How Saudi Arabia Gets Away with Murder

How Saudi Arabia Gets Away with Murder

By Steven Cook – Foreign Policy

On Wednesday, the Saudis opened their annual confab in Riyadh, officially called the Future Investment Initiative but widely referred to as “Davos in the Desert.” That nickname had always annoyed the people who run the World Economic Forum and its signature event in Davos, Switzerland, because they—like most of the rest of the world that is concerned about protecting their brand—haven’t wanted much to do with Saudi Arabia and its crown prince in recent years.

That trend may be coming to an end, however. Increasingly, things are back to business as usual in Riyadh. A veritable A-list of Wall Street and private equity titans flew in for the event this week. Gone are the days when the leaders of the financial services industry stayed away, fearing the reputational costs of becoming associated with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. The remains of the journalist and onetime courtier to Saudi power centers have yet to be found. But investors have now decided there are deals to be done.

They are making a bet that the stated commitment by human rights organizations, journalists, and a relatively bipartisan group of US lawmakers to hold Saudi Arabia accountable doesn’t amount to much—and they may be right.

There is a general expectation in Washington that the Saudis are going to have a rough time with the new Biden administration. During the presidential campaign, Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris vowed that they would “reassess our [America’s] relationship with the kingdom, end US support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, and make sure America does not check its values at the door to sell arms or buy oil.” After being sworn in as president earlier this month, Biden made good on that promise when he froze—at least temporarily—arms sales to Saudi Arabia that his predecessor approved.

Saudi Arabia is a problematic ally. In the last five years, its crown prince launched a futile military campaign in Yemen that has killed and injured tens of thousands of people, oversaw the hit team that dismembered Khashoggi, presided over the arrests and abuse of reformers, and led an international embargo of Qatar [which is also a not a model ally, but it is a critical security partner for the United States]. There are also lingering questions about Saudi Arabia and the role of its citizens in the attacks on New York and Washington in 2001. As much as the Saudis want Americans to forget, there were 15 young Saudi men on those planes, not Qataris.

It is true that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has overseen important social changes in Saudi Arabia that have improved the lives of his citizens, but that does not diminish the entirely reasonable desire to hold the Saudis accountable for his many transgressions. Doing so may be harder than it seems, however.

There was never a chance that the global business community was going to write off Saudi Arabia. Sure, CEOs stayed away for a while, but even at the height of the outrage over Jamal Khashoggi’s brutal murder, Saudi Arabia remained a place where people believed they could make money. And since that is the sine qua non of financiers, consultants, and oil companies—and firms that provide all kinds of services—Mohammed bin Salman was forced to spend some time in the penalty box, but he was never made the international pariah some hoped he would become. Yes, the Saudis have a range of economic problems, the wisdom of vanity projects like the would-be high-tech city of Neom escape most people who look at them, and Riyadh’s efforts to restructure its labor market and establish the institutions of a market economy are enormous and difficult tasks—but the Saudis still have the biggest economy in the Middle East, which makes it an attractive partner to those who showed up in Riyadh for the Future Investment Initiative.

There is an argument to be made that just because business leaders want to consort with the Saudis that does not mean that the US government is obligated to do the same. That’s true enough—but that’s not to say Washington is simply free to do whatever it likes. It faces the constraints of geopolitics. At the same time that leaders of industry were rubbing shoulders in Riyadh, the US military was beefing up its presence in Saudi Arabia just in case there is conflict with Iran. US military planners see Saudi Arabia as an important partner in Iran policy. That includes the potential Iran policies under consideration by the Biden administration, whether they involve rejoining the 2015 nuclear agreement or negotiating a new deal. To make either work, the administration is going to need Riyadh to support the deal, which means that American negotiators are going to have to be sensitive to Saudi concerns.

