A mystifying diplomatic escalation ensued following the disappearance of Saudi Washington Post columnist, Jamal Khashoggi, after visiting the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
Why would the United States of America make such a fuss over the disappearance of a non-American citizen? Why would America turn a blind eye to the Saudi killing of thousands of Yemeni civilians and the starving of millions others and then make “threats” against Saudi Arabia after one single Saudi journalist disappeared and has presumably been murdered by Saudi authorities?
And since when did Erdogan worry about human rights? After all, this is the same man whose army has committed countless atrocities against Syria and Turkish Kurds.
And the repercussions did not stop at the official level. Even Western business leaders are cancelling trade deals with Saudi Arabia and asking its government for explanations.
Let us not forget that America does not only ignore the war on Yemen, but it also assists the Saudis and supplies them with arms and intelligence. What’s behind the sudden U-turn? Why would the President of the United States of America be personally involved in this?
Furthermore, Saudi Arabia has a long history of persecuting dissidents and suppressing any opposition. So once again, why was Khashoggi singled out in this instance to become such a person of interest to the USA? His status as a journalist and columnist for Washington Post certainly does not answer this question.
And back to Erdogan, the man who reached the cliff-edge with America on a number of strategic and trade issues, why would he be concerned about the “murder” of a foreign journalist allegedly at the hand of his own government? According to the story, the “murder” was committed at the Saudi Consulate, and technically, Turkey has no jurisdiction within this diplomatic precinct albeit it is within Turkey.
If we rewind the clock and take into account the timeline of events, this is what we find:
2nd of October 2018. Khashoggi walks into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Unless tampered with, the date is confirmed on the CCTV video presented in this link.
3rd of October, President Trump, unprovoked, said that Saudi Arabia would not survive for two weeks on its own without American protection and demanded that Saudi Arabia should pay for that protection.
5th of October. Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman was quick to respond. In his interview with Bloomberg the Crown Prince reiterated that Saudi Arabia has been around since 1744, 30 years before the United States came to existence. The date of 1744 is in reference to the smaller Emirate of Diriyah which was established by Mohamed bin Saud before the King Abdul Aziz expanded his territory to the current borders. In referring to this date, the Prince was saying that Saudi Arabia stood on its own feet before any alliance with America, but he is conveniently ignoring the fact that before any petrol was discovered, external threats were not an issue. In his interview, he later on referred to the Saudi ability to withstand the Obama years, claiming the Obama administration worked against Saudi interests. Though he did not name Syria, he was undoubtedly referring to Syria among other things.
From that day onwards, the sequence of events escalated quite rapidly. As I write this, President Trump is talking about taking severe measures against Saudi Arabia, but not severe enough to cancel the USD 110 Bn arms deal. The mention of the arms deal could well be a hint made by Trump in order to remind the Saudis how reliant they are on America. After all, Saudi Arabia is bogged down in a war with Yemen that it is unable to win even with America support.
Is it by coincidence that in the middle of this kerfuffle Turkey suddenly decided to release American Pastor Andrew Brunson after more than two years of house arrest?
Not really; not if we connect the dots.
One logical explanation of the recent series of events lies in the fact that they carry the hallmarks of extortion. As a matter of fact,Trump’s mention of the inability of Saudi Arabia to survive for more than two weeks without American protection is in itself a prelude for extortion. This is the same logic and language used by Mafia bosses with shop owners.
President Trump runs America like a corporation. To him, it’s all about money. Given America’s dire economic position, he will not leave a single stone unturned if it is concealing a single dollar.
Dr. Skidmore from Michigan University argues that USD 21 Tn has gone missing from the coffers of the Ministries of Defense and Housing alone in the years between 1998 and 2015. He speculates that Trump did not know about this when he became president. Revelations of this kind and magnitude make Trump’s task to fix the economy even more out of reach:
The current situation is reminiscent of an article I wrote back in 2012. From this article I quote the following:
“The USA is always accused of keeping its hands on the oil resources of the Middle East. For fairness, by-and-large, it is “only” controlling its flow, but still paying for it; albeit in printed money.
A bankrupt, desperate and oil-thirsty USA may feel compelled to threaten oil-rich countries with air-strikes and even nuclear attacks…..
….In an escalated situation, at stage two, an isolated oil-thirsty USA may become tempted to literally steal this oil. The USA may start with easy, close targets such as Venezuela. A desperate USA with a radical President in the Whitehouse will possibly be tempted to take over by force the oil fields of such soft targets. This can be the beginning of a long path of piracy.
How far can this path be pursued is anyone’s guess. The next target can be a puppet state like Qatar, even Saudi Arabia itself.
In such a desperate stage, the USA can only rely on its nuclear supremacy in order for it to be able to force its way. It will not have the financial resources to put boots on the ground, and any ensuing internal strife potentially caused by financial woes will add to the expense and risks of this exercise.”
