TRUMP MEMO On Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia

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Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in 2017. CreditCreditFaisal Al Nasser/Reuters

Memo to: US President Trump.

Date: March 6, 2018

From: The U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia (if we had one.)

Subject: Saudi crown prince visit

Mr. President, in advance of the visit by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a.k.a. M.B.S., I want to share some thoughts:

It’s only a matter of time before King Salman turns over the reins of power to M.B.S., who’s already the effective ruler. M.B.S. is not a democrat, nor is he interested in promoting democracy. He’s a modernizing autocrat. The most we can expect from him is the modernization of Saudi Arabia’s economy and religious/social structure, but given how badly the country has stagnated from years of tentative reforms, this is deeply significant.

M.B.S. is definitely bold. I can think of no one else in the ruling family who would have put in place the profound social, religious and economic reforms that he’s dared to do — and all at once. But I can also think of no one in that family who’d have undertaken the bullying foreign policy initiatives, domestic power plays and excessive personal buying sprees he’s dared to do, all at once. They are two halves of the same M.B.S. package. Our job: help curb his bad impulses and nurture his good ones.

His potential is vast. M.B.S. is trying to forge a societal transformation in Saudi Arabia. Call it “one country, two systems.” For those who want piety, the mosque, Mecca and Islamic education, they’ll all be available and respected. But for those who want modern education and a more normal social life between men and women — and access to Western film, music and the arts — those too will be available and respected. No more religious domination. That is huge.

Thomas L. Friedman became the paper’s foreign affairs Op-Ed columnist in 1995. He joined the paper in 1981, after which he served as the Beirut bureau chief in 1982, Jerusalem bureau chief in 1984, and then in Washington as the diplomatic correspondent in 1989, and later the White House correspondent and economic correspondent.

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Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi Was Strangled And Dismembered;Turkish Prosecutor

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The prosecutor said in a statement that it was a “premeditated” attack.

Riyadh has admitted that a pre-meditated plan was made to kill Khashoggi [Reuters]

|CRIMSON TAZVINZWA, AIWA! NO!|Jamal Khashoggi was strangled as soon as he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and then his body was dismembered, the office of city’s chief prosecutor said on Wednesday, in the first official comment in a case that has caused a global outrage.

“In accordance with plans made in advance, the victim, Jamal Khashoggi, was choked to death immediately after entering the Consulate General of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, for marriage formalities,” the statement said.

“The victim’s body was dismembered and destroyed following his death by suffocation – again, in line with advance plans,” it added.

In a statement released to the Turkish press on Wednesday, Istanbul’s top prosecutor Irfan Fidan described the killing as “premeditated” and categorized recent meetings with Saudi Arabia’s prosecutor about the ongoing investigation as less than helpful.

“Despite all our good intentions and efforts to unravel the truth, a concrete outcome was not reached from the meetings,” Fidan’s statement said. The Saudi official, Saud al-Mujeb, had spent three days conferring with Turkish authorities in Istanbul but was scheduled to head back to Saudi Arabia later that day.

In a statement released to the Turkish press on Wednesday, Istanbul’s top prosecutor Irfan Fidan described the killing as “premeditated” and categorized recent meetings with Saudi Arabia’s prosecutor about the ongoing investigation as less than helpful.

“Despite all our good intentions and efforts to unravel the truth, a concrete outcome was not reached from the meetings,” Fidan’s statement said. The Saudi official, Saud al-Mujeb, had spent three days conferring with Turkish authorities in Istanbul but was scheduled to head back to Saudi Arabia later that day.

The Saudis maintain that Khashoggi died as the result of a rogue operation gone awry and have detained 18 people in connection to the case.

However, Turkish authorities and many experts believe that Saudi Arabia’s young crown prince and de facto ruler, Mohammed bin Salman, likely ordered the operation that led to Khashoggi’s death.

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‘Tainted’ Saudi prince ruins Trump’s Middle East plans: analysts

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US policy to ‘subcontract’ Saudi Arabia to handle Iran in jeopardy after evidence points to MBS role in Khashoggi death.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman delivers a speech at ‘Davos in the desert’ on Wednesday [Bandar Algaloud via Reuters]

|AIWA! NO!|Widespread allegations that powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) played a role in journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder has thrown American plans in the Middle East into disarray, analysts say.

Martin Indyk, a top Middle East policymaker under Bill Clinton, said President Donald Trump had in effect tried to subcontract policy in the region to Saudi Arabia and Israel as he lessens US commitments.

But Indyk said bin Salman instead brought headaches for Washington – not only Khashoggi’s killing but in Yemen where the United States is backing a Saudi-led bombing campaign against Houthi rebels.

