.


          Fact 3: A team of reportedly 15 Saudis arrived in Turkey soon afterwards. They included a pathologist and carried a bone saw. There is little need for either in an interrogation, so this was a hastily arranged disposal of the body unit.


          Logic dictates that Khashoggi was dismembered just as it has been reported, and has been taken out of Turkey by the said team in pieces in diplomatic pouches.


          Fact 4: After many days of delay, forensic Turkish experts were admitted to the consulate. It was reported that they found a freshly painted room, which seems to indicate that it had been pretty messy, as one would expect from the dismemberment of a body in facilities that were not designed for that purpose. It is very hard to get rid of blood and every tidbit of DNA after a dismemberment, so it is likely that the forensic team found irrefutable evidence of Khashoggi's murder. Indeed, that is what was reported by the Turks.


          From what has been published in the press about the case, and Facts 1 to 4 the outlines of the story become fairly clear by reasonable speculation. The Saudis do not appear to have planned to murder Khashoggi in Turkey. Instead they intended to kidnap him and finish the job in Saudi Arabia. Upon arrival at the consulate, Khashoggi was interrogated, probably tortured, and injected with a tranquilizer. Instead of being tranquilized he died. This required the panicky body disposal unit, and gruesome dismemberment mentioned above.


          Could the Saudis just have arrested Khashoggi as JE asked? I don't think so. Why would the Turks cooperate in such a scenario? No, it seems clear to me that what JE suggested as an alternative possibility for the Saudis would have been pretty much impossible. There is no reason to believe that the Turks would participate in any plans of the Saudis of kidnapping Khashoggi to be taken to Saudi Arabia.


          What does this whole incident tell us about MBS? It tells us that he is impulsive, reckless, and incompetent. It tells us that he will be deposed and soon. and it tells us that the Trump administration again bet on the wrong horse to have a close personal relationship to base our Middle East policy on. The latter fact is not surprising either, because of the colossal ignorance and stupidity of the Trump administration that I have been denouncing for over 2 years in this Forum.


          JE comments:  The latest:  the Saudis have acknowledged that MbS's inner circle is responsible for the murder.  Several have been detained (as many as 23).  For its part, Wikipedia has now transitioned to the definitive past tense in its Khashoggi article.


          https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/19/middleeast/mohammed-bin-salman-aides-khashoggi-death-intl/index.html


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          • Khashoggi Affair: MbS Will Emerge Unscathed (Nigel Jones, UK 10/21/18 5:04 AM)
            After our recent disagreements over Brexit, it is pleasant to record my complete agreement with Istvan Simon's account of Khashoggi's gruesome murder (October 20th).

            Saudi Arabia's absurd excuse that he died in a "fist fight" after days of claiming that he left the embassy alive and well is a blatant lie that will fool no one. If it was a fist fight, his opponent must have been Edward Scissorhands, since reputable Turkish reports (which have been accurate so far), claim his fingers were cut off in the torture preceding his murder.


            This is par for the course in the hideous hellhole that is Saudi Arabia, surely the vilest state on earth, where floggings, beheadings and so on are everyday events. It is the blatant nature of the killing on foreign soil that is shocking.


            The nasty little Crown Prince clearly ordered his own goons to carry out the torture-murder, which is also his usual MO. I have personal knowledge that one of the Princes detained in the Riyadh Hilton was tortured so badly that his family were not allowed to see his body.


            I hold no brief for Khashoggi, an Islamist member of the extremist Muslim Brotherhood, but no one deserves to die as he did. I wish I could share Istvan's optimism that this crime will bring Prince Salman's downfall, but I doubt it. As long as the West gulps oil and sells arms to the Saudis to fight their genocidal war in Yemen, this monster is safe.


            JE comments:  The title of "vilest state" could make for for entertaining WAIS, but we should probably avoid the topic.  Istvan Simon and Nigel Jones raise the important question of whether the Khashoggi murder will bring down MbS.  I have no idea how this might happen, although the ailing King Salman has changed successors before.

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            • Wrapping Up the Khashoggi Case: Ask Me Anything (A. J. Cave, USA 10/21/18 11:32 AM)
              As we all know by now, after 18 days of denying and posturing, Saudi Arabia finally blinked and admitted that the journalist Jamal Khashoggi died in their consulate in Istanbul as a result of a fist fight.

              Before I write a final piece to tie up loose ends, I am open to one of those "ask me anything" this Sunday about this case to field burning questions from WAISers.


              JE comments:  I'll get the ball rolling, A. J.  Do you think MbS is going to lose his job, or will the whole affair blow over in a couple of weeks?  Both?  Neither?


              Other WAISers:  please weigh in with your questions.


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              • Khashoggi Questions for A. J. Cave (David Pike, France 10/21/18 4:43 PM)
                OK, A.J. "Ask anything" questions?

                I'll ask the obvious. It was just a fist fight, right? and Khashoggi got the worst of it. So where's the body?


                JE comments:  Nigel Jones perhaps said it best.  Khashoggi must have had a scuffle with Edward Scissorhands.


                More Khashoggi questions for A. J. Cave?  Stay tuned for Ed Jajko.


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              • More Khashoggi Questions (Edward Jajko, USA 10/21/18 4:51 PM)

                I wonder if foreign pressure, in the form of extremely bad press, scornful and scathing news reports and analysis in key world capitals, and then diplomatic abandonment of support by key allies, may force a palace revolt in Riyadh.


                Maybe prominent members of the religious class, who are creatures of the state, will decide that the religion calls for a change. There might be an opening for the former crown princes, either Muhammad bin Nayif bin ‘Abd al-‘Aziz, who was deposed in favor of his cousin and junior MBS, or perhaps Muqrin bin ‘Abd al-‘Aziz, the youngest surviving son of ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ibn Sa'ud, who had been crown prince until deposed by Salman in favor of MBN and MBS. Muqrin is a British-trained former fighter pilot in the Saudi AF, and former head of Saudi General Intelligence. He has administrative experience, as governor of Ha'il and Medina. What seems to be his biggest drawback is that while he is the son of the founding king of KSA, on the maternal side he is weak. Arabs pride themselves on egalitarianism, but the level of Saudi royalty is a different world. Muqrin's mother was a concubine. He is not as equal as most of his half-brothers. But he might be someone the Allegiance Council and the larger family might agree on.


                An illustration of the Saudi royal ways: back in 1984, I attended a talk at the Hoover Institution given by Prince Talal bin ‘Abd al-‘Aziz. He gave a tour du monde about the situation in the ME and North Africa. During his talk and without pause, he rested his right elbow on the table in front of him, holding his hand up sort of horizontally and with a slight spread to his fingers. Within seconds, an aide/bodyguard rushed into the room, placed a lit cigarette between the princely index and middle fingers, and rushed out. Without otherwise moving, Talal pivoted his hand to his mouth and smoked.


