Posts Tagged ‘Lindsey Graham’

Fight at Consulate Led to Journalist’s Death, Saudis Say

October 20, 2018

Two close aides of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman were relieved of their duties

Image result for Jamal Khashoggi, photos
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi PHOTO: GETTY

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia—Saudi Arabia early Saturday acknowledged for the first time journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside its consulate in Istanbul, capping weeks of uncertainty over the fate of the Saudi government critic.

Saudi Arabia’s attorney general in a statement said Mr. Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi journalist, died following an altercation inside the consulate. The statement said 18 Saudi citizens have been detained pending the final results of a continuing investigation.

“Discussions between citizen Jamal Khashoggi and those who met him while he was in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul led to a brawl and a physical altercation, which led to his death,” the statement said, citing the preliminary findings of the investigation.

A separate statement issued by the Saudi foreign ministry said the perpetrators tried to cover up what happened.

Mr. Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. He was accompanied to the entrance of the consulate by his fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, who first raised the alarm of his disappearance.

Saudi Mag. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri was relieved of his duties in the wake of the preliminary findings of the kingdom’s probe into Jamal Khashoggi’s death.
Saudi Mag. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri was relieved of his duties in the wake of the preliminary findings of the kingdom’s probe into Jamal Khashoggi’s death. PHOTO: FAYEZ NURELDINE/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

The mystery surrounding Mr. Khashoggi’s whereabouts brought intense scrutiny upon the Saudi monarchy, precipitating the most acute diplomatic crisis for the kingdom in decades. The global controversy has turned up pressure on Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who had cultivated the reputation as a reformist determined to open up the kingdom to the outside world.

But the Saudi government’s latest revelations are likely to raise fresh questions about Mr. Khashoggi’s death. Saudi officials had strenuously denied any role in the journalist’s disappearance, saying he left the consulate shortly after entering it to collect documents related to his divorce. After an international outcry, Saudi Arabia launched its own, internal probe into the incident to determine who, if anyone, should be held accountable.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) reacted to the findings out of Riyadh by tweeting, “To say that I am skeptical of the new Saudi narrative about Mr. Khashoggi is an understatement.”

President Trump, on a campaign swing in Arizona, called the report of arrests “a great first step.”

“Saudi Arabia has been a great ally but what happened is unacceptable,” he said. “We may have some questions. We do have some questions.”

Saudi Arabia’s latest claim that Mr. Khashoggi died in a fight is also at odds with the account of Turkish authorities. They say Mr. Khashoggi was drugged, killed and dismembered inside the consulate by hitmen dispatched from Riyadh and linked to the security establishment—and say they have video and audio evidence to prove it. Among the operatives, they say, was a forensic doctor equipped with tools including a bone saw.

The varying responses to Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance come as the Saudi leadership has sought to distance itself from the incident. In a royal order carried by state-run media, King Salman, the Saudi monarch, announced that two senior government officials—both close aides of Prince Mohammed—have been relieved of their posts. They are Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, the deputy chief of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence, and Saud al-Qahtani, who was in charge of media affairs at the royal court.

King Salman also ordered the formation of a new committee responsible for overhauling the country’s intelligence agency to be led by Prince Mohammed. That was a clear indication that the crown prince won’t face immediate repercussions for Mr. Khashoggi’s death.

Gen. Assiri, a former spokesman of the Saudi-led military coalition fighting in Yemen, was directly involved in the operation targeting Mr. Khashoggi, according to people familiar with the matter. Three other senior intelligence officers were also dismissed from their posts.

It isn’t known what role, if any, Mr. Qahtani had in the incident. As media adviser, he had tightened controls on the domestic press and stepped up efforts to intimidate and silence government critics. “I will continue to be a loyal servant of my country for all eternity,” he said in a Twitter message.

Several people close to the royal court believe Prince Mohammed was ultimately behind the operation targeting Mr. Khashoggi. The young prince had wanted Mr. Khashoggi silenced long before he went missing, and he had asked some of his closest aides to bring him back to the kingdom, they say. They said they don’t know if the prince specifically ordered the killing, but believed it was unlikely.

Among those aides was Mr. Qahtani, who had previously tried to persuade Mr. Khashoggi to return to the kingdom, even offering him the prospect of a government job, according to friends of Mr. Khashoggi. The journalist declined the offer, worried it was as trap.

