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Prince Ahmad bin Abdulaziz's reported return is seen as a potential challenge to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

The cult of personality MBS has built to consolidate power may finally be crumbling following the Khashoggi murder.

Joe Macron 
The "strongman" of Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (known as MBS), has been striving for 16 months to turn the country's absolute monarchy into a one-man rule and felt in the process no restraint in fulfilling this thrust for power. However, this cult of personality at home along with the image of a "reformer" abroad that MBS meticulously cultivated for nearly two years has now reached a tipping point. Since the murder of Saudi commentator Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, MBS has become a liability for the Saudi monarchy. His amassing of power is coming back to haunt him to the extent that no one believes that the killing of Khashoggi could have been sanctioned without MBS' approval.

Saudi King Salman has been grooming his son since 2009 when as Governor of Riyadh he appointed him as special adviser. Salman, who has often in the past found himself playing a reconciliatory role among the estimated 4,000 ambitious al-Saoud princes, knew more than anyone else that his son would need to consolidate power to succeed him. First, King Salman streamlined the bureaucracy by eliminating sub-cabinets that once allowed princes to hold key portfolios. Between January 2015 and May 2017, Salman built his rule on two power pillars: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef as interior minister and chair of the Council for Political and Security Affairs, and MBS as defence minister and chair of the Council for Economic and Development Affairs. The tensions grew between the two as MBS became more assertive, as bin Nayef was not ready to cede power to a much younger prince.

WATCH: Trump administration continues to waffle on Khashoggi killing (2:19)

Al-Saud monarchy has always maintained a balance of power among influential princes, however, King Salman and MBS have altered this hierarchy that served the political system's stability for decades, despite its deficiencies and lack of transparency. MBS became the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia because he disabled the two major checks on his power by eliminating his rivals in the monarchy establishment and muting any US restrictions on his policies.

The US has typically managed the rivalry between Saudi princes and restrained, when needed, any Saudi policies that might undermine US interests. The open channel between MBS and President Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner has allowed MBS to circumvent the establishment in Washington that preferred bin Nayif and his aggressive approach to counterterrorism. This open channel with the White House enabled MBS to remove bin Nayif in June 2017 before rounding up last November the traditional Saudi establishment in the Ritz Carlton hotel and detaining Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.


These bold political moves would not have occurred if the White House was not indulgent or even permissive. The young Saudi prince was testing the limits and gradually presumed that if he has Trump's support nothing can restrain him. The establishment in Washington believes that Kushner and MBS are bypassing the traditional routes of US policymaking, and the Saudi ruling family sees Trump as favouring a younger prince and disregarding the delicate balance of the house of Al-Saud. These dynamics are damaging US-Saudi relations in the long term. The Saudi monarchy should have long-term contingency plans if Trump is voted out of office in the presidential elections in two years, as the next president will probably be less lenient towards Saudi policies.

Moreover, the concern in the US and beyond is: If MBS managed to make all these moves in his early thirties, what might come next if he becomes king? Who would keep his power in check? Personalising Saudi rule is unprecedented and carries risks for the monarchy, as the Khashoggi murder made it abundantly clear.  The two major power players who empowered MBS, King Salman and President Trump, continue to have his back, but the Saudi crown prince has become increasingly secluded in the past weeks. MBS created a culture of fear among his rivals, and if his grip on power is not weakened or the Khashoggi murder passes without accountability, this fear will dominate Saudi politics for decades to come. MBS will no doubt fight back, he has too many enemies to leave power and potentially face a backlash.

WATCH: Turkey's Erdogan: Khashoggi killing a 'political murder' (2:08)

King Salman is indeed facing a dilemma, if not a pivotal moment in his monarchy. His key aides are asserting their power at least in managing the Khashoggi portfolio. However, Salman, if he indeed continues to pull strings, is showing no signs of letting go of his son's ambitions. The Saudi King pushed out key MBS advisers to relieve his son from any criminal or political liability, while simultaneously tasking him with reforming the intelligence agency in the aftermath of the Khashoggi murder. He will hold on to his son until he feels the Salman dynasty is in danger under Western pressure, which might prompt him to select his other son Khaled as crown prince, as Le Figaro has reported. However, even with Prince Khaled as the next king, MBS might retain influence in the bureaucracy, which necessitates a crown prince from outside the Salman branch to prevent their dominance of Saudi politics.  
What keeps MBS politically safe is that his father remains alive. If King Salman were to die tomorrow, the political knives will be out against MBS in the house of al-Saud and abroad. But even if MBS manages to survive this political earthquake and keep control of all these portfolios, he will always be associated with the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. It will be a stain he will find very hard to remove from his political reputation.

Ankara may use Khashoggi crisis to extract concessions from Saudi Arabia to ease pressure on its struggling economy
Patricia Sabga

Umut Uras


An exiled Saudi physicist and political dissident says US President Donald Trump had been informed by intelligence agencies of a plot to kill journalist Jamal Khashoggi and colluded with Riyadh in his murder.

Mohammad al-Massari made the remarks in a program hosted by former British Labor MP George Galloway, footage of which was posted online.   He revealed Trump’s involvement in Khashoggi’s murder, citing leaks from telephone conversations between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, and exiled Palestinian politician Mohammed Dahlan obtained by a high-ranking Saudi official. Massari said that Trump has been "lying” in whatever comment he has made regarding Khashoggi’s case as a copy of the Turkish-intercepted video was sent to him shortly after the critic was murdered. Trump had been receiving daily intelligence briefings by the CIA and FBI since late 2017 about a plot to kill or abduct Khashoggi, but he never warned the journalist about what was to happen, he added.

“And there is also a story from high up in the Saudi ranks that MBS insists that his (Khashoggi’s) head should be cut and delivered to him so he can enjoy his revenge,” he said.

Massari also revealed back-up plans, including one announced by the Saudi Interpol, in which Khashoggi’s body double would depart Turkey for Lebanon and get apprehended there as an international fraudster.  He, however, stressed that the scenario went wrong when Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, phoned her uncle, who is an adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and took police to the scene.  
The Western governments, which are at odds with Trump over several issues such as the taxes imposed by his administration, are all aware of the developments and they will “take out their swords” against the US president once the 2018 midterm elections on November 6 are over, he claimed.  Khashoggi vanished at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.  Riyadh initially claimed that the journalist had walked out of the mission.  Later, however, it said that Khashoggi had been accidentally killed in a “fistfight” with a Saudi hit squad. Most recently, the kingdom’s public prosecutor said that the murder had been  “premeditated” by Saudi operatives.

Riyadh has denied any involvement by the crown prince in the killing, but it has been unveiled that some members of the Saudi hit squad were from bin Salman’s personal security staff. Elsewhere in the TV program, Massari was asked about the motive behind the killing as Khashoggi was not in fact a member of the Saudi opposition, and only a critic who pushed for reforms inside the regime. He said that Khashoggi, a media adviser to former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki bin Faisal, was actually a “chocolate opposition” and “critical of the regime in the sense like someone who wants to have reforms.”  Khashoggi, he added, was “a treasure of information, connections and contacts” and had “a memoir full of expositions, scandals and crimes.”    The memoir was not published during Khashoggi’s lifetime because it put him at risk, Massari said, alleging that he had got his hands on five pages of that memoir.


