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The Trump White House and the Saudi crown prince have been struggling with damage control after the Khashoggi murder.
Bill Law

Erdogan says Saudi refuses to help Turkish prosecutors seeking information including whereabouts of Khashoggi's body.

Turkey's president has been teasing and taunting the murderers of Jamal Khashoggi like the famous fictional detective.
Hamid Dabashi

Ankara used the crisis to put pressure on a regional rival and recast its decaying relations with the US and the West.
Jeffrey A Stacey

US president says Washington will not be taking punitive measures against Riyadh over journalist's murder


US president says it 'could very well be' that the Saudi crown prince 'had knowledge' of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.


News site says alleged execution squad leader heard calling murdered dissident a traitor before verbal fighting, brawling and torture are heard

The CIA is reported to have concluded that the Saudi crown prince ordered the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.

Leader of the hit squad which killed the Saudi journalist in Turkey allegedly reported success of the mission to Riyadh.

Wall Street Journal reviews a classified CIA assessment that cites messages between MBS and aide, Saud al-Qahtani.


The Saudi public prosecutor is seeking the death penalty for those involved in the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. If the punishment is carried out, we might never know who ordered the killing. By executing Khashoggi’s killers, is Saudi Arabia burying the truth with them?
First there came denial and now there comes contradiction and deflection. These are the necessary components of covering up murder, which is precisely what Saudi is doing in front of an entirely sceptical, yet apathetic, world.  It’s extremely hard to fathom what the Saudis thought would happen after the premeditated and savage assassination of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in their consulate in Istanbul.
What we do know is that their tactic now is to kill or lock the truth away, forever.  
Access to it will either be impossible or impenetrable. Obfuscation and contradiction is the order of the Saudi ‘investigation’ into, and reaction to, their culpability in Jamal’s murder.

The first purpose of any Saudi manoeuvre here is to protect Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) from any connection to the crime.  The latest development is that the Saudi public prosecutor released a statement saying that they would be seeking the death penalty for five people involved in the killing of Khashoggi at the consulate.

The statement claims that the Saudi investigation found that Jamal’s murder was carried out ‘after a physical altercation with the victim where he was forcibly restrained and injected with a large amount of a drug resulting in an overdose that led to his death’.  The prosecutor’s statement then claims that ‘the leader of the mission’ conspired to ‘write a false report’ claiming Khashoggi had left the building. 

A spokesman for the public prosecutor confirmed, after the statement, that the Saudi story was that the 15-man team had been sent to ‘confront’ Khashoggi with the express orders to return him to Saudi. But, after the journalist ‘resisted’, they ended up killing and then dismembering him.  This explanation sounds like something out of an episode of The Sopranos, but the reality is even worse – Khashoggi was murdered very deliberately in the consulate by a 15-man death squad. Not a 15-man ‘confrontation squad’, but a hit team assembled by MBS’ with the express aims of torture and murder. His body was then dismembered and dissolved in acid.  

Guilt, when it comes to any crime, is almost always determined by a contradiction in narrative and a lack of evidence to back up the guilty party’s side of events. Saudi’s latest version of the story, as espoused by the prosecutor, contradicts its earlier acknowledgement, backed by the US in the face of Turkish evidence, that the murder was a premeditated assassination.  

Turkey has audio recordings of one of the assassins, namely Maher Abdelaziz Mutreb, who is a known security officer close to both Crown Prince and his chief enforcer Qahtani, saying over the phone to an unknown superior to ‘tell your boss’, with the boss in question very likely being MBS.  Mutreb is also heard saying something along the lines of ‘the deed is done’, which is a confirmation that he was following orders given to him from top brass. 

The former CIA officer Bruce O. Riedel, now at the Brookings Institute, told the New York Times that these audio recordings are “as close to a smoking gun as you’re going to get.”  Even Donald Trump, one of MBS’ closest allies and brother-in-arms, called Saudi’s explanation of the murder as an ‘accident’ ‘the worst cover-up ever’. It was after this, and consultation with US officials, that Saudi momentarily admitted premeditation, but now they’ve lunged back to their previously absurd line. And as bad as their cover up has been, it’s a necessary one, no matter how absurd it might seem. 

For the alternative to the cover-up of the events that everyone knows took place is to implicate MBS in the murder. If he’s implicated, not only does Saudi potentially lose its ‘chosen one’ – the young, hip ‘reformist’ frontman who’ll lead Saudi through the Arab spring and the changing socioeconomic realities of the world (of course, he’s no more of a reformist than any other Saudi autocrat), but they also risk exposing the entire ruling wing of the royal family to culpability in this crime.  That is exactly why these executions are being pushed through in the Kingdom. Far from it being about even haphazard justice, the point of executing these men is to kill the truth. And, in Saudi’s autocratic royal family, no one is safe when it comes to doing whatever is necessary to protect the bosses.  