In a message on Twitter last year, Mr. Qahtani said: “I don’t do anything from my own head without an order. I am an employee and executer to my king and my crown prince.”

The early Saturday announcement came hours after Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Saudi King Salman had a telephone call during which they exchanged information on their separate investigations of the Khashoggi case, according to Turkish state-owned news agency Anadolu. It was the second time the two men discussed the case on the phone, following an earlier conversation on Oct. 14.

During a trip to Riyadh this week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pressed Prince Mohammed for answers, and agreed to give Riyadh a few more days to complete its probe into what happened to Mr. Khashoggi before deciding how to respond.

Lindsey Graham


To say that I am skeptical of the new Saudi narrative about Mr. Khashoggi is an understatement.

The New York Times


Breaking News: Saudi Arabia said that the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in their consulate during a fight. 18 people are being held. 

A White House statement “acknowledges” a Saudi investigation into the death of journalist Mr. Khashoggi and said the kingdom’s probe is still in progress.

Press secretary Sarah Sanders said the Saudi announcement showed the investigation is “progressing and that it has taken action against the suspects it has identified thus far.”

“We will continue to closely follow the international investigations into this tragic incident and advocate for justice that is timely, transparent, and in accordance with all due process,” Ms. Sanders said in statement. “We are saddened to hear confirmation of Mr. Khashoggi’s death, and we offer our deepest condolences to his family, fiancée, and friends.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists and other advocacy groups have asked United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres to launch an independent U.N.-led investigation. Diplomats and observers at the U.N. said they didn’t find Saudi Arabia’s narrative into Mr. Khashoggi’s death convincing.

Mr. Guterres said in a statement late Friday that he was “deeply troubled” by the confirmation of Mr. Khashoggi’s death and stressed on “the need for a prompt, thorough and transparent investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Khashoggi’s death and full accountability for those responsible.”

Write to Margherita Stancati at

Appeared in the October 20, 2018, print edition as ‘Saudis Blame Death on ‘Brawl’.’


Khashoggi Crisis Widens Trump Rift With Congress on Saudi Arabia

October 18, 2018

Distrust of Riyadh in Washington dates to Sept. 11 attacks

Lawmakers warn they may act over president’s objections

President Donald Trump is facing increased pressure from Congress over his handling of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance, exposing a widening rift between the White House and Capitol Hill over the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia.

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Lawmakers from Trump’s own party, including the president’s ally Senator Lindsey Graham, are openly voicing their discontent and threatening to sanction the Saudi government over the objections of the president, who has sought to build a closer relationship with Riyadh.

The stark differences underscore that Saudi Arabia enjoys far greater respect in the Oval Office than in the Capitol. Many lawmakers harbor a distrust of the kingdom dating back to its connection to the Sept. 11 attacks. Its bloody involvement in Yemen’s civil war and interference in Lebanese politics have cost it further U.S. support.

The Trump administration, meanwhile — led by the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner — has drawn ever closer to the Saudis as it fashions a strategy in the Mideast that revolves around the kingdom.

“There are a number of constituencies in Congress that are hostile to Saudi Arabia,” said Jon Alterman, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. U.S. lawmakers have complained about the kingdom’s egregious human rights record, its suppression of religious freedom and civilian deaths in the Yemen war.

QuickTake: All About the Saudi Prince Now Being Called Brutal

“The Khashoggi case provides a central rallying point for all of these people to criticize the Saudis and the president’s relationship with them,” he said.

Should Congress act against Saudi Arabia despite Trump’s reservations, it would mark yet another defeat in Washington for the kingdom. Just two years ago, Congress passed legislation allowing Saudi Arabia to be sued for its involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks. Though the Saudi government wasn’t found to have had a formal role in the attacks, 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens, a fact not forgotten by lawmakers or the American public.

Tortured, Dismembered

Turkish officials have said that Khashoggi was tortured, murdered and dismembered in the Saudi consulate in Instanbul shortly after he arrived Oct. 2 to retrieve a document related to his wedding. A team of 15 Saudi agents arrived in Instanbul and left the same day of Khashoggi’s visit, according to reports by the New York Times and Washington Post.