“Mohammed bin Salman needs Trump – his very survival depends on Trump working with him,” said Indyk, now at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“So we have the opportunity – if we decide we’re not going to ask the [Saudi] king to remove him discreetly – to … sit down with him and say, ‘listen, we can’t go on like this’,” Indyk said.

“But I don’t think Trump has any concept of the need to do that, let alone how to do that, and therefore I fear that Mohammed bin Salman will survive, but he will continue on the path that only advantages Iran and gets the United States continuously into trouble.”

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Trump was asked about bin Salman’s possible involvement in Khashoggi’s murder. “He’s running things and so if anybody were going to be, it would be him,” the president responded.

Despite the evidence and international pressure, the crown prince has denied any role in the killing of Khashoggi, a critic of bin Salman who wrote for The Washington Post.

‘Permanently weakened’

The United States has pushed ahead with a bid to create a new security and political alliance with six Gulf Arab states, Egypt and Jordan in part to counter Iran’s expansion in the region.

The plan was create what officials in the White House and Middle East have called an “Arab NATO“.

Saudi officials raised the idea of a security pact in advance of Trump’s visit last year to Saudi Arabia, where he announced a massive arms deal.

Joseph Bahout, a scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the crown prince will need to show he is tough at home but will now face “constant blackmail” from abroad.

“It will play out, paradoxically, in very divergent directions. If MBS survives this crisis and he stays in power and becomes king, he will be a permanently weakened monarch, but very fierce at the same time,” Bahout said.

Bin Salman may attempt to show he is a solid US ally by taking an even harder line against Iran, enemy number one for the Trump administration, or, in a less likely scenario, by enacting liberal reforms, Bahout said.

But the heir apparent could also need to please Turkey, which has been leaking details about Khashoggi’s murder.

Turkey ties

Bahout said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan could pressure Saudi Arabia to repair ties with Turkish ally Qatar, which is under a blockade from Gulf Arab states, or to ease pressure on the Muslim Brotherhood, which the kingdom has seen as a threat for its role in Arab Spring protests.

“So he [MBS] will be subject to a whole range of demands and extortions in ways that could contradict one another. And he will be in a difficult position,” Bahout said.

Gary Grappo, a former US ambassador to Oman and deputy chief of mission in Riyadh, said bin Salman had solidified power to a level where he is unlikely to be removed – but that Western powers would be increasingly wary of him after Khashoggi’s death.

“The taint of this will be very hard to scrub from the hands of Mohammed bin Salman – most definitely in the short to medium term and perhaps, let’s see, in the long term,” said Grappo, a distinguished fellow at the University of Denver.

After decades of Saudi Arabia buying US weapons and enjoying Washington’s protection, Grappo doubted Saudi Arabia could easily switch to another supplier such as Russia or China.

“I think the balance is much more in our favour, which gives the president far more leverage to deal with this matter than he has let on,” Grappo said.

Can Saudi Arabia get away with murder?

Saudis reportedly scrap coverup plan because Khashoggi ‘body double’ wore the wrong shoes

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Khashoggi ‘body double’ gave the game away by wearing the wrong shoes

  • An alleged Saudi Arabian plot to cover up the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi went awry after a suspected Khashoggi “body double” wore the wrong shoes, a diplomat familiar with the matter told The Washington Post, according to an article published Monday.
  • The report came shortly after CNN published footage that appeared to show a man exiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul Oct. 2 wearing a fake beard and glasses, as well as the pants, shirt and jacket that Khashoggi was seen wearing when he entered the building earlier in the day.
  • “It was a flawed body double, so it never became an official part of the Saudi government’s narrative,” the diplomat told the Post.

 

 

An alleged Saudi plot to cover up the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi went awry after a suspected Khashoggi “body double” wore the wrong shoes, a diplomat familiar with the matter told The Washington Post, according to an article published Monday.

The report came shortly after CNN published footage that appeared to show a man exiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul Oct. 2 wearing a fake beard and glasses, as well as the pants, shirt and jacket that Khashoggi was seen wearing when he entered the building earlier in the day. The man was also captured on video at The Blue Mosque, a historic mosque and tourist attraction in the city.

The Saudi government has provided conflicting explanations for Khashoggi’s killing. For more than two weeks, officials claimed to have no involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance. Over the weekend, state media reversed course, saying that Khashoggi was killed by accident in a fistfight involving a number of Saudi intelligence operatives.

A Turkish official told CNN that the body double was used as a decoy, posing as the journalist to bolster the country’s case that it was not involved in Khashoggi’s killing.

According to The Washington Post report, that plan was soured by a sartorial mishap. In the video footage, the purported body double, identified as Mustafa al-Madani, is wearing different shoes than Khashoggi wore when he entered the consulate.