Related to Iran and the geopolitics of the region is the war in Yemen. The Saudi assault on its neighbor to the south, which began in 2015, accomplished everything the intervention was supposed to prevent. As a result of Riyadh’s poorly thought-out and poorly executed military operations, the Iranians now actually do have a relationship with Ansarullah, and Saudi Arabia is less secure. The war is unwinnable, and the Saudis need to get out. What remains to be seen is whether they can do so without US help. The Saudis would no doubt like that help in the form of enhanced border security, including weapons systems.

This is going to be a tough decision for the administration given the strong strain of animus toward the Saudis in Washington and the Biden-Harris team’s own stated policy to “reassess” America’s relationship with Saudi Arabia. One argument they might respond with is: Screw them. Let them figure out how to get out of their own quagmire. That is understandable, but it’s not wise. It is in America’s interest both for the Saudis to get out of Yemen and for them to maintain good ties with Washington. Like it or not, Saudi Arabia is Washington’s primary interlocutor in the region, and an American deal with Iran is going to have to run at least partway through Yemen.

But should the United States cut the Saudis off from what they seem to love most about America—its fancy weapons systems? This is no longer in the realm of theoretical. The Biden administration’s ongoing review of Saudi Arabia will assess how it uses American weapons, specifically how many civilians it has killed and maimed in the process. Given the damage inflicted by Saudi Arabia in Yemen, such a reckoning is appropriate. But even if it allows Americans to take further steps to end their complicity in Saudi Arabia’s Yemen debacle, one should also acknowledge that it will not end that war.

Lost in all the discussions about “accountability” is the problem of defining what it would actually look like. Do Saudi Arabia’s critics want to see the crown prince replaced or in the dock? The United States is not going to determine Saudi Arabia’s leader. Even if the US intelligence community releases what it knows about the murder of Khashoggi—as the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, has demanded, and as the new director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, committed she would do in her written response to questions from senators during her confirmation hearings—Mohammed bin Salman will be the crown prince the next day and the day after that and the day after that, and so on. No doubt it would cause an international uproar, forcing those currently attending Davos in the Desert to stay away for a few years or maybe more. But they will find their way back to Saudi Arabia so long as they calculate that doing so is still good for business.

Also missing in the chatter about accountability are the potential consequences of imposing it. This isn’t to dismiss the idea of calling out the Saudis and refusing to sell them weapons out of hand but rather a plea to weigh the costs and benefits of such an approach. The Saudis may prove unwilling to work with the United States on a new nuclear deal with Iran or even try to undermine an agreement. Riyadh may feel encouraged to drift toward Washington’s competitors. Folks in Washington might dismiss that as idle threats, but the Chinese have a lot to offer, and the Russians are particularly good at taking advantage of stress between the United States and its traditional partners in the region. At the very least, tighter ties between the Saudis, Chinese, and Russians can make things harder for the United States, especially since great-power competition is now alleged to be the framework for American foreign policy.

Then again, US policymakers may not care about the downside risks of holding the Saudis accountable. Energy resources from the Persian Gulf are still important to the United States, but not like they once were, diminishing the urgency long attached to the Middle East and importance of close ties with countries like Saudi Arabia. The stakes may no longer be so high, giving the Biden team more room to maneuver. It just seems that up until now few inside the Beltway have worked through what accountability means in a rigorous way. That is unfortunate, because foreign policy by exhortation is likely to fail.

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The Untouchable US-Saudi Relation Is a Core Element of US Imperialism

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By Frederico Pierccini
Source

Nixon’s decision in 1971 to withdraw the United States from the gold standard greatly influenced the future direction of humanity. The US dollar rose in importance from the mid-1950s to become the world reserve currency as a result of the need for countries to use the dollar in trade. One of the most consumed commodities in the world is oil, and as is well known, the price is set by OPEC in US dollars, with this organization being strongly influenced by Saudi Arabia.

