Trump’s ham-fisted or perhaps trotter-fisted excuses for Saudi Arabia are now melting in light of more actual facts as more of the Saudi death squad are identified. Their connections to MBS are now even more clear and documented. Plausibility is dissolving for Lord Dampnut. More interesting is that without all the intrigue, Trump and Kushner are simply two mobsters covering up a murder.
For the better part of the last week, President Trump has been building a Saudi-friendly narrative about journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance. He suggested it was “rogue killers” after Saudi King Salman planted that seed in his head. He also rather helpfully and uncritically scaled back the Saudis’ denials, noting that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman denied “knowledge” of what happened — though perhaps not necessarily that it happened, as the Saudis initially denied.
As The Washington Post is now reporting, 11 of the 15 Saudis that the Turkish government says were sent to the consulate in Istanbul as part of a hit squad to kill Khashoggi have ties to the Saudi security services. One of them, Khalid Aedh Alotaibi, even came to Washington ahead of the crown prince’s cross-country tour of the United States earlier this year.
But if this is an accurate portrayal of what occurred, it’s almost impossible to believe this wasn’t a deliberate hit.
Trump even likened the need for due process for the crown prince to sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh. Asked Wednesday whether he would walk away from the Saudis, Trump said, “No, I don’t want to do that.”
But as the debate over U.S.-Russia relations has shown, just because Trump is extremely resistant to getting tough on human rights abusers doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Sometimes the circumstances can’t be ignored and can be spun only so much. Giving the Saudis a pass requires it to be plausible that the royal family didn’t order or sanction a hit.
That’s becoming less and less plausible a case for Trump to make.
Will the thoroughness of a subsequent FBI investigation of Khashoggi’s death resemble that of its investigation of Brett Kavanaugh.
Leaks appeared to resume on Wednesday after Saudi leaders repeated their denials of involvement to Mr. Pompeo, and Mr. Trump defended the crown prince as having been unfairly accused.
The real issues are about plans the WH has to continue an offensive against Iran, without screwing up the price of oil.
White House officials are worried that the apparent killing of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and Saudi Arabia’s changing account of his fate, could derail a showdown with Iran and jeopardize plans to enlist Saudi help to avoid disrupting the oil market.
Officials said the dilemma comes at a fraught moment for the Trump administration, which is expected to reimpose harsh sanctions against Iran on Nov. 5, with the intent of cutting off all Iranian oil exports.
But to make the strategy work, the administration is counting on its relationship with the Saudis to keep global oil flowing without spiking prices, and to work together on a new policy to contain Iran in the Persian Gulf.
If that carefully coordinated plan moves forward, the Saudis would likely see a significant increase in oil revenue at exactly the moment Congress is talking about penalizing the kingdom over the Khashoggi case. It is one reason that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was sent, with a few hours’ notice, to see King Salman of Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday.
This Greg Olear tweet thread has an interesting take
- 1/ Kushner & Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) have “forged a bond” the last two years. They are both about the same age, both ambitious, both the hidden powers behind their respective thrones, both men of wealth & taste. Born on third base and think they hit a triple, as the joke goes.
- 2/ In Riyadh last October, on Kushner’s sudden unannounced trip, the two stayed up until four in the morning, “swapping stories and planning strategy.” One of the “stories” swapped, apparently, was classified information compiled from the President’s Daily Brief.
- 3/ Kushner gave MBS and “enemies list” of members of the Saudi royal family who didn’t like him. Within two weeks of the meeting, MBS rounded up those people, seized their considerable assets, and threw them in jail.
4/ The money MBS stole from one of his rich relations was almost exactly the amount of the $110 billion arms deal Trump keeps raving about. It’s almost like MBS shook down his cousin to find financing for the arms deal.
- 5/ Soon after the Riyadh all-nighter, after many futile months of trying, Kushner finally secured a bailout for his albatross of a loan on the 666 Fifth Avenue property that threatened to bankrupt the family business and ruin him personally.
- 6/ The partner in the deal, Brookfield Property Partners, is funded by the government of Qatar. Did MBS use his leverage to make the Qataris do the deal? Is that what he meant when he told the UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed that Kushner was “in his pocket?”
- 7/ The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), our supposed ally, is one of the more repressive regimes going. Women are famously treated as second-class citizens. It is illegal to be gay, to speak ill of the kingly government, to not be Muslim.
- 8/ The operative word for the Saudi royal family is: effete. All their sword-dancing and infidel-beheading can’t change the fact that their economy is based purely on a rapidly diminishing natural resource. Absent reforms, the West will have no use for KSA when the oil is gone.
- 9/ Put it this way: outside of the milquetoast royal family, the most famous KSA nationals are arms dealers and terrorists: Iran-Contra figure Adnan Khashoggi, Osama bin Laden, 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers. No artists, no writers, no filmmakers. It’s a cultural wasteland.
- 10/ MBS has set out to diversify the economy. He wants to take the money generated from the oil and invest it overseas. In 2016, MBS launched Saudi Vision 2030, which is not a fancy TV set but rather an ambitious plan to expand into healthcare, tech, entertainment, and tourism.