“It was a flawed body double, so it never became an official part of the Saudi government’s narrative,” the diplomat told the Post.

Jamal Khashoggi: Screaming Saudi journalist was ‘chopped up alive in horrific seven-minute killing’

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WATCH: CCTV SHOWS MISSING JOURNALIST KHASHOGGI ENTERING THE SAUDI EMBASSY IN TURKEY AND 15 SAUDIS ARRIVING THE SAME DAY

|Sophie Evans, MIRROR|AIWA!NO!|Missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi screamed before being chopped up alive in a horrific seven-minute killing, it is claimed.

Mr Khashoggi, 60, a critic of the Saudi leadership, was last seen entering the country’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2.

Turkish officials have said they have recorded evidence that he was assassinated by a 15-strong hit squad who flew in on a private jet.

And now, a source has claimed that Mr Khashoggi was cut up alive by the squad – who listened to music while dismembering his body.

The Turkish source, who has allegedly listened to an audio recording of the journalist’s last moments, says it took seven minutes for him to die.

Jamal Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2 (Image: AFP/Getty Images)

CCTV footage recorded Saudi critic Mr Khashoggi entering the consulate (Image: AFP/Getty Images)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, pictured, is set to meet with Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara today (Image: AFP/Getty Images)

“They had come to kill him,” the source told Middle East Eye (MEE).

It is claimed that Mr Khashoggi was dragged from the Consul General’s office into his study next door, where he was dumped on a table.

Loud screams could then be heard – which only stopped when he was injected with an unknown substance, according to the source.

Moments later, his body was allegedly cut up by the squad.

Forensic evidence expert Salah Muhammad al-Tubaigy has been identified by Turkey as a suspect in the killing and dismemberment.

The source told MEE that Mr Tubaigy listened to music via earphones as he cut up the reporter’s body while he was still breathing.

Turkish police have cordoned off the residence of the Saudi consul following the journalist’s disappearance(Image: AFP/Getty Images)

 

Mr Pompeo is pictured speaking to the media in Riyadh (Image: AFP/Getty Images)

He allegedly advised his accomplices to do the same.

“When I do this job, I listen to music. You should do [that] too,” Mr Tubaigy could be heard saying in the recording, the source said.

Saudi officials have strongly denied any involvement in the journalist’s disappearance, which has made headlines across the world.

The shocking new claims come as Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan is set to meet with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Ankara.

The pair will meet today, the Turkish foreign ministry said, with their talks expected to focus on Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu will also meet with his American counterpart, the ministry added.

Turkish forensic teams are pictured arriving at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 15 (Image: AFP/Getty Images)

An unidentified man tries to hold back the press as Saudi investigators arrive at the Saudi Arabian consulate(Image: Getty Images Europe)

Two trucks are loaded with evidence from Turkish forensic police officers (Image: TOLGA BOZOGLU/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Earlier, US President Donald Trump sensationally gave Saudi Arabia the benefit of the doubt in Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance.

US lawmakers have pointed the finger at the Saudi leadership, while Western pressure has mounted on Riyadh to provide answers.

In an interview with Fox Business Network, Mr Trump said if Saudi Arabia knew what happened in the disappearance, “that would be bad.”

“I think we have to find out what happened first,” he said yesterday.

Speaking to reporters, he also drew comparisons with the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court scandal, adding: “Here we go again with, you know, you’re guilty until proven innocent. I don’t like that.”

The 15 suspects identified by Turkey are accused of dismembering the journalist’s body with a bone saw, the New York Times (NYT) reports.

The US Secretary of State is seen shaking hands with a Saudi official before leaving Riyadh, Saudi Arabia(Image: AFP/Getty Images)

The 15 suspects identified by Turkey are accused of dismembering the journalist’s body with a bone saw(Image: AFP/Getty Images)

At least nine of the suspects worked for the Saudi security services, military or other government ministries, according to the newspaper.

It is alleged they flew out the same day as the killing, and brought the saw with them for the purpose of chopping up Mr Khashoggi’s body.

According to the NYT, records show that two private jets chartered by a Saudi firm arrived and departed from Istanbul on October 2.

Mr Khashoggi, a US resident, wrote columns for the Washington Post and was critical of the Saudi government, calling for reforms.Mr Trump earlier tweeted that Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman denied knowing what happened in the Saudi consulate.

The latest claims follow US media reports that Saudi Arabia will admit the vanished journalist died following a botched interrogation.

A woman holds a portrait of the missing journalist (Image: AFP/Getty Images)

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is pictured during a bilateral meeting with Mr Pompeo yesterday(Image: State Department/Planet Pix via ZUMA Wire/REX/Shutterstock)