It is therefore towards Riyadh that we must look in order to understand the workings of the petrodollar. After the dollar was withdrawn from the gold standard, Washington made an arrangement with Riyadh to price oil solely in dollars. In return, the Saudis received protection and were granted a free hand in the region. This decision forced the rest of the world to hold a high amount of US dollars in their currency reserves, requiring the purchase of US treasuries. The relationship between the US dollar and oil breathed new life to this currency, placing it at the centre of the global financial and economic system. This privileged role enjoyed by the dollar allowed the United States to finance its economy through the simple process of printing its fiat currency, relying on its credibility and supported by the petrodollar that required other countries to store reserves of US treasuries in their basket of currencies.

This arrangement continued to sustain itself in spite of numerous wars (the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan), financial crises (the Black Monday of 1987, the Dotcom bubble of 2000, and Lehman Brothers’ subprime crisis of 2008), and the bankruptcies of sovereign states (Argentina in 1998). The explanation is to be found in the credibility of the US dollar and the US itself, with its ability to repay buyers of treasury bonds. In other words, as long as the US continues to maintain its dominance of the global financial and economic system, thanks to the dollar, its supremacy as a world superpower is hardly questioned. To maintain this influence on the currency markets and the special-drawing rights (SDR) basket, the pricing of oil in US dollars is crucial. This explains, at least partially, the impossibility of scaling down the relationship between Washington and Riyadh. Nobody should delude themselves into believing that this is the only reason why Saudi-US relations are important. Washington is swimming in the money showered by Saudi lobbies, and it is doubtful that those on the receiving end of such largesse will want to make the party stop.

The agreement made between Washington and Riyadh guaranteed that the latter would receive protection from the former and Washington would look the other way regarding Riyadh’s behavior within its kingdom and in the region – so long as Saudi Arabia sold its black gold in US dollars alone. This agreement was clearly a controversial one and has been kept away from the general public, even in the light of Khashoggi’s death and the liberal mainstream media’s piling on the Kingdom. Yet this is not the only reason why US-Saudi ties are so close. The initial agreements between the Saudis and the Americans concerned the petrodollar; but after the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979 (Iran’s nationalist prime minister, Mohammad Mosaddegh, had been previously overthrown by the US and UK in 1953), Riyadh and Washington decided to declare war on their common enemy, with the hearty approval of Israel. The cooperation between Riyadh and Washington became even closer in the 1980s, through the common campaign against the USSR in Afghanistan through the use of jihadists recruited, trained and armed by the Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the US secret services. The use of jihadist terrorism as a geopolitical weapon has been a main feature of Riyadh’s statecraft.

The relationship between Saudi Arabia and the US evolved from a mere economic and protection agreement, to a full-fledged collaboration against the shared enemies of Washington, Tel Aviv and Riyadh, expanding on the existing cooperation since the 1980s of using jihadism to advance strategic objectives. The situation with Iran became of primary importance for US strategy in the region. Riyadh, with the passage of time, assumed a triple role, namely, that of being the guarantor of the petrodollar, a facilitator in the use of Islamic terrorism as a geopolitical weapon, and a regional opponent of Iran.

This relationship has been mutually beneficial. The House of Saud has been free to run its country according to the strict strictures of Wahhabism without Western interference; and Washington enjoys a capacity for unlimited military spending (especially after the 2008 crisis and the beginning of quantitative easing) simply through the printing of debt in the form of government bonds that are immediately acquired by other countries. Washington has effectively been printing waste paper and obtaining consumer goods in return, a state of affairs that has allowed the United States to squander six trillion dollars in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan without suffering significant economic consequences.

Ever since Donald Trump took over the White House, the process of de-dollarization that begun during the Obama era has only accelerated. With the unprecedented move in 2012 to remove Iran from the SWIFT international banking system, a dangerous precedent had been set that acted as a warning to the rest of the world. The United States revealed itself as willing to abuse its dominant position by wielding the dollar as a weapon against geopolitical adversaries.

The consequences of that action continue to be felt today. Many within the Western elite have come to recognize this mistake and are regretting it. Russia and China understood that they were next on the chopping block and set about creating alternative payment systems like CIPS that would serve to act as a backup system in case Washington tried to exclude Moscow and Beijing from the SWIFT system.

