17 October 2018   Leave a comment

There is an increasingly surreal discussion going on about the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.  He entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul 15 days ago and has not been seen since.  There are widespread reports of a audio documenting Khashoggi’s torture, dismemberment, and death, but we have little direct confirmation of what the audio reveals.  The closest direct description of the audio evidence that I have been able to find was revealed by Middle East Eye:

“It took seven minutes for Jamal Khashoggi to die, a Turkish source who has listened in full to an audio recording of the Saudi journalist’s last moments told Middle East Eye.

“Khashoggi was dragged from the consul-general’s office at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and onto the table of his study next door, the Turkish source said.

“Horrendous screams were then heard by a witness downstairs, the source said.

“‘The consul himself was taken out of the room. There was no attempt to interrogate him. They had come to kill him,’ the source told MEE.

“The screaming stopped when Khashoggi – who was last seen entering the Saudi consulate on 2 October – was injected with an as yet unknown substance.

“Salah Muhammad al-Tubaigy, who has been identified as the head of forensic evidence in the Saudi general security department, was one of the 15-member squad who arrived in Ankara earlier that day on a private jet.

“Tubaigy began to cut Khashoggi’s body up on a table in the study while he was still alive, the Turkish source said.

“The killing took seven minutes, the source said.

“As he started to dismember the body, Tubaigy put on earphones and listened to music. He advised other members of the squad to do the same.

“’When I do this job, I listen to music. You should do [that] too,’ Tubaigy was recorded as saying, the source told MEE.

“A three-minute version of the audio tape has been given to Turkish newspaper Sabah, but they have yet to release it.”

This description may or may not be accurate.  The Turks claim to have the audio evidence but they have yet to release it.  That reluctance may be due to a desire by the Turks not to reveal their surveillance of the Saudi Consulate.  Or it may be because the Turks are using the tape to force concessions from Saudi Arabia on matters concerning Syria, the Kurds, or the location of gas pipelines from Qatar.

What we do know is that US President Trump sent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on a fact-finding mission.  The photograph of the meeting between Pompeo and Saudi Crown Prince Salman is strikingly dissonant–the smiles belie the seriousness of the matter being discussed. 

Moreover, when Pompeo left Turkey, he made this comment about his fact-finding mission to the press:  “I don’t want to talk about any of the facts. They [the Saudis] didn’t want to either, in that they want to have the opportunity to complete this investigation in a thorough way.”  Deferring to the Saudi self-interrogation of this crime is a pathetic position.  Obviously, the US is not really interested at all in finding out the truth.  It is also not clear how much financial interests are driving US policy toward Saudi Arabia. 

More importantly, it appears as if Pompeo failed to negotiate some sort of rapprochement between Turkey and Saudi Arabia.  Instead, it appears as if President Trump’s defense of the Crown Prince has angered Turkish President Erdogan.  US-Turkish relations are already fragile, but if the charges against the Crown Prince are proven, Turkey will emerge as a more powerful actor in the Middle East. 

Donald Trump and Saudi King Salman, May 20, 2017

Posted October 17, 2018 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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