From Director’s Desk
Written by : Jayanta Chakrabarty
Illustration – Sagar Mondal
On 25th October, Saudi public prosecutor declared, “Assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul consulate was ‘premeditated’.
On the other hand, Saudi Investment summit secured deals worth $56bn, irrespective of absence of a great number of politicians and big corporate houses from the USA and Western European countries who pulled out in suspicion of Kingdom’s direct link to the assassination.
Both of the events went under the close supervision of the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS to the elites in the western hemisphere, especially in the USA where he was hailed as JFK of the Middle East last spring, and his three week long official visit was called as resounding success. President Donald Trump praised and adored him as his best friend’s son.
A strong young man who has removed all other contenders to the throne of a kingdom which holds world’s largest crude oil production capacity. He became the best buddy of the son-in-law of the President.
A fabulous Royal visit with an offer of purchasing of arms worth of $110bn. A lot of jobs in America. Very Good Deal indeed.
The Republican Senator Lindsey Graham didn’t miss the photo opportunity of that Gala Event, neither the Democrats were shy to embrace the revolution happening in the House of Saud. Women will drive cars and people can watch movies, and a futuristic city in vision.
The war in Yemen was entering into its fourth year.
In August, Canada tweeted questioning mildly the arrest of Samar Badawi and the situation of human right in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and was rebuked harshly with immediate expulsion of Canadian ambassador from Riyadh and other sanctions. Canada has to digest the outcome in silence as the question of independence of Quebec surfaced in addition.
All the great world leaders were busy. Trump in making America Great Again. Theresa May in looking a way out of Brexit, Emmanuel Macron in making the Planet Great Again, and Angela Merkel in finding partners to form a government.
Came October the 2nd. Jamal Khashoggi, who used to be an intricate part of the inner circle of Saudi Royal family until the mid 2017, then fled the country to become the critic of the style of functioning of the Crown Prince in his reform and modernisation drive inside the Kingdom, got inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to pick up divorce certificate required to marry his Turkish fiancée who had been waiting outside in a car for his return. But, that did never happen.
Death of a journalist or a dissident is no big news nowadays. President Putin has made it a casual event. But the problem intensified as the news surfaced that Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate, and his body cut apart in pieces with a bone saw. It was too grotesque to imagine such a scene, even for those who have seen Donnie Brasco.
And Saudi side flatly denied all of it saying that Khashoggi had left the consulate premises from the backdoor, and indicated that other hostile parties towards the Kingdom is behind his disappearance. No one believed except Donald Trump. His administration was busy slapping sanctions on Iran in the beginning of November. What a distraction!
As the story started to unravel slowly by the leaks from Turkish unnamed officials and medias, the public opinion started to mobilise and even inside the US Senate and House of Representative. Under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, the Trump administration would have to report on the conclusions of the investigation and a decision on sanctions against the perpetrators.
The White House started looking for a face-saving formula.
A number of tech giants, banks and institutions made public their decision of not attending the forthcoming Global Investment summit in Riyadh.
Hence, Trump unleashed his flip-flop:
“I don’t like stopping massive amounts of money that’s being poured into our country – they are spending $110bn on military equipment and on things that create jobs for this country.” – 11 October
“The king firmly denied any knowledge of it,” “I don’t want to get into (Salman’s) mind,” “it sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers. I mean, who knows? We’re going to try getting to the bottom of it very soon, but his was a flat denial.” – 16 October.
“Just spoke with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia who totally denied any knowledge of what took place in their Turkish Consulate. He was with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo….during the call, and told me that he has already started, and will rapidly expand, a full and complete investigation into this matter. Answers will be forthcoming shortly” – 16 October
“We’re being very tough. And we have investigators over there and we’re working with Turkey, and frankly we’re working with Saudi Arabia. We want to find out what happened,” – 18 October.
On October 19, Saudi government finally acknowledged the death of Khashoggi and came out with a story that he died accidentally after a fistfight within the consulate.
Trump called it “a good first step” and “credible”, and vowed “severe punishment” should the United States find Saudi Arabia responsible for the death of Khashoggi — but he doesn’t intend to back down on a lucrative arms deal with the kingdom.
“Here we go again with you’re guilty until proven innocent,” comparing the allegations against Saudi Arabia to the sexual misconduct allegations from multiple women against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing.
In the meantime, Trump inflated the amount of proposed Saudi investment in USA at $450bn and a possible job creation from 200000 to 1 million. But Lindsy Graham and Paul Rand didn’t seem very impressed with those figures. MBS has really touched their honour (democratic value). The old capitalism is on the wane.
President Erdogan has his own cards to play and he is an experienced and crafty player. He hasn’t forgotten his humiliation caused by sanctions slapped on Turkey by Trump administration on the issue of liberating American Evangelical priest, and MBS’s declaration that Turkey is part of ‘triangle of evil’.
And Trump expressed his frustration.
“They had a very bad original concept, it was carried out poorly and the cover-up was one of the worst in the history of cover-ups. Somebody really messed up, and they had the worst cover-up ever.”
“He’s running things and so if anybody were going to be, it would be him,”
I’d like that to be [a] bipartisan recommendation and I think we can get a bipartisan recommendation because I don’t think they feel any differently than I do, it’s a terrible thing,”
Now Trump administration is taking some steps to sanction the perpetrators of the murder. But who gave licence to those 18 men to kill Khashoggi?
But Saudi Investment summit went on as planned. There were investors from Russia, China and Japan. The Crown Prince declared that the Middle East will take the place of Europe… “time has come to restructure the sectors of the national security in Saudi Arabia in line with the economic sectors’ growth in the Kingdom.” He has all the applause. The West has served their role to consolidate his power in the Kingdom as he said in the CBS interview that only the death can stop him from ruling.
Now, if the Western powers rebuke him for his actions, he has got other players on his side, especially the UAE. He is there to stay. Trump needs him more than he needs Trump if Trump continues his war games with Iran. MBS has proven himself shrewder than him, and has also outwitted Jared Kushner. He had let Trump dance to the tune of that $110bn arms deal. He is not anyway going to increase the production of petrol. There is Russia. There is China (facing economic stagnation in front of Trump’s tariff game) and its the proposition of direct acquisition of 5% stock of Aramco. Russia and China don’t question on what happen inside the Consulate of a sovereign country. The Chief of Interpol can disappear in China, and no one questions.
Probably no one will ever know, even if President Erdogan vows to make public the naked truth, whether Jamal Khashoggi was really dismembered with a bone saw when he was still alive. But the idea of such macabre scene will sow fear among the dissidents to express their views against Mohammed bin Salman. He is also the winner here.
In the meantime, the USA should find another face saving formula to resolve problems with Nicolas Maduro as Venezuela has plenty of oil, and China didn’t come to his rescue as he expected earlier. The age of New World Order is at our doorstep, high time for realignments.
Donald has lost his Trump Card in the Middle East. Very Bad Deal indeed.