Historian Vijay Prashad takes apart the Khashoggi murder and relates it to the deep-rooted ideological and historical conflict between Turkey and Saudi Arabia




Khashoggi was not the first dissenter but he was one of the most high profile ones internationally. And while he may no longer be around, others languish in Saudi jails.More than two weeks after the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the world remains stunned by the apparently gruesome nature of his demise. But what seems to have been lost amidst all the macabre revelations is that Khashoggi is only one of many sincere advisors who has been silenced by the Saudis. Khashoggi has been painted as a moderate; a wise critic of his country whose life was put in danger simply because of his sincere desire to advise Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who was following a destructive path. His recent columns in the Washington Post and his TV appearances would seem to back this up.

In his powerful new role, MBS set about sidelining, arresting or imprisoning senior princes from other branches of the family, including Al-Faisal and Al-Waleed. Khashoggi's subsequent move to Washington was in part due to the clampdown by MBS. 

The fate of life-long dissenters 

But this is about more than Khashoggi. His disappearance has ignited interest in the plight of activists and dissidents inside Saudi Arabia. Cases that have been explained away by the Saudi government, and readily accepted by much of the world media as treason or terrorism-related, are now being exposed for what they really are. Take, for example, the case of Loujain Al Hathlool, a women's rights activist, who was arrested in May this year on charges of "attempting to destabilise the kingdom".  Her crime was to campaign for a woman's right to drive.  Al Hathlool was repeatedly jailed during her campaigning, and in a recent interview with Bloomberg, the crown prince claimed that she had been 'leaking information to other countries'.   The kind of information Al Hathlool was supposed to have leaked is unclear, but there is a widespread belief that she was only arrested because the crown prince wanted to take personal credit for allowing women to drive and to refute any notion of public pressure and activism yielding results.

Then there's Essam Al Zamil, a distinguished economist who was arrested in September 2017.  Zamil had laid out compelling research illustrating why floating Aramco, Saudi Arabia's natural petroleum and gas company, did not make business sense and was therefore doomed to fail. This was directly at odds with the crown prince's vision to sell the company off, and so Zamil found himself in jail.  In an ironic twist, the crown prince himself shelved his plan to float Aramco a year later, while Zamil awaits trial.

Also in September 2017, Salman Al Ouda a prominent and hugely popular Islamic cleric tweeted a message expressing his hope for a reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Qatar after the former, along with Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain had blockaded the tiny Gulf state. For this, Al Ouda was arrested and placed in solitary confinement.  Last month, the public prosecutor tabled a recommendation for Al Ouda to be given the death penalty.   His son, Abdullah, who lives in exile in the US, has said that the real reason his father was arrested is because he was instructed to give religious cover for the crown prince's 'reforms' - which he refused to do.

There are countless other reformers, civil rights activists and Islamic scholars in jail in Saudi Arabia whose circumstances and fate are unknown.  A particularly compelling case is that of Dr Safar Al Hawali, an accomplished scholar, who only in his thirties, became a professor and subsequently head of the Department of Islamic Creed at Umm Al-Qura University, Makkah.   Hawali's master's thesis on secularism remains to this day probably the most comprehensive analysis of the subject from an Islamic theological perspective. The work has been widely accepted by the major Islamic scholars of this era. However, it was not for his academic prowess that Hawali gained distinction. 

From a very early age, Hawali was an outspoken advocate of Palestinian sovereignty and for the rights of Muslim minorities, such as those in Kashmir who were being persecuted. As his reputation grew, so did his backing of the major political issues affecting Muslims.  Al Hawali was a fierce critic of the Saudi government's decision in 1990 to allow troops into Saudi Arabia to remove Saddam Hussain's army from Kuwait. Drawing on works from classical Islamic scholars as well as from his own research and application (ijtihad) from the Quran and prophetic tradition, his conclusion was that allowing US troops into the holy land was impermissible from an Islamic perspective and that it would bring far greater harm than the purported benefits (pro-government scholars argued the opposite).

He also argued that the annexation of Kuwait should be reversed by a negotiated settlement or a Muslim-only force expelling Saddam Hussein's forces.  Hawali predicted that letting the US in would destabilise the region and lead to years of instability and conflict, and was part of a greater plan against the Islamic world. Jamal Khashoggi, then an up-and-coming journalist, criticised Hawali's views in the government-owned AI-Madina newspaper that he was writing for at the time.

In the years following the war and with a continuing clampdown by the government on any form of dissent, Hawali's criticism of government policy, in particular relating to Palestine, continued and in September 1994 he was arrested. He spent 5 years in prison and was released without charge in 1999.   Hawali's treatment at the hands of the Saudi authorities reveals a regime that has been intolerant of even the most moderate forms of activism for decades, and the recent actions of the crown prince are merely building on this legacy.  

But Hawaii's story doesn't end there. Following his release from prison, he was not allowed to return to his previous post at the university and so he chose to focus on research and activism.  In the wake of the September 11 attacks, although he believed that what had happened went against Islamic teachings, Hawali once again warned of the consequences of unhindered US intervention in the region. He criticised Saudi Arabia's role in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that followed the attacks, and was criticised by Khashoggi, who was then editor of the Al-Wotan newspaper that was owned by the Al-Faisal branch of the royal family.  Khashoggi argued that the US was fighting militancy and extremism and that Saudi Arabia's role was as its natural ally in this conflict. Hawali argued that such intervention would only bring about further destabilisation and militancy in the region - a reiteration of his arguments against the first Gulf war. 

After those wars, Saudi Arabia found itself under attack within its own borders from Al Qaeda - something that Hawali had predicted would happen due to the earlier internal repression and foreign policy decisions that Saudi Arabia had made. During that time, Hawali worked behind the scenes to convince young Saudis who found themselves caught up in militant groups to educate themselves in Islamic jurisprudence and reconsider their ideas.  In June 2005, Hawali suffered a massive stroke which left him unable to walk without support and severely affected speech. His intellect, however, remained firmly intact.  Over the past three years, Hawali dedicated most of his time to writing his magnum opus, Al-Muslimoon wa’l Hadharat AI-Gharbiyah or 'Muslims and Western Civilisation' - a five-volume encyclopedic work on a large variety of topics including faith, jurisprudence, politics, history and anthropology.  Critically, it contains chapters on the Saudi royal family and the clerical establishment, about whom Hawali wrote a whole host of observations and criticisms. He noted that Saudi Arabia had been built upon the sacrifice of people who gave their blood and land for a greater Islamic cause, but now the royal family was fractured and divided and in danger of disintegration.