John Kennedy  Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

The U.S. can condemn Saudi Arabia’s conduct “without blowing up the Middle East and without destroying our ability to talk with them,” Senator John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican, said Wednesday. “Our foreign policy has to be anchored in values.”

U.S. options include expelling Saudi diplomats, securing a United Nations resolution criticizing the kingdom’s behavior, curtailing arms sales or enacting sanctions on Saudi officials, Kennedy said. Trump opposes canceling a $110 billion arms deal with the kingdom that he said Wednesday would create 500,000 U.S. jobs.

Graham, a South Carolina Republican who is one of Trump’s most stalwart allies in Congress, called Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, “toxic” and a “wrecking ball” in an interview on “Fox and Friends” on Tuesday.

“Nothing happens in Saudi Arabia without MBS knowing it,” Graham said.

Middle East Linchpin

Trump chose Saudi Arabia for his first overseas trip as president and he has rejected the idea of reassessing the U.S.-Saudi relationship over Khashoggi’s disappearance. The Trump administration has made Saudi Arabia a linchpin of its Middle East policy, which seeks to isolate Iran financially and diplomatically. The Saudis have been a key partner in that effort, and Trump has defended the kingdom even as it engaged in a crackdown on members of the royal family and pursued the war in Yemen.

Trump and his Secretary of State Michael Pompeo have placed inordinate weight on Saudi Arabian denials that the kingdom is responsible for Khashoggi’s disappearance, and the president has sought to downplay the affair. Trump has repeatedly noted that Khashoggi was not a U.S. citizen and on Monday floated the notion that “rogue killers” may have murdered him. Trump admitted in an interview with the Associated Press on Tuesday that the idea had been suggested to him by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman.

Trump lamented in the same interview that the Saudis were considered “guilty until proven innocent.” On Wednesday, he called them a U.S. “ally.”

“They are a tremendous purchaser of not only military equipment but other things,” he said.

After meeting with Saudi Arabian leaders including Prince Mohammed in Riyadh on Tuesday, Pompeo issued a statement underscoring their denials.

“My assessment from these meetings is that there is serious commitment to determine all the facts and ensure accountability, including accountability for Saudi Arabia’s senior leaders or senior officials,” Pompeo said.

“It’s important that everyone keep in their mind that we have lots of important relationships — financial relationships between U.S. and Saudi companies, governmental relationships, things we work on together all across the world,” Pompeo told reporters aboard his plane Wednesday after it left Turkey. “The Saudis have been great partners in working alongside us.”

Not Buying It

Congress isn’t buying it, and Trump may soon face a second overwhelming vote to impose sanctions on a country with which the president has sought to improve relations. Last year, veto-proof majorities in Congress approved sanctions on Russia to punish its 2016 election interference, over Trump’s objections.

“This is not rogue killers,” Graham said Tuesday on Fox News radio. “This is a rogue crown prince.”

Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said last week that “there will have to be significant sanctions placed at the highest levels” if Khashoggi was killed in the consulate. Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, has said he’ll seek a vote to block future arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Senator Todd Young, an Indiana Republican, tweeted Wednesday “The Khashoggi murder and actions in Yemen are both part of a pattern of immoral and reckless behavior by Saudi Arabia.” Young penned an op-ed with Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen in the Washington Post last month to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for contributing to the war in Yemen.

A bipartisan group of senators also invoked the 2016 Magnitsky Act in a letter to Trump, giving the administration 120 days to respond to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with a decision on potential sanctions against officials responsible for human rights violations.

Read more: What is the Magnitsky act? : QuickTake

Senator Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican, called Wednesday for an international investigation of Khashoggi’s disappearance and criticized Trump for focusing on arms sales to Riyadh.

“It’s always important to see arms sales as a means to a larger end, not as the end in themselves,” he said on CNN.

Democrats have been even more direct in their criticism, with some insinuating that Trump’s approach to the Saudis is driven by his financial interests. Trump said in a Twitter post on Tuesday that he has no holdings in Saudi Arabia.

Chuck Schumer


Fascinating to watch what @realDonaldTrump will allow the Saudis to do. Whether it’s killing Yemeni school children, or ‘accidentally’ murdering a reporter in their own consulate, it seems like they can do no wrong. I wonder why?