                JE comments:  What a story, Ed!  Now the audience would be less shocked by the servility of the handler than by the gall of smoking in a public forum.


                So, the $514 billion question:  will MbS keep his crown?  I'm now inclined to think he will not.  But then again, I wrote in this space that Kavanaugh wouldn't be confirmed.


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                • Were Khashoggi's Killers Stupid, or Merely Arrogant? From Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 10/24/18 3:36 AM)

                  Gary Moore writes:



                  The latent Khashoggi question: Was the brutality and blatancy of the killing
                  really that stupid, or was it merely arrogant?


                  If the backlash brings down the Prince,
                  or cripples the hopes of the Saudi kingdom, then yes it was stupid. But if the
                  international outrage can be stonewalled, with little lasting practical damage,
                  then the stupidity is at least lessened, with the abysmal verdict saying savagery
                  worked. To the extent that the former is true, the soaring stupidity version, then
                  what is that guy MbS doing running a kingdom?


                  Or is it that a reactionary little pool of medieval values is always, somewhere
                  beneath the surface, going to run infinitely deeper than we thought we knew?


                  President Erdogan of Turkey gave his "revealing the full nakedness" speech yesterday,
                  having promised that he would reveal all of what Turkish security knows from its bugs,
                  cameras, and investigations. But as widely noted, the speech, while getting some new
                  nuances on the record, fell short of what was expected. Still unanswered is the
                  fingers question. As John Heelan noted on WAIS, there is a widespread impression
                  that Turkish bug audio--perhaps even video--reveals not only that Khashoggi's fingers
                  were cut off, but that it was done while he was still alive. This would exceed even
                  the Inquisition, whose torments forbade unsightly maiming.


                  However, the Washington Post,
                  for which Khashoggi worked, painted a murkier picture of the flown-in Saudi black-op
                  forensic specialist donning headphones to mute the sound of the bone saw, implying
                  that the amputations occurred after death, the kind of standard fingerprint removal
                  that any bunch of thugs or goons might apply. The degree of torture is a strange question,
                  since asking it could be read as implying that a less tortured murder is somehow
                  more tolerable. Still, it does matter. And Erdogan's policy of dribbling out information
                  (a policy described specifically by a Turkish official to the Wall Street Journal) still hasn't
                  answered that question--among many others.


                  Timothy Ashby's WAIS revelations about
                  top White House spy guru John Bolton, long reviled but seemingly holding the answers,
                  become all the more urgent. (And how would audio capture the fact of serial amputation? Did someone obligingly
                  say, "Now we're..."?)


                  JE comments:  Gary Moore puts his finger on one nagging question:  why the world's obsession with the mutilation of Khashoggi?  Would a quick, painless death have made it a lesser crime?


                  So were the assassination plotters stupid, or just arrogant?  You decide.


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                  • Were Khashoggi's Killers Stupid, or Merely Arrogant? (Marga Jann, UK 10/25/18 4:12 AM)

                    Gary Moore asked on 24 October, "Were Khashoggi's killers stupid, or merely arrogant?"


                    My answer:  Both; and evil.


                    JE comments:  Will MbS try to put out the fire by sending the "usual suspects" to Turkey for trial?  This is Erdogan's request.  MbS's biggest fear--that some of his underlings won't fall on their swords without dragging him down, too.


                    Erdogan has appeared restrained and even statesmanlike during this whole mess.  He must be loving it.


                    Marga Jann has lived in Saudi Arabia.  Marga, what are you hearing from your contacts in the Kingdom?  And a request for Yusuf Kanli:  please send your thoughts on the mood in Turkey.

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              • Khashoggi Murder: Did John Bolton Know in Advance? (Timothy Ashby, South Africa 10/22/18 3:19 AM)
                I've been biding my time in joining the WAIS discussion about the Khashoggi case, waiting for my various contacts inside the Beltway as well as in London and the Middle East to share their information and opinions. I believe that the following intel is accurate as the sources are generally credible, but I cannot unequivocally vouch for any of it.

                The US NSA not only had ELINT listening devices inside the consulate (possibly, but not certainly shared with the Turks), but the agency intercepted planning communications between MBS (Crown Prince bin Salman) and the hit team before the murder was carried out. As fellow WAISers know, the NSA's ELINT capabilities are mind-boggling, and other US intel agencies have human sources at the highest level of the KSA government. So, not only did the US have an audio recording and transcript of the torture and murder within hours of it taking place, but knew in advance that Khashoggi was to be killed in the most brutal way. At the very least, US National Security Adviser John Bolton had this advance information, as did other senior Administration officials.


                John Bolton is reportedly at the centre of this. I was told that he has "Yankee White" clearance and knew (or should have known) about the assassination planning. He has established himself as the gatekeeper to the Oval Office (which is the reason that Chief of Staff John Kelly's vitriolic arguments with him have become public). Bolton is reviled by most Cabinet officials such as Nikki Haley, who is rumoured to have resigned mainly because of Bolton's demeaning treatment of her. Nikki has Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) clearance and most likely knew of the Khashoggi plot during the planning stage and may have wanted to have it stopped. By the way, how many people are aware that Trump (like other US presidents) does NOT have a security clearance?


                As we can all surmise by now, there's far more to this sadistic murder than will ever be revealed, truly a "riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma" as Churchill would have said (although his quote referred to the USSR). The CIA has thought for some time that MBS is not the right leader for the KAS and they want a change in leadership for the top job--presumably they (the CIA) want to bring Mohammed bin Nayef back as the Crown Prince. Bin Nayef has always been Washington's favourite--possibly the reason that the CIA (and Bolton) did nothing to halt this ridiculously inept plot to kill Khashoggi in the consulate, an operation so incredibly inane that it rivals the two GRU "tourists" who were sent to murder Sergei Skripal.


                Having lost all credibility with their cascade of arrogant and idiotic "explanations" for Khashoggi's disappearance, the Saudis now have no room for maneuver left to place the blame elsewhere. I suspect that the heat is going to be firmly on King Salman to replace his son as Crown Prince. How that is going to pan out I have absolutely no idea, as MBS clearly has amassed loyalty among the levers of power the military.


                JE comments:  Wow, Tim.  This is becoming too complex to fathom, but your informants make a compelling case.  So Bolton knew about the planned assassination, but allowed it to go forward just to embarrass MbS?  A logistical question:  on what grounds could the US have confronted the Saudis?  Wouldn't they have had to admit to their electronic snooping?