He also warned how Saudi Arabia was shifting from being a country ruled by Islamic law to one that was fast adopting a form of oppressive secularism, where religious values would have little say in how society is governed.  He went into detail about the moral corruption of the government-funded career scholars who back the status quo with their religious edicts.  Perhaps most controversial of all is his recommendation that control of the country be gradually returned to the Quraish (the clan of the Prophet Muhammad) and that foreigners living in Saudi Arabia for a long time be given nationality.  In short, it is a detailed and radical manifesto for change at every level of society written from a personal perspective.  Hawali was writing the book secretly and was waiting for the right time to get it published.  The Saudi authorities knew of the book but were reluctant to arrest him due to his poor health.  But with the Crown Prince's continuing and widening crackdown, Hawali decided this was the best time to release the book, and so, he gave out electronic copies to various individuals.

A few days later, on the evening of July 11 2018, Hawali was arrested at his residence in Al Baha, four hours' drive south of Makkah. He has not been heard from since. His four sons were arrested in the following hours and days and have not been released. Rumours of his death in custody circulated at the end of September, possibly started by an official at whatever detention facility he was being held in.  Within days of his arrest, an edited version of Muslimoon wa’l Hadharat AI-Gharbiyah was published in 6 volumes in Istanbul.  Yasin Aktay, an advisor to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, mentioned Hawali's plight recently, saying: "Keeping respected, prominent scholars who have been struggling with illness like Salman Al-Ouda and Safar Al Hawali in prison for no reason is not Saudi Arabia's internal issue, but rather a matter for the entire Muslim world."

He is right. Just as the world demands to know the fate of Jamal Khashoggi, the family, friends and supporters of Dr Safar Al Hawali have the right to know what has happened to him. Horrific though it is, the world should not just limit its outrage to just Khashoggi. It needs to be aware of the many more cases of injustice that are taking place inside the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia is in turmoil and its people are paying the price, in particular, those who have dedicated their lives to making their country a more just place. The world outside needs to take heed, not be just for the sake of the Muslim world, but for the sake of everyone who has ever paid a heavy price for speaking out. 

*Mu'arikh is a pseudonym


It appears that the KSA has crossed all lines of decency, if there were ever any. In the eyes of many in the West, it crossed them not because it has been brutally killing tens of thousands of innocent people in Yemen, not even because it keeps sponsoring terrorists in Syria, (and in fact all over the world), often on behalf of the West. And not even because it is trying to turn its neighboring country, Qatar, from a peninsula into an island.

The crimes against humanity committed by Saudi Arabia are piling up, but the hermit kingdom (it is so hermit that it does not even issue tourist visas, in order to avoid scrutiny) is not facing any sanctions or embargos, with some exceptions like Germany. These are some of the most barbaric crimes committed in modern history, anywhere and by anyone. Executing and then quartering people, amputating their limbs, torturing, bombing civilians. But for years and decades, all this mattered nothing. Saudi Arabia served faithfully both big business and the political interests of the United Kingdom first, and of the West in general later. That of course includes Israel, with which the House of Saud shares almost a grotesque hatred towards Shi’a Islam.

And so, no atrocities have been publicly discussed, at least not in the Western mass media or by the European and the US governments, while weapons, worth hundreds of billions of dollars, have been arriving into the KSA, and the oil, that dark sticky curse, kept flowing out.

Was Riyadh enjoying total impunity? Definitely!
But all this may soon stop, because of a one single man, Mr. Jamal Khashoggi or more precisely, because of his alleged tragic, terrifying death behind the walls of the Saudi Consulate in the city of Istanbul. According to the Turkish authorities, quoted by The New York Times on October 11, 2018:

“Fifteen Saudi agents arrived on two charter flights on Oct. 2, the day Mr. Khashoggi disappeared.”

Supposedly, they brutally murdered Mr. Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen, and then they used sawmills to severe his legs and arms from the body. All this, while Mr. Khashoggi’s Turkish fiancé, Hatice Cengiz, was waiting for him on a bench, in front of the consulate. He went in, in order to take care of the paperwork required to marry her. But he never came back. Now the Turkish nation is indignant. Ten years ago, even one year ago, everything would have been, most likely, hushed up. As all mass murders committed by the Saudis all over the world were always hushed up. As was hushed up the information about the Saudi royal family smuggling drugs from Lebanon, using their private jets – narcotics that are clouding senses and are therefore used in combat zones and during terrorist attacks.

But now, this is the end of 2018. And Turkey is not ready to tolerate an atrocity by an increasingly hostile country; an atrocity committed in the middle of its largest city. For quite some time, Turkey and the KSA are not chums, anymore. Turkish military forces were already deployed to Qatar several months ago, in order to face the Saudi army and to protect the small (although also not benign) Gulf State from possible attack and imminent destruction. In the meantime, Turkey is getting closer and closer to Iran, an archenemy of Saudi Arabia, Israel and US.

It has to be pointed out that, Mr. Khashoggi is not just some common Saudi citizen – he is a prominent critic of the Saudi regime, but most importantly, in the eyes of the empire, a correspondent for The Washington Post. Critic but not an ‘outsider’. And some say, he was perhaps too close to some Western intelligence agencies.
Therefore, his death, if it is, after all, death, could not be ignored, no matter how much the West would like the story to disappear from the headlines.

President Trump remained silent for some time, then he became “concerned”, and finally Washington began indicating that it could even take some actions against its second closest ally in the Middle East. The Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been ‘cultivated’ both by Washington and other Western powers, but now he may actually fall from grace. Is he going to end up as Shah Pahlavi of Iran? Not now, but soon, or at least ‘at some point’? Are the days of the House of Saud numbered? Perhaps not yet. But Washington has track record of getting rid of its ‘uncomfortable allies.

The Washington Post, in its editorial “Trump’s embrace emboldened Saudi Crown Prince’, snapped at both the ‘Saudi regime’ (finally that derogatory word, ‘regime’ has been used against the House of Saud) and the US administration:
“Two years ago it would have been inconceivable that the rulers of Saudi Arabia, a close US ally, would be suspected of abducting or killing a critic who lived in Washington and regularly wrote for the Post – or that they would dare to stage such operation in Turkey, another US ally and a NATO member. That the regime now stands accused by Turkish government sources of murdering Jamal Khashoggi, one of the foremost Saudi journalists, in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate could be attributed in part to the rise of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s 33-year-old de facto ruler, who has proved as ruthless as he is ambitious. But it also may reflect the influence President Donald Trump, who has encouraged the Crown Prince to believe – wrongly, we trust – that even his most lawless ventures will have the support of the United States.”

“Wrongly, we trust?” But Saudi Arabia and its might are almost exclusively based on its collaboration with the global Western ‘regime’ imposed on the Middle East and on the entire world, first by Europe and the UK in particular, and lately by the United States.  All terror that the KSA has been spreading all over the region, but also Central Asia, Asia Pacific, and parts of Africa, has been encouraged, sponsored or at least approved in Washington, London, even Tel Aviv.