— With assistance by Steven T. Dennis, and Jennifer Epstein

Missing journalist has made Trump’s Saudi bet much riskier

October 18, 2018

US president has leaned heavily on kingdom for his Middle East policy, but ties now face bipartisan scrutiny over Jamal Khashoggi affair

The Associated Press
In this photo from May 20, 2017, US President Donald Trump holds a sword and dances with traditional dancers during a welcome ceremony at Murabba Palace, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

In this photo from May 20, 2017, US President Donald Trump holds a sword and dances with traditional dancers during a welcome ceremony at Murabba Palace, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — US President Donald Trump put a big and risky bet on Saudi Arabia and its 33-year-old crown prince. It’s now become much riskier.

From the early days of his presidency, Trump and his foreign policy team embraced the kingdom and Mohammed bin Salman as the anchors of their entire Middle East strategy. From Iran and Iraq to Syria, Yemen and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the administration gambled that Saudi Arabia, effectively run by the prince, could credibly lead, and willingly pay for, a “Pax Arabica” in a part of the world from which Trump is keen to disengage.

For nearly two years, through an ongoing crisis with Qatar and international outrage over civilian casualties in the Saudi-led campaign against Yemeni rebels, the prince has managed to keep Washington’s confidence. But now, the tide is turning amid growing outrage over the disappearance and likely death of a US-based journalist inside a Saudi Consulate in Turkey, and that confidence appears to be waning. The Trump administration’s grand strategy may be upended with far-reaching ramifications that extend well outside the region.

Even if an investigation into what happened to Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul exonerates the prince and the top Saudi leadership, the administration’s deep reliance on him will be severely tested not least because of broad bipartisan revulsion in Congress to as-yet unconfirmed accounts of Khashoggi’s fate. Already, prominent lawmakers from both parties are questioning his fitness to lead the country and suggesting it might be time to re-think US-Saudi relations and sharply curb arms sales.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis at the Pentagon in Washington, on March 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Trump ally Senator Lindsey Graham (Republican-South Carolina) and other influential politicians warned of dire consequences on Tuesday, saying the prince, often known as MBS for short, should be removed from his post.

“This guy is a wrecking ball, he had this guy murdered in a consulate in Turkey, and to expect me to ignore it, I feel used and abused,” Graham said on “Fox and Friends.” “Saudi Arabia, if you’re listening, there are a lot of good people you could choose, but MBS has tainted your country and tainted himself.”

Trump foe Senator Chris Murphy (Democrat-Connecticut) said the Khashoggi case “should trigger a fundamental review of the nature of the United States’ alliance with the Saudis.”

“As the new crown prince engages in increasingly reckless behavior, more and more of us are wondering whether our ally’s actions are in our own best interests,” he wrote in The Washington Post.

And Trump ally Senator Marco Rubio (Republican-Florida) called the situation a “catastrophe” for the Saudis that will “alter the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia for the foreseeable future.”

“This is a fear we’ve had for a long time is that the crown prince is a young and aggressive guy that would overestimate how much room he had to do things, would get over aggressive and overestimate his own capabilities and create a problem such as this,” he said. He added that the situation was one that “would really blow apart our Middle Eastern strategy.”

In this photo from February 1, 2015, Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi speaks at a press conference in Manama, Bahrain. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali, File)

The impact of a US-Saudi rift, however remote the possibility, could send shockwaves around the world, destabilizing oil markets and the global investment climate, not to mention dealing a blow to the Trump administration’s own plans in the Middle East.

Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner has made Saudi Arabia a centerpiece of his yet to be revealed Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, which is expected to call for massive Saudi and Gulf Arab contributions to fund reconstruction and development projects in the West Bank and Gaza.

Saudi support will also be key to the political elements of the plan that Israel insists put its security on par with Palestinian statehood. That means that Israel will likely seek assurances that any deal with the Palestinians be followed by a broader agreement that normalizes its relations with the rest of the Arab world, particularly Saudi Arabia.

In Syria, the administration relied almost entirely on Saudi Arabia, along with the closely allied United Arab Emirates, to make up for steep cuts in US stabilization assistance to areas liberated from Islamic militants. Next door in Iraq, the current secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and his predecessor, Rex Tillerson, have leaned heavily on the Saudis to make large financial pledges for reconstruction of war-shattered communities.