Trump contributed more than any of his predecessors towards further pushing the world in the direction of de-dollarization. Sanctions and tariffs have weakened confidence amongst US allies and forced the rest of the world to start looking for alternatives. The cases of Iran and Russia are instructive, with commercial exchanges being undertaken in currencies other than the dollar for a number of years now. There are dozens of other examples where the use of the dollar in commercial transactions has been abandoned. More complicated, however, is the financing of debt for private or public companies that often takes place in dollars. This exposes industries to a difficult situation in the event that their national currencies devalue against the dollar, making it more expensive to find the US dollars needed to repay creditors, leaving what are major national companies with the prospect of facing bankruptcy. As Russia learned in 2014 with the attack on its Ruble, exposure of potentially strategic sectors of the country to the economic influence of a foreign adversary should be avoided.

The push to renounce the use of the dollar in financial transactions also stems from the fear that the next financial crisis may affect global debt as expressed in dollars; not only destroying the US economy, but dragging down with it countries that are large holders of US treasuries. This is not speculation or conspiracy theory but simple deduction from observing the economic situation over the last 10 years. The global economy was saved in 2008 as a result of the confidence held by citizens following the intervention of central banks. The corrosive mechanism laid out by the Fed and its partners became evident months later. Central banks started printing unlimited amounts of money at 0% interest rates and furnishing it to banks and financial institutions to cover the debts left by the bursting of speculative bubbles like the one involving subprime mortgages.

The average citizen, seeing Bernanke and Draghi on TV talking about “unprecedented actions to save the system”, felt reassured, and therefore felt their money remained safe, in banks or in US dollars. The next financial crisis – potentially the worst ever – is likely to be caused by either the raising of interest rates by the Fed and other central banks, or from the popping of one of the numerous debt bubbles around. The central point is that the citizens’ belief in the system will be put to the test because, as Draghi said, “[this weapon of QE] can be used only once”. There is no protection for banks and speculative entities that could be in debt to the tune of many billions of dollars with no chance of survival.

With a view of to the possible collapse of the dollar-based financial system, several countries are selling their US government bonds, reducing their exposure and accumulating gold. This involves not just China and Russia, but even the European Union.

In such a situation, a crisis in relations with Saudi Arabia is unthinkable for Washington, especially when the region now seems to be guided by an axis that starts from Tehran and ends in Beirut, including Baghdad and Damascus. Riyadh is necessary for the Israeli strategy in the region, and Washington follows in tow for reasons related to the US dollar. Factoring the importance of Riyadh in supporting the petrodollar and in countering Iran in the region, it is not surprising why the Israeli lobby in Washington is doing its utmost to calm US senators down intent on punishing Riyadh for the Khashoggi affair.

If Saudi Arabia were really convinced of the innocence of MBS in the Khashoggi affair, it could use this situation to its advantage by reducing the role of Washington in its foreign policy. Turning to the east and increasing partnerships with China and Russia would have beneficial effects on the whole region, as well as reducing the importance of the United States in the world. Saudi Arabia is governed by a large family riven with divisions and feuds spanning decades. MBS has no interest in his kingdom and is occupied with his survival alone. He is aware that Netanyahu and Trump are his best bet for continuing to reign. Trump is equally aware of the importance of MBS in his communication strategy in the US, with a view to the midterm and the 2020 elections. MBS is for Trump the golden goose that finances the MAGA project, thanks apparently to Trump’s mesmerizing negotiation skills with the Saudis. Of course this is far from the truth, but what matters is the spin that Trump gives to this alliance.

Israel is the primary ally of MBS, given that the crown prince is the first Saudi monarch openly willing to establish diplomatic relations with the Jewish State and bring relations between the two countries out into the open. The upper level of the US government, the so-called deep state, tried for a few weeks to use MBS against Trump. But this strategy came to an end after the Israelis, together with some elements of the US deep state, saw the risk of downsizing the global relationship between Saudi Arabia and the US. MBS will hardly be pushed aside, and within the Kingdom his position seems firmer than many expected, as seen at the Davos in the Desert conference. Breaking up with MBS would have had unimaginable repercussions for the US’s hegemonic position, and this is something Washington can ill afford at the moment.