The Saudis helped to destroy the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, and then the socialist and progressive Afghanistan itself. They fought Communism and all left-wing governments in the Muslim world, on behalf of the West. They still do. Now both the West and the KSA are inter-dependent. The Saudis are selling oil and buying weapons, signing ‘monumental’ defense contracts with the US companies, such as Lockheed Martin. They are also ‘investing’ into various political figures in Washington.

The current alleged murder of a journalist triggered an unusual wave of soul-searching in the Western media. It is half-hearted soul searching, but it is there, nevertheless. On October 2018, the Huffington Post wrote:

“By directing billions of dollars of Saudi money into the U.S. for decades, Riyadh’s ruling family has won the support of small but powerful circles of influential Americans and courted wider public acceptance through corporate ties and philanthropy. It’s been a solid investment for a regime that relies heavily on Washington for its security but can’t make the same claims to shared values or history as other American allies like Britain. For years, spending in ways beneficial to the U.S. ? both stateside and abroad, such as its funding Islamist fighters in Afghanistan to combat the Soviet Union ? has effectively been an insurance policy for Saudi Arabia.”

It means that the White House will most likely do its best not to sever relationships with Riyadh. There may be, and most likely will be, some heated exchange of words, but hardly some robust reaction, unless all this tense situation ‘provokes’ yet another ‘irrational’ move on the part of the Saudis.

The report by Huffington Post pointed out that: 

“One of the few traditions in American diplomacy that Trump has embraced wholeheartedly is describing weapons sales as jobs programs. The president has repeatedly said Khashoggi’s fate should not disturb the $110 billion package of arms that Trump says he got the Saudis to buy to support American industry. (Many of the deals were actually struck under Obama, and a large part of the total he’s describing is still in the form of vague statements of intent.)  Keen to keep things on track with the Saudis, arms producers often work in concert with Saudi Arabia’s army of Washington lobbyists, congressional sources say.”

This is where the Western reporting stops short of telling the whole truth, and from putting things into perspective. Nobody from the mainstream media shouts: ‘There is basically no independent foreign policy of Riyadh!’  Yes, oil buys weapons that are ‘giving jobs to men and women working in the US and UK factories’, and then these weapons are used to murder men, women and children in Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and elsewhere; they threaten Iran, Qatar and several other countries. Oil and Western support also help to recruit terrorists for the perpetual wars desired by the West, and they also help to build thousands of lavish mosques and to convert tens of millions of people in Southeast Asia, Africa and elsewhere to Wahhabism, which is an extreme, Saudi-UK religious dogma. (My book “Exposing Lies of the Empire”. contains important chapter on this topic - “The West Manufacturing Muslim Monsters: Who Should Be Blamed for Muslim Terrorism”). 

Despite what many in the West think, there is hardly any love for Saudi Arabia in the Middle East. The KSA is sometimes supported, out of ignorance, commercial interests, or religious zeal, by such far-away Muslim countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, but as a rule, not by those who live ‘in the region’.  Many if not most in the Arab countries have already had enough of Saudi arrogance and bullying, by such monstrous acts like the war against Yemen, or implanting/supporting terrorists in Syria, Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere, or by recent the de facto kidnapping of the Lebanese Head of State, by moral hypocrisy and by turning holy Muslim sites into business ventures with vulgar commercialism all around them, and the clear segregation of the rich and poor.

Many Arabs hold Saudi Arabia responsible for turning an essentially socialist and egalitarian religion into what it has become now, of course with the determined support from the West, which desires to have an obedient and rituals-oriented population all over the Muslim world, in order to control it better, while plundering, without any opposition, its natural resources. Saudi Arabia is a country with some of the greatest disparities on earth: with some of the richest elites on one hand, and widespread misery all around the entire territory. It is an ‘unloved country’, but until now, it has been ‘respected’. Mainly out of fear.Now, the entire world is watching. Those who were indignant in silence are beginning to speak out.

Few days ago, an Indonesian maid was mercilessly executed in the KSA. Years ago, she killed her tormentor, her old ‘a patron’ who was attempting to rape her, on many occasions. But that was not reported on the front pages. After all, she was ‘just a maid’; a poor woman from a poor country.

All of us, writers and journalists all over the world, are hoping that Mr. Khashoggi (no matter what his track record was so far) is alive, somewhere, and that one day soon he will be freed. However, with each new day, the chances that it will happen are slimmer and slimmer. Now even Saudi officials admit that he was murdered.

If he was killed by Saudi agents, Mr. Khashoggi’s death may soon fully change both his country and the rest of the Middle East. He always hoped for at least some changes in his country. But most likely, he never imagined that he would have to pay the ultimate piece for them.This time, the Saudi rulers hoped for a breeze, which would disperse the smell of blood. They may now inherit the tempest.


Palestine and Khashoggi. Both Victims?
NOVEMBER 18 ,2018


According to the /Middle East Eye/ (November 13, 2018), Saudi Arabia's current Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has been seeking to divert attention from the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. However, his efforts to do so are more than a little unorthodox. He is reputed to have asked Binyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu, Israeli prime minister, to attack the hapless people of Gaza.

And, Netanyahu apparently complied.

Building on increasingly close and not-so-secret ties with Saudi Arabia, "driven by their shared hostility to Iran", and bin Salman's statement that Israel has a right to its own land, Bibi and the Kingdom seemingly found common ground in another assault on the Bantustan of Gaza. According to the /New York Times/ of November 12, 2018,

After a botched intelligence mission by undercover commandos left seven Palestinian fighters dead, the militant group Hamas and other armed factions mounted an intense and escalating rocket and mortar barrage across much of southern Israel that continued into Tuesday morning [November 13]...

Israel hit scores of military posts and weapons caches across Gaza, and also leveled a Hamas television station, radio station and office building, and the group’s military intelligence headquarters. Another target, in a densely populated area, housed both Hamas military and intelligence forces and a kindergarten. It was the heaviest fighting between Israel and Gaza since their war in 2014...

*Here Come the Sins.*Originating out of a high level Saudi task force, a war in Gaza was one way of distracting "[U.S.] President Trump's attention and refocus Washington’s attention on the role Saudi Arabia plays in bolstering Israeli strategic interests." To be sure, an unnamed /Israeli/ analyst was quoted in the /Middle East Eye/ article as saying that if Netanyahu were really involved, he wouldn't have stopped the strikes on Gaza after 48 hours.(However, targeted by BDS, Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, Israel can only go so far before stepping over the line that might shrink American support.)

It doesn't matter who gets killed, Palestinians, Iranians, or Saudis. As this writer commented on /PressTV/ November 11, the Saudis have expanded their efforts to destabilize the region through attempted assassinations of Iranian government officials. (The /New York Times/ reported November 11, 2018 that the Saudis had considered using private companies to kill people at the time Mohammed bin Salman came to power in 2017.)Given the number of the Kingdom's princes and activists that have "disappeared", bin Salman ostensibly does not care if it's Iranians or his own dissidents that die.