                 

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                • I Know John Bolton (Timothy Ashby, South Africa 10/23/18 10:02 AM)

                  JE commented on October 22nd:



                  "Wow, Tim. [Your take on the Khashoggi case] is becoming too complex to fathom, but your informants make a compelling case. So John Bolton knew about the planned assassination, but allowed it to go forward just to embarrass MbS? A logistical question: on what grounds could the US have confronted the Saudis? Wouldn't they have had to admit to their electronic snooping?"


                  John, this is the reason that Pompeo said that he was waiting for the audio recording from the Turks (although he was caught in this lie because the Turks stated that they shared this with the US soon after the murder). Also, Trump et al were playing for time, as they couldn't decide how to deal with the situation.


                  By the way, National Security Advisor John Bolton reportedly chose not to brief Trump initially. Chief of Staff John Kelly and CIA Director Gina Haspel subsequently met with the President and briefed him in Bolton's presence, but Bolton said that the intel was not credible and Trump believed him until he could no longer ignore it. I know that this sounds unbelievable given that the information originated both from the United States' own NSA ELINT and CIA HUMINT sources, but Bolton played on Trump's paranoid distrust of all US intelligence agencies, including--of course--the FBI.


                  I met Bolton several times during my years in Washington. As the British say, he's a "nasty piece of work."


                  JE comments:  For kicks I Googled "Bolton is a nasty piece of work" and came up with two exact matches for John, and three for Ramsay Bolton, a villain on Game of Thrones.  The Mustachioed One is famous for emotionally abusing his staff, saying things like "I know where your children live."


                  What did we Americans do to deserve the Return of Bolton?


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                • Did the US Administration Know About Plans to Murder Khashoggi? "The Guardian" (Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, USA 11/01/18 4:52 AM)
                  Not long ago, Timothy Ashby (October 22nd) had a very interesting post about Bolton being aware of the Khashoggi killing. This Guardian article confirms Mr. Ashby's account.

                  "Sawers, who was head of the British secret intelligence service until 2014, also claimed that the crown prince would only have acted if he believed he had licence from the White House to behave as he wished."


                  https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/oct/19/crown-prince-mohammed-jamal-khashoggi-killing-mi6-sir-john-sawers?CMP=fb_gu&fbclid=IwAR0wiOt7Na_gjP9GqcD2P3zC66FgKnkaYDDoCKwlXjUOYcSNozoseOCazGY


                  JE comments:  The Guardian does not mention Bolton by name.  The Known Unknown:  did the crown prince believe he had US approval do anything, or did he specifically seek the green light for the Khashoggi hit?

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                  • Still-Unanswered Questions on Khashoggi Killing (from Gary Moore) (John Eipper, USA 11/02/18 6:22 AM)

                    Gary Moore writes:



                    Two brief clarifications, in the Did-I-Read-What-I-Thought-I-Read category:


                    1) Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich (November 1st) pointed out a Guardian article on the Khashoggi killing
                    and paired it with Timothy Ashby's important musing on John Bolton, the notorious Trump
                    national security adviser, saying here was confirmation, But I agree with JE that one should
                    look carefully at the Guardian article and see it didn't mention Bolton: not a confirmation.


                    But at the same time, Tim's statement seems compelling and persuasive. The Guardian
                    was focusing on a BBC interview with Sir John Sawers, British ex-head of Mi6, who said bluntly
                    that Saudi Arabia wouldn't have undertaken such mayhem as the Khashoggi affair without
                    some kind of feeling that the US would tolerate it. This could be paired with Tim's thought
                    in another way, by wondering whether the sneering, loose-cannon presence of Bolton
                    (informed or not) may have made the prince bolder, and perhaps could give some scrap
                    of explanation for the unexplainable: How in the world did the Saudi prince think he could
                    get away with this stuff?


                    2) On my geography riddle (Google Street View looks at Istanbul), JE's comment points out an important
                    disconnect on Khashoggi. John wondered how pieces of the murder victim could have gone down the
                    consul's garden well if, at the same time, those pieces were smuggled out of Turkey in diplomatic pouches.
                    This underscores how many different scenarios we've heard on what Turkish intelligence says it knows
                    about the murder.


                    Another important contradiction is this: Now, Turkish authorities are saying Khashoggi
                    was strangled almost immediately upon setting foot inside the Saudi consulate. But if so, what happened
                    to the torture, the cutting off of the fingers while still alive, and related images? Even when facts are made
                    public about a shocking event, it's easy to read more into a printed implication than perhaps is really there.
                    And all the more so when Turkey is withholding the specifics and dribbling out stray clues--or stray insinuations.


                    The failure of Turkish President Erdogan to reveal, in his revealing-all-nakedness speech, what his government
                    knows suggests that the public picture of a landmark event now hovers on a knife's edge--between the
                    possibility of full disclosure and the possibility that the questions may fade, forever unanswered, into the
                    rush of the news cycle.


                    JE comments:  What are we to make of this piece in The Telegraph?  MbS reportedly told the White House (Bolton and Kushner) days after the murder that Khashoggi was a "dangerous Islamist."  Did he say "is" or "was" when Khashoggi was still "officially" alive?


                    https://www.yahoo.com/news/mohammed-bin-salman-apos-told-182615074.html


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                  • Khashoggi Case: What Did the Trump Administration Know? (Timothy Ashby, South Africa 11/02/18 5:18 PM)

                    Regardless of John Bolton's malevolent character, I'm sure that he (or anyone else in the Trump Administration) did not affirmatively approve the Khashoggi Operation.


                    However, I have little doubt that the Saudis knew that their secret communications are intercepted by the NSA, and because the US did not take action to prevent the assassination before it happened, the Prince allowed it to proceed.


                    JE comments:  "It's easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to get permission."  These are the words of computer pioneer Grace Hopper.  Perhaps MbS took them to heart.

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              • Khashoggi Murder: Is MbS Channeling His Grandfather? (Clyde McMorrow, USA 10/22/18 3:35 AM)
                Is it possible that MBS is trying to channel his grandfather? Ibn Saud rose to power using many of the same practices we see the young MBS employing. Whereas his grandfather had to just subdue the Rashids (which he did with his militia, the Ikhwan) and then the Ikhwan itself by mowing them down with British-supplied machine guns, MBS has taken charge of the army and seems to be making a power play to subdue the new pretenders, the other Saudi princes.

                We are approaching the start of the third generation of the Saud dynasty. Will it be "rags to rags in three generations," or is this the beginning of a Saud enlightenment? (That's kind of hard to imagine.) MBS has probably irritated several of his relatives with the Ritz Carlton affair, many of whom are the core of the "commercial class" such as it is. Crane Brinton in The Anatomy of Revolution says that you don't have to worry about the intelligentsia, they just talk, or the common people, they just want to get by, but if you sufficiently irritate the commercial class you might have a revolution on your hands.