The use of jihadism and petrodollars as political and financial weapon against Washington’s adversaries is reason enough to quickly forget Jamal Khashoggi and go back to ignoring the various abuses committed by Saudi Arabia. In this phase of the transition from a unipolar to a multipolar world, the US cannot afford to renounce some of the most potent weapons in its arsenal to wield against its geopolitical foes.

Imran Khan’s Patriotic Leadership Secures a $3 Billion Loan to Ease Crisis

By Adam Garrie
Soruce

Saudi Arabia has recently been making headlines for all of the wrong reasons. While the $10 billion investment agreement that will see Riyadh join the Belt and Road initiative by building a new oil refinery in Pakistan’s Gwadar port city, this story has generally be buried beneath those discussing the murder of Saudi born journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. But while for nations with the economic luxury of investigating the Khashoggi matter, business might not proceed with Riyadh as usual, for Pakistan, there is a crisis at hand that effects not the family of a single slain man but the lives of over 200 million Pakistanis.

Decades of domestic mismanagement in respect of the Pakistani economy appears to have forced Islamabad back to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a new bailout to stop Pakistan’s current account deficit from causing a major economic crisis. While Prime Minister Imran Khan recently stated that he will approach three nations (which he did not name) prior to approaching the IMF, further statements from Pakistan’s government indicate that a new IMF bailout may be inevitable. That being said, Pakistan has yet to formally make the request to the IMF.

The risk of Pakistan not being able to pay back its debts due to the domestic current accounts deficit has led Imran Khan to suggest that a possible hybrid solution involving a smaller IMF loan in combination with loan agreements with sovereign partners may be the best way forward. It is against this background that Imran met with top Saudi officials including King Salman in Riyadh where he is attending the Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference, sometimes called the “Davos in the desert”.

During a lengthy interview before attendees of the FII conference, Imran Khan spoke candidly about the pressing matter of a monetary injection either from an cooperative partner nation, the IMF of both. He also laid bear the reality that economic reforms implemented today might not achieve their full desired goal for months or even a year. That being said, Imran balanced this honest and frank assessment against his medium and long term goal to rejuvenate Pakistan’s founding mission as articulated by national father Muhammad Ali Jinnah who sought to built a state where the welfare of all citizens was collectively assured through progressive measures designed to enhance social harmony.

Turning to his nation’s relationship with China, the Pakistani Prime Minister stated that as a country that was able to lift 700 million people out of poverty in thirty years, China is naturally an inspiration for Pakistan as Imran looks to elevate the condition of his people in the most rapid fashion possible. Iman Khan went on to speak of the great economic potential of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and in particular the Gwadar port. He then invited members of the international business community to invest in the special economic zones that are being built at Gwadar while drawing a helpful comparison to Gwadar’s deep water port to that of Singapore. Imran Khan then reflected on the modern housing programme his government has just inaugurated.

In addition to explaining to his audience of Saudi and international investors that Pakistan is a resource rich country ripe for forward looking foreign direct investment, the Prime Minister further explained how years of a war on terror which saw extremists enter into Pakistan from the Afghan side of the Durand Line made many international investors concerned with the safety of investments in Pakistan. While Pakistan has largely won its own war on terror thanks to the professionalism of the security services that Imran paid tribute to, this fact remains scarcely reported outside of Pakistan. Therefore it was of supreme importance that Imran explained that while Pakistan’s economy is current going through a difficult period, that this is partly do to the supreme sacrifices that Pakistan made to rid itself of the plague of terrorist extremism. In this sense, Pakistan today is not only a sound investment but in a literal sense it is also a safe one.