But it is the administration’s policy of isolating Iran that may suffer the most from Saudi-US estrangement.

US President Donald Trump, left and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud gesture during a signing ceremony at the Saudi Royal Court in Riyadh on May 20, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan)

Trump is counting on the Saudis to shore up and complement its Iran policy on several fronts.

In Yemen, where the US-backed Saudi-led coalition is fighting Iran-backed Houthi Shiite rebel insurgency, the effort to blunt Tehran’s increasing assertiveness would be hurt by any reduction in American help.

In Syria, where Saudi stabilization funds are being used in part to prevent Iranian proxies from encroaching on communities previously held by the Islamic State group, a reduction in Saudi cooperation would allow Iran a freer hand. The same holds true in Iraq, where Saudi investment is seen as critical to prevent Iran from gaining more of a foothold than it has in the Shia majority state.

More importantly, the administration has been counting on Saudi Arabia to step in to prevent oil prices from skyrocketing once it re-imposes energy-related sanctions on Iran that had been lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal from which Trump withdrew. Those sanctions require countries to halt Iranian oil imports unless they receive a waiver or face penalties. Frosty relations with Washington may tempt Riyadh to cut back on any increase in oil supply to make up for the loss of Iranian crude.

Of course, Trump’s bet could still pay off in the event the Khashoggi investigation is found to be credible and those responsible for his fate are held accountable, as Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Pompeo have all demanded. But with anti-Saudi sentiment running high in the corridors of power, Trump may find that going all in on the prince was a loser.


Why Kill Jamal Khashoggi?

October 15, 2018

The most charitable interpretation is that this was an abduction that went horribly wrong.


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The case of the vanished and apparently murdered Saudi activist and writer Jamal Khashoggi is a tale with a victim and villains, but no heroes.

Mr. Khashoggi, a longtime retainer of the Saudi royal family and more recently a critic of the regime, entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, Oct. 2, seeking documents relevant to a divorce. The Turkish government claims to have proof that a Saudi hit squad murdered him inside the consulate, chopped his body to bits, and dispatched the remains in a black van to a private plane headed for Saudi Arabia. Portions of this plot remain unverified but there seems little doubt Mr. Khashoggi is dead.

The primary villain apparently is Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who runs every aspect of Saudi Arabia and without whose authorization nothing of consequence takes place. But this sordid episode isn’t best thought of as the clash between an autocratic ruler and a democratic hero. It is more of an internecine conflict.

Mr. Khashoggi, notwithstanding his credentials as a columnist for the Washington Post, spent most of his adult life working with and for the Al Saud family and its media properties. He also did stints for Saudi intelligence, headed for part of the time by Prince Turki al-Faisal, who later served as ambassador to the U.S. Mr. Khashoggi’s early claim to fame was interviewing Osama bin Laden in 1980s Afghanistan, where both were allied with the anti-Soviet mujahedeen. Mr. Khashoggi broke with bin Laden in the 1990s and after 9/11 became Riyadh’s favorite example of a reformed Islamic fundamentalist, often produced for visiting Westerners to outline his conversion. But under King Salman and the crown prince, Mr. Khashoggi became an outcast, accused of supporting the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood. He moved to the U.S. in July 2017.

While Crown Prince Mohammed has made significant social and economic reforms, he has never claimed to be a democrat. Recently he acknowledged jailing 1,500 people, famously including the 300 relatives, ministers and business barons who were confined inside the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton. None of that, however, prepared those of us who knew him for the murder of a citizen in what is supposed to be the security of his nation’s consulate.

Kidnapping critics and returning them to Saudi Arabia isn’t new for this regime, though previously such incidents got little publicity because no one died. Perhaps the crown prince thought he could again escape any consequences. After all, Russia’s Vladimir Putin has poisoned dissidents in London; China’s Xi Jinping runs an archipelago of re-education camps; and Turkey’s increasingly despotic Recep Tayyip Erdogan—who is leveling the charges at the Saudis—has jailed thousands with little or no international consequence. Perhaps the world will soon forget a political murder.

