President Donald Trump holds a sword and sways with traditional dancers during a welcome ceremony at Murabba Palace, Saturday, May 20, 2017, in Riyadh. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
By Dr. Larry Fedewa (October 21,2018)
British Journalist Melanie Phillips provides a different narrative of the final hours of Jamal Khashoggi in her Jewish News Service column (October 18, 2018).Far from being the liberal Washington Post opponent of revisionist Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (called MBS for short) because MBS’ reforms are too little too late, Phillips asserts that he was in reality a double agent with ties to both the radical Muslim Brotherhood and the Saudi intelligence service.
Of late, he had been straying off the beaten path by connecting with the Turkey/Qatar faction which opposes the Saudi/US/ Israel triad for leadership of Sunni Islam. In fact, he visited the Saudi embassy on that fateful day to secure Saudi government permission to marry his Turkish fiancé, who is a Turkish diplomat and daughter of a former advisor to Turkish President Erdogan.
As a Saudi intelligence asset for twenty years, Phillips reports, Khashoggi possessed a wealth of secret information which it now appeared was available to the opposition. Not only did the Saudis not want to kill him, she says, they wanted him alive and talking, preferably in a Riyadh jail. That is why they sent a large “extraction team” rather than a lone assassin. Apparently, what happened was an accident caused by his attempt to fight his way out of the trap. He was 60 years old and overweight with a heart condition. The whereabouts of the body is unknown as of this writing, but that fact has the earmark of a panicked reaction on the part of the team.
If this account is closer to the truth than the Turks’ account which has been leaked to the international press and which was the account first made public, then the American response will be different than assumed to date. In the first place, the victim is not the Washington Post hero we have been led to believe. Jamal Khashoggi may have been one of the “bad guys”. Secondly, the Saudis did not murder him; he died in a fight against his arrest by his government. Thirdly, while MBS probably was aware of the plan to arrest and transport the traitor, he is not responsible for Khashoggi’s death.
If this whole thing was an accident, then why the mass firings and suspensions of the team members and their leaders? That is a good question. The proper answer will become more obvious when we hear the punishment the King will determine. If there was an intentional murder, the punishment would likely be arrest and trial. If accidental death, the punishment for poor judgement, incompetent performance and inadequate planning would be substantially less, one would expect.
Unfortunately, the Saudi accounts of the incident have shifted from “he left the embassy alive” to “he was accidently killed in a fight” to “we haven’t found the corpse” – all of which have undermined the credibility of anything they will have to say. The assumption is that they are desperately trying to exonerate MBS. Calls from American observers for replacement of MBS by the King are growing.
In the final analysis, the American response must be proportionate to the facts (as we perceived them to be). The underlying considerations are two: 1) Saudi Arabia is a sovereign country with traditions and values far different than our own in matters of human rights and laws; and 2) the Kingdom is a vital ally in our contest with the Shiite Arabs, led by Iran and including Syria and Palestine.
The long-standing alliance between our two countries has recently been expanded with the commitments of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the other Sunni Muslim countries to support not only US policies against terrorists, but also US support of Israel against the Palestinians.These considerations must be protected in any American response to the Khashoggi matter.
Our own interests must be placed ahead of calls of outrage because our government’s first priority is the protection of our own country. Not to mention the fact that America’s murder of another Saudi citizen named Osama Bin Laden was undertaken and applauded with nearly universal American support. While the context was different, the operation was executed with strikingly similar characteristics to that imputed to the Saudis by the Turks. The point being that America, like all other nations, tends to take extreme measures to advance its security.
America’s goal in the Middle East is a lasting peace – so that our own troops and bases can leave. That cannot happen unless there is a solution to the 1000-year old war between the Shiites and the Sunnis. The Trump administration has picked the Sunnis over the Obama choice of the Shiites – for better or worse.When deciding the official response to the Khashoggi matter, it will be worthwhile to recall the picture of the American President addressing a roomful of Muslim heads- of- state for the first time in history during President Trump’s 2017 conference in Riyadh.
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