Even though those words were written only six years ago, a lot has changed in the global balance of power since then and the world is no longer unipolar. With fracking, America is also now less reliant on Saudi oil, but is in desperate need for Saudi money. The diminishing American military power on one hand, and the military rise of Russia and China on the other hand, are forcing America to explore other pursuits. This is why the Trump administration is into the trade sanction mode. But sanctions alone are not enough, and America is likely to be using the Khashoggi story as a pretext to extort protection money from the Saudis; pay up or we will turn the whole world against you.
The Saudis don’t deserve any sympathy at all. They have literally been getting away with murder for decades under the watchful eye of their American big brother and ally. The near future will put the extortion theory to the test. If the Americans and Saudis strike a money-for-protection deal followed by an easing of the anti-Saudi rhetoric, then we will know the theory is accurate and that they are both back in business. They may strike a face-saving deal in which the Saudis do not look like they have succumbed to pressure, thereby paying America in ways that do not carry the label of protection money. But, in any manner in which moneys are paid by the Saudis, they are extortion funds and nothing short of piracy.
So how does Turkey fit into this picture?
Turkey’s economy has suffered greatly after the recent American sanctions and the Turkish Lira went into a nosedive. The impasse between the two NATO allies is multi-faceted and includes opposing views on dealing with very sensitive issues such the Kurdish question, ISIS, Russian presence in Syria, Iran, as well as Turkey’s regional ambition for a resurrected pan-Muslim leadership.
Now, Turkey is not only at odds with America and American policies, but also sees Saudi Arabia as an obstacle that stands in the way of its Muslim leadership aspirations. Turkey sees Saudi Arabia as the Wahhabi rival to the Muslim Brotherhood faction to which Erdogan belongs. So, when the Khashoggi story surfaced, Turkey and America found common interest in being anti-Saudi; albeit for different reasons. To capitalize on the events, Turkey offered a sweetener to the Americans, releasing the American Pastor, Andrew Brunson, making it look like a legal court decision. Turkey expects the world to believe that on such sensitive international legal matters decisions can be made without the approval and directives of Erdogan himself. In the world of politics, pigs do fly.
Both Erdogan and Trump claim there was no deal behind the release of the Pastor, and perhaps there wasn’t but, the Khashoggi incident gave Erdogan an opportunity to take a step towards some type of conciliation with America. But even in the absence of a deal, Erdogan will expect his reward; the least of which would be the lifting of the American trade sanctions. That said, the restoration of the American-Turkish that preceded the war on Syria will have to wait; if that is at all achievable. After all, Turkey has established strong links with Russia and has bought the S-400 ground-to-air state-of-the-art missile systems. But Erdogan hedges his bets on the principle of keeping a foot in each door.
The interesting question to ask here is the following; if this whole drama is indeed a false flag for an extortion process, how is it that Trump is receiving the full support of the American media, his “sworn” enemies, the organizations he calls “fake news”? Is the story too hot for them to resist? Are they a part of the extortion process or, are they totally stupid enough to go with the flow? Alternatively, is the Deep State behind Trump on this one and instructing the media to do the same?
Ironically, the bipartisan American Senate Foreign Relations Committee, headed by Senator Corker, has sent a letter to Trump asking him to investigate the disappearance of Khashoggi and report back to the committee within 120 days. Does this mean that the Democrats are behind Trump in his anti-Saudi push? They seem to be.
It seems that American lawmakers, media, and the Deep State are all united against Saudi Arabia until it relents and pays up. How Saudi Arabia will manage to weasel out of this trap, if it can, remains to be seen.
America does not have to cancel the USD 110 Bn arms deal with Saudi Arabia. All it has to do is delay deliveries. Ironically, as if the recent developments are not worrying enough for the Saudis, on the 8th of October, the Yemeni Army has made advances into the Saudi territory and any disruption to the flow of American arms to the Saudis can have serious consequences on that seemingly unwinnable war.
Any whichever way, Saudi Arabia has definitely chosen the wrong time to move on Khashoggi, if it did. After all, we don’t really know what happened to him, and we cannot even zero out the possibility that he was kidnapped or killed by other operatives including Americans and Turkish. The media are busy focusing on their alleged attempts to find out what happened to Mr. Khashoggi, how he was killed, what torture was he subjected to, how was his body removed from the consulate etc. We will probably never find out the truth about what happened to him, but what is perhaps more pertinent and conceivable is to establish who benefits from the fall-out and how.
America, and the West in general, never really liked Saudi Arabia. At best, the West tolerated the ultra-conservative undemocratic suppressive kingdom of sand that exported fundamentalism and terror, but this can all change with a stroke of a pen and Saudi Arabia may soon find itself in need of protection from its protector.