Bin Salman, the real power behind the throne, is also the man responsible for the disastrous Yemeni war, the failed blockade against Qatar, and the increased Saudi hostility towards Iran. It was also bin Salman who had ordered the detention of Saad Hariri, Lebanon's prime minister for being too soft on Hezbollah, the real defender of the country. The Crown Prince is also the man behind "detaining" and shaking down more than 200 people, including princes, Saudi officials, and businessmen in a supposed effort to root out "corruption". Along the way, the Crown Prince had frozen about 1700 bank accounts. Whether Khashoggi's murder was based on the Anglo-Iranian journalist's interview of him, as the author had discussed on /PressTV, /is unknown. Saeed Kamali-Deghan, a /Guardian/ reporter, had stated that the late journalist told him of money flowing from the Saudi royal family to a London-based anti-Iran satellite channel. According to Deghan in a Tweet, he feared for his life and had gone into hiding. That and other relevant Tweets then disappeared.

Other of bin Salman's sins have been alienating Turkey and making its repressive President Erdo?an appear as the defender of Khashoggi. MBS, as he is known, has also increased Iran's power in the region. Always depicted as the Kingdom's rival, Iran, through the prince's intemperate actions, now appears as the soul of meticulous, careful behavior, an alternative to an irrational, repulsive, divine-right monarchy.

*Regime Change?**And Why?*What is clear is that Saudi Arabia may soon have a new crown prince. When this writer was assigned to the American consulate general in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, he heard a summary of the Saudi way of life: a sin concealed is a sin half-forgiven. Mohammed bin Salman's sins are not well hidden. They are right out there in the open. And, given the past, consensus-driven rule in the Kingdom, there is far too much light shining on those transgressions for any absolution to be given. Moreover, the Saudi style had always been to lead from the rear. Avoiding the limelight, shunning controversy, inducing others to take the point, the Kingdom was the epitome of scrupulousness. The standing joke among the expatriates in Jeddah was "a foreign power attacked the Kingdom; Korea got the contract to defend the country."

Removing Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman might well be an advantage for the United States. In a November 14, 2018 article, /RT/ quoted former CIA official Bob Baer on American goals there. He argued "Washington is more interested in maintaining Saudi Arabia's stability than searching for the truth..."Additionally, Baer noted "What worries the White House is that this country could pop." In this writer's view, stability does not necessarily equal MBS.

If bin Salman goes, who gets his job? The most likely prospect is Mohammed bin Nayef, former crown prince, former Interior Minister, and his cousin. Nayef also has the advantage of reportedly having good relations with the CIA, which fills many of the positions in the U.S. Mission there.


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".
November 20, 2018

CIA officials are signaling Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman must be replaced. Is this all about the killing of Jamal Khashoggi? Professor Asad AbuKhalil says there are other political reasons


The murder of Jamal Khashoggi by the despotic Saudi regime has sent waves of revulsion around the world’s media.  Much of this condemnation is hypocritical. The same mainstream media that regularly propagandises for the Saudi regime now wants us to take its limited criticisms of one particular Saudi prince seriously.  The sad reality is that Khashoggi is the tip of the iceberg – true Saudi dissents are locked up, murdered, tortured, or forced to flee into exile abroad.  Much was made by corporate media in the west about the young Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman’s supposed “reforms” in the kingdom of horrors. Women were finally granted permission to drive!  But the reality is that the Saudi regime still enforces the male “guardianship” system, which requires women to have the permission of a close male relative to travel, seek employment, marry or enrol in higher education.

And many brave women who were active in the campaign for women’s right to drive in the kingdom have now been jailed in a recent crackdown. In so blatantly ordering the murder of Khashoggi, bin Salman does seem to have gone too far for even some of his biggest supporters in the West. 

People like President Trump and like former vice president Joe Biden. In one recent speech, Biden called the way the Saudis murdered Khashoggi “embarrassing” – what a telling comment.  

In other words, he was effectively saying, carry on murdering students, protestors and critics, but do it quietly so we can keep selling your arms and you can keep supporting our key regional attack dog Israel.

It remains to be seen whether the mainstream backlash against bin Salman will result in any change. It seems highly unlikely, as long as western governments continue to sell Saudi Arabia arms and continue to prop the regime upon the diplomatic stage.   The worst-case scenario for the regime is that bin Salman – who is effectively ruler of the kingdom – is replaced by another despot from among the thousands of Saudi princes.
I wrote in my weekly column in Arabic that the last resort for Muhammad bin Salman to save his throne could be a visit to the Israeli Knesset.  If that occurs, all the sudden Western critics of Saudi regime would uniformly cheer and salute MbS.
Lebanese-American professor and analyst As`ad AbuKhalil has [url=]recently been predicting
 that, should bin Salman start to feel enough pressure from the western establishment to step down as Crown Prince, to save himself he will embark on a “peace” mission to the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.  Saudi Arabia’s ongoing alliance has been evident for some years now. The two regimes are so deeply in bed with each other that the only measure left which the Saudis have not taken is formal diplomatic recognition and exchange of ambassadors.
Should bin Salman indeed head off to the Knesset to prostrate himself in front of his fellow war criminals in Israel, expect all to be forgiven in case of the Khashoggi murder by mainstream politicians and journalists.   And don’t be fooled by the language of Saudi “peace” with Israel either. Such a strategy will be more about the attempted pacification of the Palestinians, than about real peace. The liquidation of the Palestinian cause is the real aim. Thanks to the determination of the Palestinian people themselves, however, that will not happen.
AbuKhalil was the first to predict that an Israeli role in the murder of Khashoggi would be unveiled. Now he has been vindicated.  In a recent article, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported that Omar Abdulaziz, a close associate of Khashoggi, had his phone infected by Pegasus, a high-tech piece of Israeli spyware.  A CitizenLab technical analysis found with a high degree of certainty that the cyber weapon had been operated by somebody in Saudi Arabia.  As I’ve previously reported, Pegasus turns targeted phones into spying devices. Practically anything on the phone can be accessed by the remote operator, including photos, text messages, encrypted conversations such as WhatsApp and even entire phone calls.
Abdulaziz and Khashoggi were close associates who at one stage were talking on the phone every day. The CPJ reports that “the Saudi government would have had access to hours of unvarnished conversations between the two men.”   Abdulaziz told the CPJ that Khashoggi was even more frank about his opinions against Muhammed bin Salman than in public: “He would say to me: this guy is not going to change.”