- 11/ And MBS wants the West to perceive him as a reformer — as a Good Guy, as a hero. To that end, he imposed a long-overdue series of modernizations: allowing women to drive, allowing women to attend sporting events, and restricting the powers of the religious police.
- 12/ Unfortunately, MBS is not all women’s driver’s permits & tech deals. He also has quite the dark side. He engineered the Stalinesque purge of his rivals in the royal family. Human rights activities are subjected to greater persecution under him than in previous regimes.
- 13/ And his military intervention in Yemen has been appalling; the Saudi blockade of the country has been nothing short of an atrocity. Again like Stalin, MBS has engineered a humanitarian crisis that will cause millions of innocent people to starve.
- 14/ MBS has all the hallmarks of a tyrant in the making. Which endears him all the more to the current US president [sic], who has pledged his undying love for mobster dictators who give him money.
- 15/ Khashoggi was the editor-in-chief of Al-Arab News Channel & the Saudi newspaper Al Watan, & for years enjoyed a cozy and collegial relationship with the royal family. He was not a gadfly; he was an insider, more Joe Scarborough than Michael Moore. Certainly he was no radical.
- 16/ His status changed in 2016, when MBS assumed control. Khashoggi was critical of the Crown Prince, particularly his detention of the Saudi human rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul, and vehemently opposed the KSA’s intervention in Yemen.
- 17/ Khashoggi left KSA last June and began writing for the Washington Post in September of 2017. He was banned from Saudi media AFTER BEING CRITICAL OF DONALD TRUMP. Khashoggi drew a lot of water inside the Beltway. People knew him in Washington, people respected him.
- 18/ Khashoggi was a prominent man from a prominent family, who was living in the United States. Who had come more or less seeking asylum. And who wound up literally chopped into pieces — by order of MBS. And Trump and Kushner continue to defend the Crown Prince!
- 19/ This is not just about petrol, however. This is about capital investment, the highest of high finance. Already, MBS has his chubby fingers in any number of pies in Hollywood, Wall Street, and Silicon Valley.
- 20/ At the moment, there is no US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Kushner serves as the de facto ambassador, through his bromance with MBS. This is a VERY unusual and ineffective arrangement.
- 21/ When Mr. Ivanka and the Crown Prince pull an all-nighter, we don’t know if Kushner is representing the United States of America or his own business interests. The two do not necessarily align.
- 22/ Kushner is not the most transparent fellow. Recall his clumsy attempt to establish a backchannel at the Russian embassy, and his sub rosa meeting with the sanctioned VEB bank president Sergei Gorkov. West Wing staff often have no inkling what he’s up to.
- 23/ Meanwhile, thanks to Rex Tillerson’s change to President Obama’s policy to not sell precision-guided military weapons to the Kingdom, those weapons we’ve sold to the Saudis are being used to kill innocent children in Yemen. WHAT THE F DOES TRUMP HAVE AGAINST CHILDREN?
- 24/ The “arms deal” Trump touts amounts to the US providing weapons that the Saudis use on Yemeni children. Yes, it’s good for American companies. No doubt Auschwitz & Dachau were steady customers for the manufacturers of Zyklon B. At a certain point, ethics must trump profits.
- 25/ The Saudi attempt at damage control in the wake of the Khashoggi assassination has been just as clumsy and ineffectual as the hit itself. At this point, the only human being who doubts MBS had Khashoggi killed is Trump.
- 26/ Trump himself participated in the cover-up, explaining that the king denied the charges, and that he believed him; he suggested that unnamed “rogue killers” did the job, leading to a Twitter explosion of “400-pound-man” jokes.
- 27/ KSA is contemplating admitting that Khashoggi’s death was the result of a botched interrogation. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a Trumpist puppet, is in the Kingdom as I type this, making nice-nice, and presumably crafting a remotely credible cover story.
- 28/ Meanwhile, the Turkish president Erdogan has suggested that there is evidence that Khashoggi was murdered brutally at the KSA consulate in Istanbul. At this point, alas, there seems to be no dispute of that.
- 29/ Understand: Trump and Kushner both have skin in the game. First, Khashoggi was not banned from Saudi media for his criticisms of MBS, but rather for his criticisms of Donald Trump.
- 30/ More importantly, as US intelligence knew of MbS’s plan to lure Khashoggi back to the Kingdom to arrest him, the President and the de facto Ambassador to KSA must also have known. If they knew, and did not share the information with Khashoggi, they are criminally liable.
- 31/ The Kingdom’s been less, not more, helpful as a counterterrorism partner under MbS. The big deal trumpeted by Trump involves arms being used to exterminate children. Why exactly are Trump and Kushner going to the mat for MbS? Is it to advance US interests…or their own?
- 32/ Whatever the case, MbS, Jared Kushner, and Donald Trump appear complicit in the execution of Jamal Khashoggi. The world media must undercover the true story, financial leaders must continue to shun the KSA, and Congress must investigate, immediately, Kushner’s role.
33/ More details will come out, I’m sure, as this story has legs. Trump and Kushner will look like what they are: two mobsters who participated in a cover-up of a murder, to help one of their effete creditors.
- PS This long thread derived from the full piece, which contains all the relevant links and sourcing: Two Princes: Kushner, Khashoggi, and the Kingdom’s MbS
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.