                There is a lot of money sloshing around, which may explain Donald Trump's interest, but which could also be a problem for the young Mr. Mohammad.


                I am not an expert on things Arabic, just a reader, so I welcome correction and I am looking forward to A.J. Cave's comments.


                JE comments:  Excellent insight, Clyde.  If the Kingdom's commercial class is the true danger for MbS, and if (another if...) the "West" wants him gone, then wouldn't sanctions do the trick?  There's not much chance of that, as MbS would turn off the oil spigot in retaliation.  Trump knows that $4 gasoline would put the nails in his party's coffin two weeks' time.

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                • Khashoggi Case: Q and A; "Davos in the Desert" (A. J. Cave, USA 10/23/18 3:57 AM)
                  As of this writing (Monday night), the Future Investment Initiative, dubbed "Davos in the Desert," is reportedly underway in Riyadh. Last year, the inaugural party focused on AI and cryptocurrencies. This year's high profile 3-day fund-raising party (23-25 October) sponsored‎ by the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) has been haunted by the ghost of the slaughtered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

                  When the news of Khashoggi's disappearance due to (now confirmed) death at Saudi Arabia's Turkish consulate hit the fan couple of weeks ago, a number of well-known Silicon Valley and Wall Street players started to drop out of the event. According to one of Valley's media outlets, MbS has invested ‎about $11 billion dollars in unicorns, among them: Uber, Slack, WeWork, and others, either directly through Saudi sovereign fund, or via SoftBank's Vision Fund (by the Japanese billionaire Masayoshi Son). So snubbing the event is a big deal. The empty seats have been quickly filled by lower-ranking employees, as well as what Japanese media are calling mid-level Asian and Russian bankers, as well as global defense contractors and arms dealers, and various neighboring sheikhs.


                  The website of the event was hacked earlier today, replacing the glitzy landing page with a photoshoped picture of MbS standing over Jamal Khashoggi in an orange jumpsuit, holding a sword--mimicking the ISIS-styled beheadings posted on YouTube. When I tried to check it out, the site was taken down, so I just saw the screenshot.


                  The over-the-top party is the vision of MbS to wean the oil kingdom of oil by 2030 and has committed $500 billion dollars of Saudi money with the shortfall to come from other worthy billionaire boys' clubs. So, apparently the prince has been too busy working the phones to fill the seats with equally important people to worry about the Khashoggi sandstorm the commoners are fussing about. So much so, that his best friend, Jared Kushner, President Trump's senior advisor, had to call him personally, and say, "Dude, the world is watching you, watch out!" I am not sure if that big vision thingy of the prince is just for the sprawling House of Saud or ordinary Saudis would be allowed to serve the royals there.


                  ‎Apparently Turkish President Erdogan wasn't invited to the party, so he is having his own show-and-tell conference today, putting all the evidence Turkey has on Khashoggi case on display. We will wait and see.


                  So, meanwhile, ‎here is my take on the questions and comments posted by WAISers. I should start by re-stating the obvious: I am not an expert on Saudi Arabia and "bugs" are bound to creep in.


                  1) Is MbS going to lose his job, or will the whole affair blow over in a couple of weeks? Both? Neither?


                  As long as King Salman is alive, MbS doesn't technically have a job. He is a shadow. He has been acting as de facto king, but it is tethered to the existence of his father. He is unlikely to lose the support of his ailing father, especially under pressure from "infidels." This is out of context, but when a Western reporter asked the late Shah of Iran that since as the king of kings there was no one above him, who could advise him? And Shah said, "well, there is always God."


                  The big loser here is not MbS. He still has a bunch of oil fields, a half-a-billion dollar yacht, a fancy French chateau, and the most expensive painting in the world.



                  The losers are the journalists questioning ‎authority anywhere in the world who are now dead (wo)men walking.


                  2) Was it just a fist fight, right? and Khashoggi got the worst of it. So where's the body?


                  Well, the Saudis haven't gotte‎n their story straight yet. I think they still need to spend some quality time huddled together to sword dance to the same drummer boy.


                  The Saudi newscaster read the "official" report past midnight Saturday (my Friday afternoon). So, the report was not meant for the Saudis, unless they are usually up all night long just in case their government has some major announcement or some emergency alert.  It said the 59-year-old Khashoggi had gotten into a fist fight with 15 (youngish) men, leading to his death. An unnamed Saudi official later said that Khashoggi had been choked to death. When reporters had asked about the discrepancy, he had said, the first report was "wrong" and when they had realized it, they had to reinvestigate. Meanwhile, the unnamed Turkish officials have been keeping to their initial reports of gruesome grabbing, torturing and dismembering alive. According to Saudi accounts, the 15-man hit squad panicked when Khashoggi died of (fill in the blank), so they had rolled up the body in a rug and had given it to a local collaborator to dispose of it. Unnamed Turkish sources claim that the body was dumped in a forest an hour away (under 60 miles) from Istanbul.


                  I don't know if MbS or his entourage get the irony. But you can't simultaneously be the most powerful know-it-all man in charge of everything and everyone in the kingdom and then saying your AI-challenged minions acted (murdered) without your knowledge and permission. Isn't that what we call an "oxymoron"?


                  3) ‎Would foreign pressure, in the form of extremely bad press, scornful and scathing news reports and analysis in key world capitals, and then diplomatic abandonment of support by key allies, force a palace revolt in Riyadh?


                  I am not sure if this post was a question or a comment. Either way, inshallah (God willing). However, that palace "coup" has already taken place, elevating MbS to de facto kingship. He is the first Saudi (would-be) king with complete control over Saudi oil. The idea of floating ARAMCO in a SV-style IPO is credited to him. One of the aims of his prince charm offensive is to convince the Trump administration to loosen up the SEC regulations to overlook irregularities in the royal ownership of Saudi Arabian oil fields.


                  ‎4) Who knew what and when? And what does the CIA want?


                  ‎This is a commentary that points out how complicated diplomatic relations are. I will cover this in the part 2 of my post. As a sidenote, there are no US Ambassadors in Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and whatever CIA, the intelligence community, and the national security advisor knew about Khashoggi trap, apparently were not shared with the President. So, instead of spin, we got an honest answer: "yeah, it's bad, very bad. But, no, we aren't canceling $110 billion dollars worth of arms sales to Saudis over something like this."


                  5) Is it possible that MBS is trying to channel his grandfather?


                  It looks that way through Arabist lens. Through Iranist lens, he looks like a cross between the late Shah of Iran and the late Ayatollah Khomeini who overthrew him. ‎This is out of context again, but I vaguely recall the Shah responding to a reporter asking about Savak brutality (his secret police), and he said something like, "well, it is human nature and can't be helped, because police gets mad at some fellow he has just arrested, and punches him or breaks a chair on his head." I'll see if I can dig up the exact quote. Ayatollah Khomeini ordered the execution of all the Iranian intellectuals (journalists, writers...) almost immediately after he came to power. When asked what if some of those condemned (to death) Iranians were innocent, and Ayatollah Khomeini had apparently replied, "God would sort it out."