CPJ reports that Abdulaziz “feels a tremendous amount of guilt that the hacking of his cell phone gave the Saudi government a direct line into Jamal’s private thoughts.”   Abdulaziz need not feel such guilt – only the guilty parties should. Those parties, in this case, include the Israeli firm that sold this cyber weapon to the Saudis and those in the Israeli government who permitted them to do so – and will doubtless do again.
As I previously reported, NSO Group has strong links to the state of Israel. Its founders are “former” members of Unit 8200 – Israel’s criminal and thuggish cyber warfare arm. Such firms operate entirely in line with the Israeli state’s stipulations and regulations. As such, the state of Israel had a hand in the murder of Khashoggi.  All of which partly explains why both Israel and its lobbying arms in the west has been going out to bat in recent weeks for bin Salman, with deceptive talk of regional “stability.”   With global criticism of bin Salman mounting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently spluttered that “it is very important for the stability of the region and the world that Saudi Arabia remains stable” – in other words, bin Salman must remain in place.  Racism, oppression and war crimes: the Saudi and Israeli regimes have much in common.


We sit down for a one on one interview with Wadah Khanfar, the director of Al Sharq Forum to discuss media coverage of the killing of Khashoggi, how it’s influenced public opinion, and its repercussions.


Turkish president seizes opportunity to raise his profile in the Muslim East
Yusuf Dhia-Allah

Jamal Khashoggi may be dead but his murder story refuses to die. The episode continues to have strong reverberations two months after his brutal murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2. It has led to political upheaval inside the medieval kingdom where questions have been raised about King Salman’s rule. He suffers from dementia resulting in all major decisions being left to his impulsive and ignorant son, and anointed successor, Muhammad bin Salman (MbS). The latter is in trouble because many believe he is directly implicated in Khashoggi’s gruesome murder.

The return from self-imposed exile of Prince Ahmad bin ‘Abd al-‘Aziz, the younger brother of the king, has added further grist to rumor mills. Prince Ahmad is the youngest of the Sudayri brothers and is, therefore, considered of a higher breed than the other surviving sons of ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Al Saud. Reports also say that he returned to the kingdom after receiving assurances from Britain and the US for his safety. Both his pedigree and the assurances now make him virtually untouchable. If Bin Salman were to try anything nasty against his uncle Prince Ahmad, what he did against his cousins a year ago, he would almost certainly lose his job. MbS may still do so, even as he has become a liability for his imperial masters.

Bin Salman’s position has been severely undermined following Khashoggi’s murder and the clumsy manner in which it was handled. Every explanation merely compounded the Saudis’ dilemma. Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan has skillfully manipulated the gruesome murder to twist the knife each time the Saudis tried to wriggle out of the mess. It made them look even worse.

Commonly referred to as the “clown” prince, Bin Salman has become so toxic that many media outlets in the US and Britain no longer want to touch him. Gone are the fawning editorials about a “reforming prince”; they now refer to him as “Mr. Bone Saw” (MBS). This is a reference to the bone saw that the death squad from Saudi Arabia had used to dismember Khashoggi’s body at the consulate.

Saudi reputation, especially in the Muslim world, has also suffered greatly. It was not very high to begin with but the Khashoggi saga has ripped the mask off completely. Bin Salman bears principal responsibility for this. Since his father became king in January 2015, Bin Salman has been in charge of virtually all decision-making in the Kingdom. He has acted as his father’s gatekeeper (in charge of the court); he is in charge of the country’s economic policy as well as of Aramco, the Saudi oil company. He is also the Kingdom’s defence minister who launched the disastrous war on Yemen in March 2015 that is still raging. The war has caused more than 56,000 deaths and millions of people including children are on the verge of starvation.

The intemperate Bin Salman has taken on Iran in a futile attempt to undermine the Islamic Republic; he took on Qatar — another futile policy that has yielded little — and he even arrested the Lebanese Prime Minister Sa‘d Hariri in November 2017 forcing him to announce his resignation on Saudi television! Bin Salman got egg on his face when French President Emmanuel Macron intervened securing Hariri’s release from house arrest in the Kingdom, and his return to Beirut where he withdrew his resignation.

Back when they were on the same page with regard to overthrowing Bashar al-Asad’s government in Syria, then Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman (MbS) met with Turkish President Erdogan to discuss developments in the region, and to keep pliable Turkish investments in the Kingdom, ahead of a G20 summit in the Chinese coastal city of Hangzhou, 9-4-2016. How things turn on a dime: today, it is all about the art of the leak. President Erdogan has been strategically leaking damning information on the Khashoggi murder, exposing all Saudi attempts to exonerate MbS as fabrications designed to immunize a ruthless killer. With the way the clever Turkish executive has played his hand, all roads are leading back to MbS. Compared to the green clown prince of Arabia, Erdogan is a seasoned political veteran who will never let a crisis (or a tragedy), served up on a silver platter, that he can manipulate for political ascendancy slip through his fingers.

The Saudis’ real challenge now comes from Turkey, hitherto seen as an ally. Last August, when US President Donald Trump imposed sanctions on Turkey for its refusal to release the CIA agent Andrew Brunson operating under the cover of a priest, the Saudis also joined in. Ankara had accused Brunson, together with the US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen of being involved in the failed coup attempt of July 2016 against Erdogan. In return for Brunson’s release, Turkey wanted Gulen extradited, a demand Washington rejected (but just as CI?is going to press this week, Washington floated the trial balloon that Gulen could be extradited to Turkey if Erdogan agreed to hush up the Khashoggi affair going forward).

Instead, Trump imposed sanctions on Turkey as well as tariffs on Turkish goods. Ankara retaliated by imposing its own sanctions but the consequences for Turkey were much more severe causing its currency to plunge. The Turkish lira lost more than 40% of its value. It was, however, Saudi treachery that the Turks found most disturbing.

To understand the severity of Saudi action, we need to know what was involved. Saudi Arabia had invested some $10 billion in Turkey in 2011 in return for Ankara joining the assault on Libya and Syria. Until that point Turkey had refused. Libya with a small population was a soft target. Libyan ruler Mu’ammar al-Qadhdhafi was easily ousted from power and then publicly lynched in October 2011. Syria proved to be a much more difficult case. There are several reasons for this, but suffice it to say that the grand conspiracy against Syria has failed.  Realizing its folly in Syria, Turkey started to cozy up to Russia and Iran, much to the chagrin of Saudi Arabia. Just when Trump imposed sanctions and tariffs on Turkey, the Saudis also withdrew their money from the country. This further undermined the fragile Turkish economy.

Khashoggi’s murder provided Erdogan the perfect opportunity to get even with the Saudis. He has them right where he wants them. The wily Turk has played his cards well, drawing rings around the uncouth Bedouins. He has released damaging information about the Saudis at critical junctures making them look really clumsy and outright villains. They are!

So the question that must be asked is: what does Erdogan want? Embarrassing the Saudis is not enough; this will soon die down. He seems to have a much bigger game plan in mind at Saudi expense. Current speculation is that he wants a substantial sum of money from the Saudis to bury the incriminating evidence in his possession. Knowing Erdogan’s ambitions, this, too, is a small price.

His goal seems to be to displace the Saudis and become the unquestioned leader of the “Sunni” world. Hitherto, the Saudis pretended to hold that banner because Makkah and Madinah are in Saudi Arabia. Many Muslims in their innocence have extended the sanctity of the two holy cities to the Bani Saud clan as well. Their terrible conduct has finally exposed them as a bunch of criminals. Even their massive war crimes in Yemen did not affect the Saudis’ reputation as much as what the murder of Khashoggi has done.