But there surely will be a lasting reputational price for the crown prince. With so much power over a largely pacific populace, why would he order or sanction what amounts to a mafia murder? Mr. Khashoggi wasn’t leading a civil rebellion against the regime. Nor was he a widely popular focus of dissent in the kingdom. He seemed to pose no serious threat to Crown Prince Mohammad’s rule.

That Mohammed bin Salman believes Mr. Khashoggi was a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, a transnational Islamist organization, and on the payroll of Qatar, a Saudi nemesis, seems more an excuse than a reason. Those who watch the crown prince closely say he is determined to pre-empt any hint of possible disruption before it can materialize. So Mr. Khashoggi’s decision to register in the U.S. a new political organization, Democracy for the Arab World Now, perhaps funded by Saudi regional rivals, might have triggered this action.

It seems clear that Mohammed bin Salman, accustomed to issuing orders on every aspect of Saudi life without question or contradiction, wanted to silence Mr. Khashoggi. When efforts to woo him back as an adviser failed, he was captured in Istanbul, where he hoped to marry his Turkish fiancée. The most charitable interpretation is that this was an abduction that went horribly wrong.

Now what? While the crown prince can ignore Saudi domestic opinion, he must care about his international image, especially among foreign investors, whose money he needs to realize his Vision 2030 economic reforms. Businessmen who had embraced him—such as Richard Branson, Uber’s Dara Khosrowshahi and Viacom ’s Bob Bakish—are stepping back. Many others won’t dare show up at this month’s investor conference the crown prince is hosting in Riyadh. The mass incarcerations at the Ritz-Carlton a year ago had dimmed the crown prince’s image. This blackens it.

While the crown prince doesn’t care about media or even congressional criticism, he must care about any U.S. action that significantly alters the fundamental U.S.-Saudi relationship—which has never been based on shared moral values but rather on mutual security. In a dangerous neighborhood, Saudi Arabia depends on American security guarantees; likewise, any radical evolution in Saudi Arabia would threaten all U.S. interests in the region. Most important, President Trump and Crown Prince Mohammed share a deep distrust of Iran, so that the U.S.-Saudi security relationship seems likely to hold for now.

But Congress may block weapons sales in support of the crown prince’s still-unsuccessful war in Yemen, where more than 6,000 civilians have died. Sen. Lindsey Graham has warned of a “bipartisan tsunami” in Congress if the Saudis are proved guilty of Mr. Khashoggi’s murder. Congress might even go beyond Yemen and block all weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, despite Mr. Trump’s opposition.

The more lasting effect likely will be a diminution of trust, leaving the U.S.-Saudi relationship resembling a loveless marriage in which neither side can afford to file for divorce.

Ms. House, a former publisher of The Wall Street Journal, is author of “On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines—and Future” (Knopf, 2012).

Appeared in the October 15, 2018, print edition.

A Royal Saudi Mess

October 13, 2018

Image result for Jamil Khashoggi, photos

The disappearance of a journalist could mean a crisis in U.S.-Saudi ties.

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The disappearance of dissident Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Turkey last week is a debacle that could have far-reaching consequences for the Middle East and U.S. interests. President Trump has to seek a full accounting lest he lose control of his foreign-policy agenda in the region.

Mr. Khashoggi entered the consulate on Oct. 2 and there is no evidence he left alive. The Turks are whispering to everyone that they have audio surveillance tapes of Mr. Khashoggi’s interrogation, torture and murder, though they have released nothing to the public. The Saudis deny foul play, but Turkish and U.S. intelligence say Saudi agents entered Turkey by private aircraft on the day that Mr. Khashoggi disappeared. The evidence is building that this was a kidnapping, or murder, ordered by senior officials in Riyadh.

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All of this is a crisis for Mohammed bin Salman, aka MBS, the 33-year-old Crown Prince who has been using authoritarian methods to reform Saudi Arabia’s economy, politics and culture. The Trump Administration has formed an especially strong alliance with MBS, and that has made sense given his desire to contain Iran, his willingness to cooperate behind the scenes with Israel, and his modernization agenda.

All of this is now at risk if MBS or one of his deputies ordered a hit on Mr. Khashoggi, who was arguably the Crown Prince’s most important critic from his perch as a Washington Post columnist well known throughout the Arab world. MBS has developed a reputation for hell-bent decision-making, as in his war in Yemen. But it takes a special kind of reckless arrogance to think you can kidnap or kill a world-famous critic and get away with it inside a Saudi consulate on foreign soil. Vladimir Putin’s critics are usually murdered in Russia.