                  JE comments:  The Trump response has been to "wait and see"--at least, I trust, for another two weeks. (The US elections are on November 6th.)


                  Looking forward to your Part 2, A. J.  One extra question for the Khashoggi stew:  is the Iranian press as overjoyed with this scandal as we assume?


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                  • Khashoggi Case: What We Know and What Will Happen (A. J. Cave, USA 10/24/18 2:34 PM)
                    This is not meant to be the last word on the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. However, with the Turkish President Erdogan's speech done and done, I can pretty much guess what has happened.

                    This is extremely complicated and I have been thinking about how I can de-tangle the threads without creating more confusion. I should start by re-stating that I am not an expert on modern Turkey either and more "bugs" can easily get into my code.


                    That said, we have gotten to this point because of a series of unfortunate events. This is not just about the Khashoggi crisis anymore, but about the entire US engagement with the Middle East, dating back to early 1940s.


                    The question is no longer whether the Saudi crown prince had ordered the Khashoggi hit, but what are we (actually the President) going to do about it--or more realistically, can do about it.


                    Right now, we have 3 strategic interests in the region: 1) oil, 2) Israel, and, 3) settling our score with Iran. That's about it. Those who think we have any other interest (like spreading democracy, eliminating terrorism, and the like) are whistling in the wind.


                    As far as oil goes, 2 numbers matter: price of Brent Crude and price of WTI Crude. ‎Brent crude is the international benchmark for a barrel of oil, and WTI (West Texas Intermediate) is the domestic oil benchmark. Both rallied by 1 or 2 percent when the President threatened Saudi Arabia with sanctions last week, and they have dropped by about 4% since then. New sanctions against Iranian oil would go into effect on 4 November. So, the current benchmarks have already priced the removal of Iranian oil and possibly a reduction by Saudis retaliation in the market. It simply means that we got this. The US will push out Russia as the number 1 oil producing country by next year, pushing Saudi Arabia to the third place, followed by Iraq and Iran. We already own the Iraqi oil, so the market is calling Saudi bluff to retaliate against possible sanctions. ‎This reminds me of the iconic gun vs sword scene in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark , where Indy shoots the sword-wielding Arab assassin in bazaar. [Can I put a happy face emoji here?]


                    As far as Israel goes, we go. Period.


                    Now, about Iran (actually the Islamic Republic), what can I say that I haven't said before. Yes, they're gloating over Saudis' Khashoggi crisis. But, here's something that most people don't know. An unwritten part of the nuclear agreement was anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 US visas (no one knows the exact number). President Obama was so desperate for a political "win" to ensure his legacy that he opened a backdoor to US for the friends and families of the Islamic Republicans. How about that?

                    If we are so bad, why are they secretly sending their ‎kith and kin over? Just saying.


                    Ok, so, what happened to Khashoggi? Who knew what and when? And what should we do about it?


                    As far as I can see: ‎Jamal Khashoggi stopped by the Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul late September. He was received warmly, even so, when he returned on 2 October to pick some paperwork, he gave one or two phones to his Turkish fiancé and told her to call a friend with ties to President Erdogan, just in case he didn't return shortly, and she did. Those who knew beforehand or found out in real-time or shortly afterwards, more than likely were: Saudis, Turks (and if the Turks knew, probably US and the Germans did too), Israelis, Iranians, Chinese and Russians. Turkish authorities followed the standard diplomatic protocols by contacting the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul and when they got the runaround, they called their own Embassy in Riyadh. ‎Saudis ignored Turkish attempts to resolve this diplomatically, probably because King Salman was not informed. President Trump was kept out of it by his national security advisor too, so Turks started to leak the information to the media. It is true that President Erdogan has jailed Turkish journalists, but his connection to Khashoggi was on friendly terms. With a crashing stock market just couple of weeks before the mid-term elections, President Trump's plate has been more than full to focus on the Khashoggi crisis. So, it was President Erdogan who came up with a diplomatic face-saving for the Saudis yesterday. He didn't say anymore than what he has been saying for the past couple of weeks. But by keeping the crown prince out of it, he diplomatically offered to take the Khashoggi crisis off King Salman's hands by asking for the usual suspects to be handed over to the Turkish authorities to stand trial for murder. That is an offer Saudis should take and pay whatever the Turks expect in return (relief from their currency crisis, etc.).


                    Now, here is a window to reset our relationship with the Saudis. What we have to decide is whether we want to keep them as a regional client or cut them loose to make their deals with the Russians or Chinese. ‎ The President thinks like a businessman, so he naturally thinks about closing defense deals with the Saudis. But Saudis are a lot more desperate for keeping us around than we think. We are that "wall" that stands between them and the Iranians.


                    JE comments:  And today, MbS may be breathing a sigh of relief as US attention is directed elsewhere, to the wave of "suspicious packages" sent to CNN, the Obamas, George Soros, and the Clintons.  Now we have a new conspiracy to untangle.

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                    • What Are the US "Strategic Interests" in the Middle East? (Istvan Simon, USA 10/27/18 3:55 AM)
                      A. J. Cave (October 24th) painted a picture with very broad strokes of our strategic interests in the Middle East.  I would like to hear the views of WAISers who know a thing or two about what strategic interests are professionally. For example, I'd like to hear what General Michael Sullivan would say about this topic.

                      I am not a professional like Michael, so my thoughts are those of an everyday layman.  But are our three strategic interests in the Middle East really oil, Israel, and settling our scores with Iran? The more I thought about this simple question, the less I agreed with A. J.'s characterization. The particular three interests that she mentioned which we undoubtedly have, do not seem strategic to me. They seem tactical.


                      What is a strategic interest? I would define it as something essential to our long-term survival. If we define it so, then none of the three interests mentioned by A. J. Cave is strategic.


                      Let's examine each in turn.


                      1. Oil: Oil is certainly important for the world and the United States in particular, but I would hesitate to call it a strategic interest. Why?


                      1. We are closer and closer to being self-sufficient in oil.


                      2. The medium-term energy prospect for oil is bleak. The world is moving towards renewable energy, and that means moving away from oil. There is ample oil supply today. So oil fails to be a strategic interest by my definition.


                      What about tactically? Should the United States be worried about oil and Saudi Oil? Once again, I'd say no, there is no reason for too much worry about this.