Much is made of Saudi’s status as a theocracy, but its practice ever-more resembles that of Stalin’s USSR – nothing is sacred in defence of the leadership. Now, Saud al-Qahtani—who is used to meting out repression within the Kingdom and was the ‘mastermind’ behind the assault on Qatar—has every right to be uneasy.   Qahtani was fired from his official position as ‘royal court adviser’ in the wake of Jamal’s murder, which, in typical bungling fashion, essentially proved that he had some hand in it.   But, if need be, Qahtani will be sacrificed – it won’t be due to an even accidental form of justice, but rather due to what he knows, namely his potential to implicate MBS in the murder. In addition to this, casting the blame fully onto someone like Qahtani would serve to bolster the Saudi line that this was simply a rogue hit on a dissident, far removed from MBS’ knowledge or wishes. Though Qahtani is not one of the 5 people who now face execution, the Saudi public prosecutor said that Qahtani had been due to meet the team that murdered Jamal and that he is under official investigation, unable to leave the country. Whatever Qahtani’s fate, the entire point of the executions and the public naming of someone as high profile as Qahtani has the express purpose to make sure that while we all know that Jamal was deliberately assassinated by the Saudi state, we can never prove it conclusively.  

There will be no justice regarding the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, only more obfuscation, brutality and repression to bolster an injustice and save those who are truly guilty of perpetrating it.


US President Donald Trump refuses to hear the recording of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi's murder saying that listening to the audio tape would not change his decision on how to respond to the October 2 killing.  President Donald Trump said he would not listen to a recording of the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi even as an upcoming report on the slaying threatens to put him in a diplomatic bind; how to admonish Riyadh for the slaying yet maintain strong ties with a close ally.

Trump, in an interview that aired Sunday, made clear that the audio recording, would not change his decision on how to respond to the October 2 killing, which US intelligence agencies have concluded was ordered by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.   "Because it's a suffering tape, it's a terrible tape. I've been fully briefed on it, there's no reason for me to hear it," Trump said in the interview with "Fox News Sunday."

''I know everything that went on in the tape without having to hear it."

Reporters asked Trump, as he toured fire damage in California on Saturday, about the death of Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post who was often critical of the Saudi royal family. Saudi Arabia's top diplomat has said the crown prince had "absolutely" nothing to do with it.
"We'll be having a very full report over the next two days, probably Monday or Tuesday," Trump said. That will include "who did it," he said.  It was not clear if the findings of the report would be made public. Officials familiar with the case cautioned that while it's likely the crown prince was involved in the death, there continue to be questions about what role he played.  Trump told "Fox News Sunday" that Crown Prince Mohammed had repeatedly denied being involved in the killing inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.  The president declined to say if evidence that the crown prince, with whom the Trump administration developed close ties, was involved with the killing would alter relations with Riyadh.

"Well, will anybody really know?" Trump said. "At the same time, we do have an ally, and I want to stick with an ally that in many ways has been very good."

For his part, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally, said the crown prince has been a "wrecking ball" in the relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia.  "I hate to say that because I had a lot of hope for him being the reformer that Saudi Arabia needs, but that ship has sailed as far as Lindsey Graham's concerned," the South Carolina Republican told NBC's "Meet the Press."  "I have no intention of working with him ever again," said Graham, who is in line to be the next chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Intelligence officials have been providing information to Trump about the death for weeks and he was briefed again by phone Saturday by CIA Director Gina Haspel and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as he flew to California. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders provided no details of his call but said the president has confidence in the CIA.  "The United States government is determined to hold all those responsible for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi accountable," the State Department said in a statement. "Recent reports indicating that the US government has made a final conclusion are inaccurate. There remain numerous unanswered questions with respect to the murder of Mr. Khashoggi."

The statement added: "The US government has taken decisive measures against the individuals responsible, including visa and sanctions actions. We will continue to explore additional measures to hold those accountable who planned, led and were connected to the murder. And, we will do that while maintaining the important strategic relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia." Before his call on Air Force One, Trump told reporters that when it came to the crown prince, "as of this moment we were told that he did not play a role. We're going to have to find out what they have to say." 

That echoed remarks by national security adviser John Bolton, who said earlier this week that people who have listened to an audio recording of the killing do not think it implicates the crown prince. Trump has called the killing a botched operation that was carried out very poorly and has said "the cover-up was one of the worst cover-ups in the history of cover-ups."  

But he has resisted calls to cut off arms sales to the kingdom and has been reluctant to antagonise the Saudi rulers. Trump considers the Saudis vital allies in his Mideast agenda. But members of Congress are pushing Trump for a tougher response to the killing. The administration this past week penalised 17 Saudi officials for their alleged role in the killing, but American lawmakers have called on the administration to curtail arms sales to Saudi Arabia or take other harsher punitive measures. Vice President Mike Pence told reporters traveling with him Saturday for a summit of Pacific Rim nations in Papua, New Guinea, that the "murder of Jamal Khashoggi was an atrocity. It was also an affront to a free and independent press, and the United States is determined to hold all of those accountable who are responsible for that murder."

