Saudi Arabia has now finally changed its story about the disappearance and alleged murder of American-Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey. Now they admit he was killed, but by accident, in a “fist fight” during “discussions” that took place with him at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
This stands in diametric contradiction to Saudi Arabia’s original claim that Khashoggi, 59, had gone missing after leaving the Consulate building through the back door on October 2nd – for which there was absolutely no evidence.
For most people, this is a macabre farce. Who could possibly take these new claims seriously?
Donald Trump. He says these claims are “credible”.
Donald Trump said Saudi Arabia’s announcement on the circumstances of Khashoggi’s death was credible and a “good first step” but that what happened was “unacceptable”. He also said he preferred that any sanctions against Riyadh not include cancelling large defence orders.
Trump began apologizing for the Saudis almost from the start of the affair. He made clear at an Oval Office meeting (October 11th), how money mattered a lot here, downplaying Khashoggi’s ties to the US:
“This took place in Turkey, and to the best of our knowledge Khashoggi is not a United States citizen. He’s a permanent resident. We don’t like it even a little bit. But as to whether or not we should stop $110 billion from being spent in this country, knowing that they have four or five alternatives – two very good alternatives – that would not be acceptable to me.”
Then we began hearing reports that Saudi Arabia might change its story, to admit a killing and frame it as an accident, or possibly by ‘rogue killers’. Trump, having talked to his buddy Mohammad bin Salman, promoted the rogue operation narrative (October 15th):
“It sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers — who knows”.
Israel is also feeling uncomfortable about this, as Saudi Arabia is a key strategic partner to the fight against Iran, as well as a means of pressing Palestinians to accept their Bantustanization and surrender once and for all. So Israeli apologists are busy smearing Khashoggi as a terrorist and victim of his own politics. A smear piece even appeared in Haaretz, albeit with the qualification that there is “no justification for his murder” (opinion by Petra Marquardt-Bigman). “Don’t whitewash what he believed – his commitment to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, his hope that Israel would ‘die by force’, and the anti-Semitic Islamists with whom he spent his final days.”
Former US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro, also writing in Haaretz, analyzed the strategic alliance between Israel and Saudi Arabia and pointed out why this story was disastrous for it, in his piece titled “Why the Kashoggi Murder Is a Disaster for Israel”:
“The grisly hit-job on Khashoggi has implications far beyond its exposure of the Saudi Crown Prince as brutal and reckless. In Jerusalem and D.C., they’re mourning their whole strategic concept for the Mideast – not least, for countering Iran”.
It’s clear that the Saudi regime are murderous liars. Shapiro:
“But now, clearly at MBS’s direction, a terrible murder was committed, essentially out in the open. And the Saudis lied about it to President Trump for days. They are still lying. Trump himself may care little, motivated by his own amorality or the over-hyped job-creating impact of Saudi weapons orders.”
The Israeli response to all this has unsurprisingly been very quiet, no tweets from Netanyahu, and the mainstream press has generally been quite low-key about the Israel connection.
Mohammed bin Salman has been a dream for the US and Israel. He has shown clear Zionist tendencies, including a derisory attitude towards Palestinians. But this Saudi-horror-story of murder and body dismemberment is not looking good. Every new episode the Saudis come up with is only making it worse.
One could have suggested that an autopsy be done on Khashoggi, but it appears that a top Saudi doctor of forensics was already involved in a similar act – apparently going all the way to completely dismember every part of Kashoggi’s body into oblivion. It may prove to be difficult to determine whether the “fist fight” took place before, or after, Khashoggi’s hands were cut off, during those “discussions” that he had at the consulate.
But the Saudi story is now credible. We have to believe it if Donald Trump says so. And 110 billion Dollars cannot possibly be wrong.
H/t Tom Lawrence