                      Could the Saudis restrict their production of oil like they did in 1973? I do not think so. The Saudis need oil revenue. They cannot turn off the spigot because they have become deeply dependent on the money it gives them. The Saudis also fear upsetting the apple cart. The Yemen war is not going particularly well for the Saudis, and they depend on US arms sales.


                      Could they replace their arms with Russian or Chinese arms? The answer is no. Not in the short term, anyway. All their current arsenal is US made. They need replacement parts, are trained in their tactics and use. They cannot opt to change suppliers in the short term. It would take decades for them to change suppliers, if they decided to do so. And the Saudis need the United States to defend them against Iran, as A. J. Cave correctly said.


                      Should Iran worry about American sanctions regarding not being able to sell its oil? Once again, the answer is no. Oil is a commodity. Iran can sell it to third parties which can sell it to anyone. And China and other consumer countries do not give damn about Trump's sanctions. They will continue to buy Iran's oil no matter what Trump does.


                      Israel: Is Israel a strategic interest of the United States? As I am a defender of Israel I'd like to say yes, but once again, by my definition Israel is not a strategic interest of the United States. The United States can survive without Israel indefinitely. Once again, we have a long-term important tactical interest in Israel's well-being, which is essential to our well-being too, but I think it is not strategic.


                      Settling Scores with Iran: This is even less strategic than the other two. Why do we need or would want to "settle scores" with Iran? We do not. We have no scores to settle. The Islamic Republic needs us much more than we need them, no matter what the rhetoric is.


                      JE comments:  Strategic has become one of the signature words of our age.  All organizations have their "strategic plans," and the higher-ups justify themselves by their ability to generate "strategic thinking."  Istvan Simon gives us a useful primer on strategies vs tactics.  I would add one more variable to the mix:  politics.  Israel is a political interest.  Oil, I would (strategically?) suggest, is a tactical interest.  As for "settling scores" for Iran, this does appear to be an obsession of the current US administration.  Why should it be?  Exactly.


                      It might be best to go back to Palmerston.  Nations have, simply, "interests."


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                      • US Strategic Interests in the Middle East (Michael Sullivan, USA 10/28/18 3:58 AM)
                        Responding to Istvan Simon's request of October 27th, I have no more expertise than any other WAISer discussing the strategic interests of the US in the areas of oil, Israel and settling our score with Iran. I've been retired from the Marine Corps for 26 years and my only information comes from what I read and watch on TV, except for a few retired General officer symposiums, where none of us have security clearances anymore. So it might as well be a meeting of the Officers' Wives Club!

                        Oil: I believe one of the US strategic interests in Mid East oil is to keep the Strait of Hormuz open, so oil can flow to nations that have purchased it. Our tactical interest is to provide the means with military force, if required.


                        Israel: Our strategic interest is to keep Israel as a "preferred," very close ally, as the only democratic country in the Middle East, while keeping Israel militarily strong enough to protect itself and act as a deterrent to Arab or Iranian threats. I'm not sure what the US would do tactically if a Mid East war broke out between Israel and the Muslim nations, as it isn't a given that US forces would fight to defend Israel, especially with US ground forces.


                        Iran: I don't think we a have a score to settle with Iran. Strategically, we definitely are trying to lessen their influence and military prowess in the Mid East and see a regime change but I don't think there is any push for the US to go to war with Iran and if it happened, it would be strictly in reaction to an Iranian attack.  It would be a retaliatory action and no US ground forces would be involved. However, at the present time there is a possibility that US and Iranians ground forces could get into a fight in Syria, but it would be by mistake in communications or ROE.


                        Istvan, this is a short, oversimplification of severely complicated subjects but it's how I see it in today's world. Nothing is for certain and the best-developed plans usually never pan out the way they were conceived.


                        JE comments:  Michael Sullivan raises a fascinating question.  How far would the US get involved in an Israeli war?  The common perception is "completely," including the use of ground troops, but in Michael's view this is far from certain.  Fortunately, the chance of Israel going to war against one of its neighbors is next to nil--at present.  Syria, the most likely candidate, is way too busy making war on itself.


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                        • Mexico's Bootleg Fuel: Huachicol (from Gary Moore) (John Eipper, USA 10/29/18 3:52 AM)

                          Gary Moore writes:



                          On oil and US strategic interests (A. J. Cave, Timothy Ashby, Michael Sullivan and others, Oct 27-28),
                          here's a weird hop in the outfield: In Mexico's rising wave of lynchings (read: sheer inscrutable chaos),
                          a strange contributor is petroleum, because as Mexico's chaos has heated up, so has its epidemic of
                          clandestine tappings of petro-pipelines, many of which carry not crude but perfectly usable gasoline
                          and diesel, which is resold by the thieves as huachicol--bootleg fuel.


                          The mountain areas, often
                          indigenous-speaking, where the pipelines are being bled have become criminal no-man's lands,
                          where it's hard to tell apart the ordinary citizens who resent and fear the crime, and the armies
                          of those who are kin to or support the huachicoleros. There is now even (get ready)
                          a new underground religion, complete with household shrines to "the Holy Infant
                          of Huachicol," to whom one offers prayers--just as the older syncretism of drug gangs
                          produced, a generation ago, the cults of Jesus Malverde and Santa Muerte, the bloody
                          skull. Don't pause here for the fascinating reflections, because the ambiguities segue
                          into social media panics about ephemeral child-stealers, the robachicos, who are
                          sought triumphantly by neighborhood mobs targeting whatever stranger, suspicious
                          vagrant--or cop--who comes along, with horrific results, typically involving
                          live burning--whose chief agent is gasoline. To what degree the lynchings in areas
                          that are "paradises for huachicol" are actually promoted by the huchicoleros, to either
                          punish the cops (by burning lone strays they can catch) or subverting investigations
                          by accusing lurking investigators of being child-stealers--well, nobody knows these percentages....


                          But wait, you say. What has any of this to do with US petro-interests? It turns out
                          that the huachicoleros are just one more layer in a deteriorating situation complicated
                          in 2013 by the old ruling party, the PRI, cutting a Gordian knot they had said for decades
                          they never would cut: They allowed foreign investment into their long-protected Pemex
                          oil sector. Giants like TransCanada and Shell have rushed to get in, and deals have been
                          sealed for massive pipeline projects--though, like the old pipes bled by huachicoleros,
                          the new visions too are stalled--because the old populist tradition now finds assorted
                          indigenous communities rising up and saying they don't want pipelines in their
                          backyards (amid unknown ecological dangers, though mainly this looks aesthetic
                          or just extortionist). In broad indigenous-speaking belts across the mountains,
                          distrust of authority has gained a new push.


                          The new pipelines, if they ever get completed, are to bring in mainly natural gas, from--where?
                          From the US. Mexico has become a fuel importer, despite its vast reserves, and the United States
                          is now, with fracking, moving toward the position of energy leader of the world, ahead of Russia.
                          And what rank is Saudi Arabia? Ask the bone saw.