Khashoggi, a Saudi who lived in the United States, often criticised the royal family. He was last seeing entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul after he went there to get marriage documents. Saudi Arabia has repeatedly changed its official narrative of the October 2 murder, first denying any knowledge of Khashoggi's whereabouts and later saying he was killed when an argument degenerated into a fistfight.

In the latest version presented by the Saudi prosecutor on Thursday, a 15-member squad was formed to bring Khashoggi back from Istanbul "by means of persuasion" — but instead ended up killing the journalist and dismembering his body in a "rogue" operation.

Bipartisan move follows decision to place sanctions on 17 Saudi nationals involved in killing of writer Jamal Khashoggi.

A bipartisan group of US senators introduced legislation on Thursday seeking to punish Saudi Arabia over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and for the kingdom's role in the devastating war in Yemen. The move comes hours after the United States slapped economic sanctions on 17 Saudis allegedly involved in the murder of Khashoggi inside the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul. If the bill were to become law, it would suspend weapon sales to Saudi Arabia and prohibit US refuelling of Saudi coalition aircraft conducting air raids in Yemen.

It also would impose sanctions on anyone blocking humanitarian access in Yemen and anyone supporting the Houthi rebels. The Senate proposal comes a day after House Republicans moved to block a bill aimed at ending US support for the Saudi involvement in Yemen.  Sponsored by three Republican and three Democratic senators, the Senate legislation, reflects growing dissatisfaction in the upper house of Congress over the Yemen war, which has killed more than 10,000 people and created major humanitarian crisis.
That frustration was exacerbated by the killing of Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate last month. Saudi Arabia initially rejected its officials were behind the killing, but as Turkish authorities continued to leak evidence of high-level involvement, Riyadh eventually admitted its agents had played a role in the killing with a series of contradictory explanations.
I have a lot of concerns about the trajectory that Saudi Arabia is on right now, and I think a price needs to be paid

On Thursday, Saudi Arabia's top prosecutor said they will seek the death penalty for five individuals accused of carrying out Khashoggi's murder. The authorities said 21 people were in custody over the killing, with 11 indicted and referred to trial.  Saud Al-Qahtani, a key aide of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has been banned from travelling and remained under investigation, Saudi officials said.  Ankara dismissed the latest account by the kingdom as "inadequate".
Turkish officials have said it is unlikely Khashoggi could have been killed without the knowledge of the crown prince, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying the orders came from "the highest levels of the Saudi government".

Earlier on Thursday, US politicians welcomed the US sanctions against Saudi officials, but many also said the punitive measures did not go far enough.  Republican Senator Bob Corker called the sanctions a "significant step", but added that he hopes additional action will be taken.  "I have a lot of concerns about the trajectory that Saudi Arabia is on right now, and I think a price needs to be paid," the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement. Corker said he has requested a meeting with Defense Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and CIA Director Gina Haspel "to share with us [the Senate] exactly what is happening with the US response to Saudi Arabia".

Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senator Foreign Relations Committee and one of the Senators who authored Thursday's bill, said the sanctions were a "good first step", but with the Saudi announcement about the death sentences, the 

US move "looks like a coordinated attempt to sweep this case under the rug."
Others took their calls a step further, demanding the US to take action against the Saudi crown prince himself.  Democratic Senator Tim Kaine, who represents Virginia, where Khashoggi lived, said the sanctions were "insufficient" and suggested the administration of US President Donald Trump is "following the Saudi playbook".   "This was state-sponsored murder. We need accountability," Kaine tweeted.  Democratic Senator Ben Cardin said he remains "concerned that the [Trump] administration is enabling the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in its effort to protect Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from accountability".  He added, "It is difficult for any reasonable person with knowledge of Saudi Arabia's government to believe such high-level officials would conduct a plot of this significance without the direction of the Crown Prince."   
Saudi officials maintain bin Salman had nothing to do with Khashoggi's death. 

'Involved in abhorrent killing'
The US sanctions on the 17 Saudi nationals were issued under the Global Magnitsky Act, which was triggered last month by a bipartisan group of Senators. The measures on Thursday targeted al-Qahtani, who is believed to have managed the operation to kill the Saudi writer.  Others targeted included Maher Mutreb, another aide to the prince, who was pictured at Saudi consulate in Istanbul on the day of the slaying.  "The Saudi officials we are sanctioning were involved in the abhorrent killing of Jamal Khashoggi," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.
"These individuals who targeted and brutally killed a journalist who resided and worked in the United States must face consequences for their actions," he added. The sanctions block the individuals' assets in the US and generally prohibit US persons from engaging in transactions with those sanctioned. The State Department called the sanctions "an important step in responding to Khashoggi's killing".

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GOVERNANCE IN THE MUSLIM WORLD - by moeenyaseen - 05-06-2007, 11:11 AM
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