His murder has changed the situation for two reasons. First, Erdogan is pursuing the matter vigorously; second, the Washington Post where Khashoggi wrote a regular column is not letting go. The Post has strong connections to the American deep state including the CIA and Khashoggi was their man even if not an American citizen. How dare the Saudis cross that red line? A price must be paid for that; the buck — or the camel — stops at Bin Salman’s tent.

Developments inside the Kingdom suggest that Bin Salman’s position is becoming increasingly precarious. With the return of Prince Ahmad, internal disagreements that Bin Salman had crushed with an iron fist are again getting louder. His opponents — and there are many — sense Bin Salman’s vulnerability. This is an opportunity they do not wish to miss. They put it in stark terms: either the kingdom or Bin Salman.

Many are banking on Prince Ahmad to lead the charge. Even if he does not, some senior princes are now openly questioning Bin Salman’s enormous powers. They argue that his continued high profile role puts at risk the very survival of Bani Saud’s rule. This is one argument for which neither the aged king nor his ambitious son has an answer.  So the question is: will it be Bin Salman or the Kingdom? The way things are moving it appears likely that with or without Bin Salman, the Kingdom is doomed.


US senators have made their first move to hold the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman accountable for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi after they introduced a non-binding resolution that they hope will lead to sanctions on Riyadh. A group of Republican and Democratic senators defied the White House on Wednesday and introduced a resolution that would hold Saudi Arabia’s crown prince accountable for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

The resolution was introduced by Republicans Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio and Todd Young and Democrats Dianne Feinstein, Ed Markey and Christopher Coons.  The resolution says the Senate believes Mohammed bin Salman "was in control of security forces" during the killing and has "a high level of confidence" that the crown prince was "complicit" in the murder, based on "evidence and analysis made available".

Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and columnist for The Washington Post, went missing after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in early October.  After initially saying he had left the consulate alive, Saudi Arabia admitted weeks later that he was killed there, blaming his death on a group of rogue Saudi operatives.

"I believe it’s vitally important to US national security interests to make a definitive statement about the brutal murder of an American resident — Mr. Khashoggi — who has three American citizen children," Graham said in a statement.  The non-binding resolution is also seeking to hold the crown prince accountable for contributing to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, the blockade of Qatar, the jailing of political dissidents in Riyadh and the use of force to intimidate rivals.

If approved, the resolution would put the Senate on record as saying that the crown prince is responsible for Khashoggi's killing. It would also pressure US President Donald Trump to decide whether to veto the measure.

The move came a day after CIA Director Gina Haspel briefed a small group of senators on Khashoggi’s murder following an outcry from lawmakers over her absence last week during a Senate briefing on Yemen that was attended by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton. The resolution also calls on Saudi Arabia's government to negotiate with representatives of the Houthi rebel group in Yemen and agree to a political resolution and end the country’s humanitarian crisis.


Bipartisan group of senators introduces measure saying Saudi crown prince is 'complicit' in the killing of journalist

Six top US senators from across party lines have introduced a scathing resolution to hold the Saudi crown prince accountable for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi more than two months ago.  The proposal, which was introduced on Wednesday, says the Senate "has a high level of confidence" that Mohammed bin Salman "was complicit in the murder".

If approved by the Senate, it would officially condemn Prince Mohammed, also known as MBS, for the killing of Khashoggi in the kingdom's consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul in October.

"This resolution - without equivocation - definitively states that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia was complicit in the murder of Mr Khashoggi and has been a wrecking ball to the region jeopardising our national security interests on multiple fronts," Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator and close ally of President Donald Trump, said in a statement.

The move by the US senators came as Istanbul's chief prosecutor filed warrants for the arrest of a top aide to MBS and the deputy head of the kingdom's foreign intelligence on suspicion of planning the killing of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and a critic of the crown prince.

Saudi Arabia has said the crown prince had no prior knowledge of the murder. After offering numerous contradictory explanations, Riyadh later admitted that Khashoggi had been killed inside the consulate and his body dismembered after negotiations to persuade him to return to Saudi Arabia failed.

Yemen war, GCC rift
The strongly-worded resolution also holds MBS accountable for alleged atrocities committed during the war in Yemen, which Saudi Arabia entered in 2015 through a massive bombing campaign.Since then, the US-backed Saudi-UAE alliance has launched more than 18,000 air raids, part of a war which has killed tens of thousands of civilians.

The senators urged the kingdom to negotiate directly with representatives of the Houthi rebels to end the war in Yemen.  The resolution also called on Saudi Arabia to end a blockade imposed by itself and three other Arab states on Qatar in June last year and seek a political solution in the worst diplomatic rift to have struck the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The bipartisan group of senators also wants the release of blogger Raif Badawi, women's rights activists and other political prisoners held in Saudi Arabia.

'Destabilising actions'
Their move came a day after some senators said there is "zero chance" MBS was not involved in Khashoggi's murder following a closed-door briefing by CIA Director Gina Haspel.   Tuesday's briefing came a week after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defence James Mattis had told senators that there was no hard evidence MBS was behind the killing and urged senators not to downgrade ties with Saudi Arabia over the incident. The CIA has reportedly assessed, however, that Prince Mohammed ordered the killing of Khashoggi.

Trump has repeatedly avoided any assertion that Prince Mohammed was involved in the October 2 killing and said the CIA had "feelings" the royal was culpable but not a firm conviction. 
Commenting on the senators' resolution, Nabeel Khoury, a former US diplomat and deputy chief of mission in Yemen, said the Senate is starting to see MBS as a destabilising influence.

"Trump has lost the debate with Congress on what should be done about the Khashoggi murder and while he was out with Mattis and Pompeo arguing about the value of Saudi Arabia, what Congress is telling him is, 'No one is contesting that, what we're contesting is the direction the Saudi policy has taken under MBS'," he told Al Jazeera from Washington, DC.

"They have now linked all the destabilising actions that MBS has taken, starting with Yemen, passing by the Khashoggi murder onto Qatar and even Lebanon. "The administration will have to act behind the scenes maybe to pressure Saudi Arabia into some kind of acceptable corrective force or this is going to get worse - in the end, Congress, especially the House, controls the purse strings and can eventually force the administration's hands."
Speakers at second Saudi diaspora conference say time to unite is now after murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Nadine Dahan
10 Dec 2018

London, United Kingdom - Saudi opposition figures from all over the world have called for a coordinated effort to challenge Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's "oppressive" rule over the kingdom.  Speakers at the second Saudi diaspora conference said after the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October, the time was right for a united front against the prince's hardline policies.