                          I remember (Lethe and Nepenthe!) in 1978, when a constant stream of thundering trucks was
                          bringing pipeline materials across northern Mexico, so they could build a line to export north
                          to the US--amid President Carter's calling US oil weakness "the moral equivalent of war."
                          But those pipelines never got completed. The dire warnings of those days look startling now.
                          The bottom line in this--the lynchings, oil, chaos, anger at child-snatchers who don't exist--
                          may help suggest why a new world of populist strongmen may be emerging--whether in India,
                          Turkey, Russia, or Trump Tower--or in AMLO's still unseen new Mexico, which will begin operating
                          after inauguration on December 6. The populists can speak the language of the crowds too angry
                          to otherwise listen--while reason has all it can do just to keep itself from getting lynched.


                          JE comments:  Fascinating topic, Gary.  Huachicol was originally a term for adulterated moonshine, often of the blinding sort (methanol).  Wikipedia traces the word's etymology to the nomadic Huachichiles, who were famous for savagery and the eating of human flesh.


                          https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huachicol


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                      • Other US "Strategic Interests" in the Middle East (Timothy Brown, USA 10/28/18 4:19 AM)
                        I would suggest that there are other things, in terms of maintaining standards of life, for which the Middle East is of "strategic importance."  The Suez Canal; nuclear Pakistan, nuclear India; nuclear Israel; nuclear-hopeful Iran? These are all in the Middle East.

                        And what about the region's next-door neighbors, nuclear Russia? Nuclear China? Or nuclear North Korea?


                        Then there are other strategic interests of major importance like the Panama Canal's role in world trade (assuming international trade continues), and contagious diseases (a while back Europeans killed off some Native Americans and they returned the favor by giving syphilis to Europe.)


                        If "properly" defined, nothing is "strategic." Not even the Strait of Malacca, South China Sea, Strait of Gibraltar or Panama Canal (nor was Europe prior to the run-ups to WWI and WWII, or during the Cold War).


                        And what about "Global Warming," since we can solve that problem since "its only possible causes are coal, oil, natural gas, and the burning of wood." Are we sure? The population of the world has grown from est. 1.8 billion in 1918 to 7.7 billion today (440%); life expectancy has increased from 35 to 71 (200%); the average dwelling has doubled in size (200%), together with the number of dwellings with electricity, heating and cooling, running water, sewage treatment, wireless telephones, etc. And each of these continues to grow. Can we do away with coal, oil and wood and replace them entirely with wind, solar, hydrology and ocean tidal waves--and another doubling of demand for energy?


                        Of course, there's one thing that can solve all these problems, a large-scale nuclear war. Might one start in the Middle East where there are more nuclear powers than in the Americas?  But I don't recommend taking that road.


                        JE comments:  That's a harsh remedy, Tim!  A tad over a century ago, the Italian Futurists spoke of war as the "world's only hygiene."  They got their wish in 1914, but the Great War was anything but hygienic. Many of the Futurists didn't live to see it (the future).


                        Draconian solutions aside, might the biggest threat of all be overpopulation?  This was one of Prof. Hilton's beliefs.  In the 1950s he organized a conference at Stanford on the "population problem" in Latin America.  Since that time the region's birthrate has declined markedly.  What about the demographic explosion in Africa and the Middle East?  Shall we discuss?  Is there even a way to discuss this without sounding condescending or imperialist?

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              • Saudi Arabia: #1 US Frenemy (Massoud Malek, USA 10/23/18 4:39 AM)
                Former US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Robert Jordan told CNN:

                "Prince Salman, the kingdom's current monarch, once told me the September 11, 2001, terror attacks were an Israeli plot, a seeming effort to downplay that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals."


                Turning to the Khashoggi murder, how could a 59-year-old man even think of fighting with 15 men?


                As Saudi defense minister from the age of 29, Mohammed bin Salman pursued a war in Yemen against Shiite rebels that began a month after he took the helm.  The war wears on today.


                Why is the US is refueling Saudi warplanes to drop bombs on Yemeni school children?


                JE comments:  The title of this post is my loose interpretation of Massoud Malek's message.  In a recent public comment, First Son-in-Law Jared Kushner said Saudi Arabia is a major partner in the fight against terrorism.  Have the foxes been deputized to protect the henhouse?


                Shall we move our discussion to Yemen?  The news is full of gruesome reports on that nation's humanitarian crisis, including the world's largest present-day famine.  Horrific.  How can such a catastrophe occur on the very doorstep of the oil-rich KSA?


                Didn't Ambassador Robert Jordan also star in For Whom the Bell Tolls?  (Apologies; despite the gravity of the crisis on the Arabian peninsula, I can never resist a literary quip.)


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            • Riyadh's "Chop Chop Square" (John Heelan, UK 10/22/18 4:13 AM)
              Deraa Square in Riyadh, known irreverently by expats as "Chop Chop Square," is where the barbarities take place--ironically usually after Friday prayers each week.

              We could watch the scenes on TV (if we so wished). Some of the executioners have fan clubs applauding their lethal skills. One 20+ stone executioner nicknamed "The Dump Truck" was pictured recently with both feet off the ground while delivering the death blow.


              (The Khashoggi case is just the tip of the Saudi barbaric iceberg--if I might mix metaphors!)


              JE comments:  Out of a sense of editorial duty (morbid curiosity?) I Google-imaged "Saudi executioner dump truck" and mercifully, I got photos of...Saudi dump trucks.


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          • Khashoggi Case: Who is on the Payroll? (John Heelan, UK 10/21/18 5:27 AM)
            Istvan Simon's analysis (20 October) of the Khashoggi murder is compelling reading.

            Now is the time for the politicians to start tidying up the diplomatic mess as cleanly as the dismemberment room. The first point would be to identify who is on the Saudi political payroll. Did not the the Kingdom transfer $100m to the State Department recently on a spurious pretext? Political bribes are expensive, but to reward the US State Dept for its fight against ISIS (alleged to be supported by the Kingdom) is not a little specious.


            Who else is on the Saudi payroll? UK papers claim multiple MPs, Peers and Ministers have enjoyed Saudi largess. Have the denizens of the White House done so also? (As Deep Throat said in Watergate, "Follow the Money!")


            JE comments:  Who isn't on the Saudi payroll?  (Rest assured, dear friends, that WAIS is not.)  A. J. Cave mentioned the importance in Silicon Valley of Saudi venture capital.  It may no longer be politically acceptable for high-tech to take this tainted money.  Will this be a sea change, or a minor hiccup for start-ups in the Valley?