In making the point that whilst Pakistan was one of the fastest growing economies in Asia during the 1960s but that subsequent decades of poor governance meant that the country “lost its way”, today under his government, Imran Khan looks to restore balance to society while attracting unprecedented levels of foreign direct investment.

Iman Khan’s statement was focused, honest and deeply informed. For the first time in decades, Pakistan has a highly articulate Prime Minister who is willing and able to act as an economic ambassador whose mission is to secure the best possible future for his fellow Pakistanis. The long term future is of course a bright one as CPEC and related projects will doubtless flourish in future years and decades. Therefore, Pakistan’s challenge in the immediate term is to secure credit lines with reliable and trustworthy partners who can help Islamabad to get over the current obstacles erected by a combination of poor governance from recent decades and a nationally exhausting war against extremism that was won at a great price to society.

By focusing on Pakistan and its relations with its traditional partners including China and his Saudi Arabian hosts, Imran Khan has not fallen victim to vainglorious temptations that were so attractive to many of his predecessors. Rather than speak as though he was more concerned with remote issues than those facing his people, Iman Khan spoke about what Pakistan needs, wants and can offer. This is mature statesmanship that offers the best possible solution to the present current accounts deficit issue.

While much of the world, including and especially Europe tries to exploit the tragedy of others for its own gain, Pakistan’s new Prime Minsiter has demonstrated calm, decisive and honest leadership at a time when anything else could harm Pakistan’s fortunes greatly. While some domestic opponents continue to argue among themselves, Imran Khan is making the case for Pakistan’s future to those who are in a position to extend a helping hand on a win-win basis. This is the difference between decades of failure and the potential of Naya Pakistan (New Pakistan).

As a result of Imran Khan’s discussions with the Saudi King and Crown Prince, Riyadh has agreed to loan Pakistan $3 billion as part of a year long credit agreement. Additionally, Saudi Arabia will allow Pakistan to defer payments for oil imports up to the amount of an additional $3 billion in an agreement set to last for one year. With Imran Khan soon to visit China, there is now hope that Pakistan can help to cut its deficit through a series of loans from friendly nations. 

Saudi Arabia in ’Crisis’ In Face Of Khashoggi Murder: Energy Minister

Local Editor

Saudi Arabia is in “crisis” in the face of international outrage over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said Tuesday at an investment summit boycotted by a host of global CEOs and policymakers.

The three-day Future Investment Initiative [FII] was meant to project the historically insular petro-state as a lucrative business destination and set the stage for new ventures and multi-billion dollar contracts.

The summit, however, nicknamed “Davos in the desert,” has been overshadowed by the outcry over the murder of Khashoggi inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, with a string of leading international investors pulling out over the case.

Relatively, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, heavily damaged by the scandal despite repeated denials he had any involvement in the killing, was a no-show at the opening session.

“As we know these are difficult days. We are going through a crisis,” Falih said in his speech.

Falih said the murder of Khashoggi was regrettable, adding that “nobody in the kingdom can justify it.”

His comments came as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded to know who gave the order for Khashoggi’s killing in his country and the location of the slain journalist’s corpse.

Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team

Can The Saudis Take A Turkish Punch?

Darko Lazar 

These are tough times for Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman. 

The rock star royal who was until recently touted by the Western press as the face of the new, investor-friendly and more tolerant Saudi Arabia is now fighting to keep his seat at the table.

The diplomatic inferno ignited by the medieval-style murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is burning through one loyal subject after another, and rumors are rife that Bin Salman will soon be consumed by the flames.

The fallout from the Khashoggi affair, which commenced on October 2 when the journalist walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, never to be seen again, tells us that Bin Salman never saw the arsonist coming.

Although Khashoggi’s disappearance has all the makings of a great crime flick – the intrigue, the hit team, the brutal murder and even the love angle – it still needed that spark at the right time. Enter Turkey. Through a drip feed of information, the Turks have transformed Khashoggi’s disappearance into an account of a grisly murder, and then into an account of a grisly murder ordered by the top echelons of power in Riyadh.