Organised by Diwan London, a discussion hub with a focus on the Arabian Peninsula, and Saudi human rights organisation ALQST, the conference on Sunday had the participation of activists from the United States, Canada, Australia, Germany, Switzerland and other places.  Many activists, including the son of jailed Muslim scholar Salman al-Odah, 61, who is known for his progressive positions on controversial issues, addressed the gathering via video call. A Saudi prosecutor called for the death penalty for Salman al-Odah in September during a secret trial.

Due process

Sunday's conference was a prelude to ALQST's second annual summit on the decline of human rights in Saudi Arabia, which was held on Monday.  "This opposition calls for rights, democracy, equality and due process. We are all calling for the same thing," said Yahya Assiri, head of ALQST. 
"None of our opposition is calling for rights of some over others, we only differ over how to get there."

The dissidents said the meetings were a significant and unprecedented step towards a coordinated and united front against the Saudi government's widespread crackdown on critics, which has seen scores imprisoned, tortured and stripped of their assets.  Madawi al-Rasheed, visiting professor at the LSE Middle East Centre, also highlighted the need to unify.

"This conference is the start," she said. "I get asked why aren't Saudi dissidents united? But uniting the opposition doesn't mean all of us agreeing... We have different voices and all of them should be heard."  The conference saw prominent opposition figures such as 72-year-old Mohamed al-Massari - an exiled Saudi physicist, political dissident, and chair of the Committee for the Defense of Legitimate Rights - the first independent human rights organisation in the kingdom. Massari was granted asylum in the United Kingdom in 1994.

khashoggi killing

Khashoggi's murder sent shockwaves throughout the international community. However, the response from governments has not been met with great enthusiasm. Assiri said while Khashoggi's case forced the international community to reconsider its relationship with the Gulf kingdom, the reaction didn't go far enough.  Speaking about the way in which the regime has changed since Prince Mohammed toppled his cousin, Mohammed bin Nayef, in June 2017 to become crown prince in the kingdom, Assiri said: "The type of torture has worsened, the regime has changed. The regime has fallen in the eyes of the national community. It has no legitimacy."

He said Saudi authorities smear their critics as spies, "agents of the West", or traitors.

Political prisoners
Many women's rights activists who were some of the first to champion their right to drive in the kingdom also spoke at the conference, calling for the immediate release of those locked up.
Amani al-Ahmadi said: "We never expected things to reach this level of monstrosity."

WATCH: Cengiz - No normal person could imagine such 'horrific' crime (1:38)

Ahmadi spoke of the reports of sexual harassment being used as punishment against female detainees held after a wave of arrests of women's rights activists earlier this year.  "Women have been second-class citizens," she said. "Only with the freedom of women can society be free."     While Prince Mohammed has presented himself as a "reformist", he has imprisoned activists, religious reformists and academics without charge.

"The struggle has reached every home," Assiri said. "Everyone is struggling with unemployment, with repression."    But Assiri added he believes things are changing. "Opposition to the regime is fashionable now. Lots of the youth define themselves as human rights defenders and feminists," he said.
Senators also pass resolution saying that Mohammed bin Salman is responsible for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
William Roberts


Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is seriously considering a summit meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with US President Donald Trump playing host, a report says.  The meeting between bin Salman, also known as MbS, and Netanyahu is to be a “game-changing” Camp David-style one, the Middle East Eyesaid in a report.  

Bin Salman has asked an emergency task force dealing with the fallout of the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi to study the idea of a meeting with Netanyahu, sources in the kingdom with close knowledge of the discussions told Middle East Eye.  Israel's Maariv newspaper reported in June that bin Salman and Netanyahu had held secret meetings in Amman both with and without the presence of Jordan’s King Abdullah.

However, the sources say the idea of exchanging a handshake with Netanyahu has divided a Saudi task force, which includes intelligence, army, media and foreign office officials and political advisers.  “Some voiced concern about the consequences of this on the Arab and Muslim world,” the source said.   Others in the task force were more enthusiastic. “They thought that the Arab Spring is so divided, and that things are under control,” said the source, referring to the political forces connected to the so-called Arab Spring movement, who would strongly object to the normalizing of ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel.

The task force noted the absence of any real reaction on the Arab street to the recent visits of Netanyahu and Israeli ministers and athletes to the Persian Gulf states of Omanthe United Arab EmiratesBahrain and Qatar.  They also thought they could control reaction inside the kingdom by “using the religious authorities to justify it”, the source said.

“MbS is keen on the idea. He comes from a new generation and does not feel the weight of history on his shoulders. He has shown this repeatedly. He has no particular sympathy with the Palestinian cause,” the source added.

The final recommendation of the task force was to ask for more time to prepare the public opinion.  The plan is to present the crown prince, who is accused of being behind Khashoggi’s murder, as a so-called Arab peacemaker in the mould of the former Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat.  Sadat shook hands with Israeli Prime Minister Menachim Begin in 1978 in a meeting hosted by US President Jimmy Carter at Camp David, the president's country retreat.

Bin Salman believes that the photo opportunity alone would be big enough to influence the upcoming and inherently more hostile US Congress in January as he has faced unprecedented criticism in Congress from both US political parties over the Saudi war on Yemen.  On Thursday, the Senate voted to stop US armed forces from supporting Saudi Arabia in its military aggression against its impoverished southern neighbor.  The historic bipartisan vote, for the first time, invoked Congress' war powers to challenge US military involvement abroad despite the Trump’s unwavering support for the Saudis in the war. US senators also unanimously approved a nonbinding resolution naming bin Salman as responsible for Khashoggi's murder.

The report of bin Salman’s move came shortly after Netanyahu reiterated his support for the Saudi regime, saying criticisms of the murder of Khashoggi should not go as far as posing a risk to the kingdom’s stability.

Speaking to foreign journalists on Wednesday, Netanyahu said Khashoggi’s early October assassination in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul was “balanced by the importance of Saudi Arabia and the role it plays in the Middle East.”  “What happened in Istanbul is nothing short of horrific. But it’s balanced by the importance of Saudi Arabia and the role it plays in the Middle East,” Netanyahu said. “Because if Saudi Arabia would be destabilized, the world, not the Middle East, will be destabilized.”  Israel’s premier voices tacit support for Saudi Arabia amid the Khashoggi crisis, saying the kingdom should remain stable.

The idea of a meeting with the Netanyahu leader has reportedly been floating around for some time. The Israelis and Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and Middle East envoy, had asked for it even before the Khashoggi crisis kicked in, the Saudi source said.  “The aim of the 'Deal of the Century' is to normalize relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel. But there was not talk about a specific day or date,” the source said, referring to the Trump- and Saudi-backed peace plan for Palestine.  Saudi Arabia does not officially recognize Israel and has no formal ties with the Tel Aviv . However, the two sides have been widely reported to have cooperated secretly for years. The warming of Riyadh-Tel Aviv relations has gathered pace since June 2017, when bin Salman became the crown prince and the kingdom’s de facto leader.

The Saudi crown prince is the key Arab linchpin of the Trump-Netanyahu deal of the century and shares Netnayahu's animosity toward both Iran and Erdogan

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