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      • Post Unpublished - please check back later

      • The Khashoggi Death and Saudi Royal Politics (Edward Jajko, USA 10/20/18 3:53 PM)
        As of today, Saturday October 20, the Saudis have admitted to the death, within their Istanbul consulate, of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, supposedly during a fight, and have arrested more than 20 individuals, some at very high levels of the administration, as being implicated in the killing, which has turned into an international embarrassment. Al-Jazeera has been having a field day, no doubt chortling over the discomfiture of its neighbor.

        Despite this major development, I would like to comment on A. J. Cave's first posting of Wednesday, October 17, on the Jamal Khashoggi matter and the KSA.


        A. J. wrote:


        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?


        EAJ: I have to disagree. Maybe it depends on where the dissidents are, and maybe policies have changed under the hand of MBS. But I dealt with Saudi dissidents who had sought refuge in London and had not only come under the protection of English law but had established comfortable lives and, in addition, anti-Saudi publishing and media operations. Indeed, the Saudi method of dealing with opposition has been to buy it off or out.


        The Eastern province, where the oil is, is largely Shiite and for many years was in a state of rebellion. The House of Saud ultimately tired of the fight and of the danger of a breakaway province taking all its treasures. So they paid the rebels off and got them to stop fighting. There have been flare-ups but nothing serious.


        In another case, there used to be a publishing house in London that produced books that were rabidly against the House of Saud and the KSA. I bought whatever I could find of those books, through dealers and on visits to London, for the Hoover collection. Then all of a sudden, there were no more. The explanation came when my assistant was going through a book by another London Arab publisher and showed me what she was laughing at. The Saudis had been annoyed and angered by that first publishing house, so they bought it and put it out of business.


        Now granted that this may seem to have involved the relatively calm world of libraries and archives. But one of the dissidents I dealt with had been personal physician to the king of Saudi Arabia and, in London, established the Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia. Another was of a family of dissidents and, in London, established a committee (actually a publishing group) on legitimate rights. A third claimed to be the representative of the Advice and Reform Committee, and of Usamah bin Ladin.


        A.J.:


        I think it has to do with the order of succession in the House of Saud...


        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.


        EAJ:


        This paragraph of A.J.'s contains a statement I feel is misleading and another that is wrong. The sentence saying that "the crown has been tossed from the head of one brother to another, among the 7 sons of Ibn Saud (all sons of his favorite wife)" is, I think, misleading. To me it suggests that the various kings of the KSA since "Ibn Saud"--more properly, 'Abd al-'Aziz--were sons of Hassa al-Sudayriyah, i.e., the so-called Sudayri Seven. But the only members of the Sudayri Seven who became kings were the late King Fahd and the present King Salman. A couple of the other brothers are dead and the others were judged unsuitable for various reasons or could not get enough support from their many half-brothers.


        Salman accepted the inevitable; the sons of 'Abd al-'Aziz were aging out of succession to the throne and it was time for a new generation. But he did not bypass "his living brothers in favor of his own sons." Rather, he chose as crown prince Muhammad bin Nayif, his nephew. Salman's full brother Nayif is also one of the Sudayri Seven. MBS was named deputy crown prince. This was in 2015, not 2017. It was in the latter year that Salman removed M. bin Nayif from his position as crown prince and put MBS in instead, and in fact removed MBN from all his positions in government.


        A.J.:


        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.


        EAJ:


        I don't entirely agree. It could not possibly have been "all the royal sons ... who could have opposed MBS." For one thing, at this point there are probably at least 12,000 princes and probably more. Granted, few are in a position to cause MBS any difficulty, but still... There are also a couple of prominent families, who are not royals but are right at the top: the Jiluwis, for instance, and certainly Al al-Shaykh, descendants, of Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab, the founder of the Wahhabi doctrine on which the Saudi state is based, a family which the religionists and possibly others consider to be the true first family of the kingdom. Members of these families would not vie for the throne, but if there were a change in the system of government, if the kingdom were brought down, who knows?



        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.


        EAJ:


        Jamal was the son of Ahmad Khashoggi and the grandson of Hamzah. He was a graduate of Indiana University. But I have no information on the whereabouts of his father.


        khashoggifamily.blogspot.com indicates that there are some other Khashoggis still employed in KSA. I dipped into Wikipedia to verify a few facts for this posting and found it interesting that there have been quick updates. "MBS" has been interpreted in one entry as "Mister Bone Saw." And I regret to read in another that King Salman suffers from Alzheimer's. I met Salman in 2000 when I was on a trip to the Kingdom along with several other US Middle East librarians to participate in meetings, visits to libraries and archives, and a visit to the Janadriyah Festival. We were taken one day to the main government building of Riyadh and there met the then-governor of Riyadh, Prince Salman. He inquired about each of us and about what we did, where, how, etc. I found him able and engaged and am sorry to read accounts of his failing. I also have the distinct memory of looking around his office, which was also a majlis, a reception or meeting hall, and thinking to myself that my entire house could fit inside it with no problem.


        Lastly, the Khashoggi family will hear the words from the Koran, Inna lillahi wa-inna ilayhi raji'un, We are God's and to him do we return. I have the greatest sympathy for the family and the fiancée. I also am amazed at how incredibly stupid people can be and how they think they can get away with things.


        Also, and I do not mean this flippantly, for reasons that should be obvious, I feel great empathy with Khashoggis and all others whose names are not immediately and obviously pronounceable in Anglophone society.


        JE comments:  This is extremely informative, Ed. You are brave to try to untangle the complexities of the Saudi court.  One tiny nit to pick:  the sources say that Jamal Khashoggi went to Indiana State, not Indiana University.  (This is an important distinction on the day of the Michigan-Michigan State game.  Michigan won, as God intended it to be.)

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        • How Do You Say "Indiana State University" in Arabic? (Edward Jajko, USA 10/21/18 7:37 AM)
          Khashoggi studied at Indiana State, in Terre Haute? Who knew?

          In my post yesterday, I was translating from the khashoggifamily source I cited, which is in Arabic: "wa-talaqqa ‘ulumahu fi Jami'at Wilayat Indiyana al-Amrikiyah." The University of the American state of Indiana. There is just a soupçon of ambiguity in the Arabic, but I stand corrected.


          JE comments: Khashoggi may now be Indiana State's second most-famous alumnus, after basketball legend Larry Byrd.  The list below hasn't caught up with the news.  Other than Byrd, I've only heard of the former Indiana senator Birch Bayh, still alive at age 90.  I am intrigued to know more about radio personality Bubba the Love Sponge, who comes in at #33:


          https://www.ranker.com/list/famous-indiana-state-university-alumni-and-students/reference


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  • 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.


    https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/15/middleeast/saudi-khashoggi-death-turkey/index.html


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