It must be said that there is little reason to doubt the accuracy of the information being released, regardless of the official Saudi version of events released late on Friday night.

And despite the initial buzz about iWatches, iPhones and recordings obtained through Apple devices, whispers in Istanbul say the consulate was bugged. As such, it is only logical to assume that the Turkish intelligence agencies have more in the way of evidence – and much more.

Now the question is what sort of concessions are the Al Sauds willing to make to keep audio, and maybe even video recordings of Khashoggi’s final moments, out of Al-Jazeera’s and CNN’s newsrooms?

The so-called joint Saudi-Turkish investigation, Mike Pompeo’s shuttle diplomacy and the skillfully crafted media campaign all suggest that negotiations are well underway.

According to sources cited by France’s Le Figaro newspaper, the climax of those negotiations may very well see the appointment of a new deputy crown prince in Saudi Arabia – Bin Salman’s younger brother Khaled, to be exact – who will gradually assume the leadership role.

But speculating about Bin Salman’s future is as complex an issue as trying to figure out who knew what and when about Khashoggi’s disappearance.

These matters involve competing interests in the highly polarized US domestic political arena, as well as the wider Western world, and its anybody’s guess who is going to be left standing when the dust settles.

However, Turkey’s motivations for shaking down Riyadh are slightly more straightforward.

A crisis of confidence 

Turkish-Saudi relations have been plagued for years by differences over numerous regional issues.
In Syria, Ankara has fully integrated itself into an alliance with Iran and Russia, whereas the Saudis are continuing to work with the Israelis and Americans to prolong the conflict.

Meanwhile, the Turks see Iran as one of the most important strategic partners in the region, while Riyadh treats the Islamic Republic as its arch nemesis.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also expressed dismay over Saudi Arabia’s blockade of Qatar, offering Doha both military and political support.

But before Erdogan had the chance to make his foreign policy U-turns back in 2016, rogue members of his military tried to knock him off his armchair.

The Turkish president, who was almost killed in the ensuing violence, is unlikely to have forgotten that Persian Gulf monarchies played an important role in his attempted demise.

So, when Khashoggi touched down in Istanbul earlier this month, the Turks probably decided that the timing was perfect to make their move against the Saudis.

In truth, the timing could not be better. The Saudis are coming under growing international criticism over the bloodbath in Yemen, as well as other human rights violations both at home and abroad.

More importantly, perhaps, recent weeks have seen US President Donald Trump – Riyadh’s most high-profile ally – repeatedly express dissatisfaction with the Saudi royals.

Last month, Trump stood before the UN General Assembly and criticized oil-pricing practices, and then he bragged about how he told the Saudi monarch that he “wouldn’t last two weeks in power without [US] support”.

Whatever the motivations for these outbursts, they appear to have gone down very well with the leadership in Ankara.

Almost immediately after Khashoggi’s disappearance, the Turks let the Americans know that they had damning evidence about what happened inside the consulate.

Turkey then proceeded to show Washington that it had no desire for another collision with the Trump Administration by quietly releasing American pastor/agent Andrew Brunson.

That prompted Trump to say that Ankara’s gesture could “lead to good, perhaps great, relations between the United States and Turkey!”

Trump’s tone towards the Saudis, on the other hand, simultaneously sharpened as he threatened “very severe” consequences if Riyadh was found guilty.

“It’s bad, bad stuff,” the US president said this week.

In essence, this “bad stuff” has not only eased US pressure on Ankara, but also created a crisis of confidence in the Al-Saud family among Western political and business elites.

The severity of the crisis in Riyadh is further underscored by the growing number of high-profile Western firms backtracking on their previous commitments to the Saudis and pulling out of Bin Salman’s so-called “Davos in the Desert”, high-profile investors’ conference.

But perhaps even more significant are reports that King Salman has been forced to reassert authority and check his son’s power.

Turkey has clearly thrown a punch, and one has to wonder, what will Saudi Arabia look like when and if Al Saud gets up again?

Source: Al-Ahed News

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