Mr. Khashoggi is a more complicated figure than the liberal democrat he is portrayed to be in the Western press. He is a longtime member of the Muslim Brotherhood and favors Islamic theocracy, as John Bradley explains this week in the British Spectator. He has longtime ties to the Saudi royal family as a journalist and adviser, and some reports suggest MBS recently offered him a significant government post if he returned from exile in Washington, D.C. Some speculate that his refusal to accept that offer may have triggered the Saudi assault in Turkey.

None of this justifies a brazen murder, if that’s what happened, which would be a blunder and a crime. The fiasco puts enormous pressure on aging King Salman, who put the Crown Prince in charge. The Saudi royal family can be like feuding Borgias in the best of times, and the rivals of MBS will see a moment to strike at his power and agenda.

The episode is not the fault of Mr. Trump or son-in-law and White House adviser Jared Kushner, despite the predictable claims of the American left. Any sensible U.S. Administration would support a Saudi reformer willing to help restrain Iranian military adventurism. But a murder of this sordid kind would inevitably have bilateral consequences.

Senators of both parties are already warning that the episode, if proven, could lead to Magnitsky Act sanctions on the individuals involved. U.S. military aid and cooperation could be at risk. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham says there would be “hell to pay.” While the Saudis could buy arms from the Russians or Chinese if Congress balks, the U.S. can’t afford an unstable Kingdom that would be vulnerable to Iranian or Sunni radical subversion.

Some of the most difficult foreign-policy decisions for any President are how to deal with authoritarian governments that offend American values but are important to U.S. interests. MBS seemed like a good bet as he pursued a more modern Saudi Arabia, but that has to be reconsidered if he is the architect of the Khashoggi disappearance.

Mr. Trump needs to show public concern, as he has, while the White House thinks through the consequences of American sanctions or policy change. The only people happy about all this reside in Tehran.

Appeared in the October 13, 2018, print edition.

Trump’s not gonna let a little murder get in the way of Saudi arms deal

October 12, 2018
The president sees no reason to stop doing business with Mohammed bin Salman, despite a credible allegation that Saudi Arabia killed and dismembered a journalist last week.
“We already have the charts printed up an everything.”
By Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images.

A new report in The Washington Post, citing U.S. intelligence intercepts, appears to confirm what is looking increasingly likely: that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally ordered the operation to lure journalist Jamal Khashoggi from his home in Virginia to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week, and had him murdered. Turkish security officials told The New York Times that they believe he was “dismembered . . . with a bone saw” by a 15-person team, dispatched from Saudi Arabia to make the vociferous critic of Salman’s government disappear. It is, in other words, not a good look for the so-called “reformer” prince, whose country has denied killing Khashoggi, but is not trying particularly hard to be convincing. Nor is it a good look for Donald Trump and Jared Kushner, who don’t seem eager to terminate a chummy relationship with the crown prince over a credible murder allegation. At least not just yet.

For those who need a quick refresher on the Kushner-M.B.S. bromance, the two first bonded over lunch at the White House back in March 2017, with the Boy Prince of New Jersey subsequently persuading his father-in-law to visit Riyadh for his first trip abroad as president. From there, it was basically a buddy comedy for the ages, with Kushner championing M.B.S. when the young prince was battling with his cousin to become his father’s heir; supporting his move to blockade Qatar and tacitly supporting his brutal war in Yemen; having back-slapping dinners with the prince in D.C. and the Saudi capital; and reportedly giving M.B.S. the names of disloyal Saudi royals who were later rounded up and imprisoned (Kushner denies this). Perhaps most significant, the two struck a deal for a $110 billion weapons sale—not a bad inducement if you’re trying to get the future king’s blessing for your Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. Salman’s financial ties to Trump run deep, too. In March, the prince’s entourage almost single-handedly boosted revenue at Trump’s New York hotel by 13 percent. Presumably, Kushner and M.B.S. had discussed plans to get a boys trip on the calendar in between work and family commitments.

So the news that Saudi Arabia likely murdered a journalist who spoke critically of the crown prince’s regime has put Kushner in, as the Times puts it, an “extremely awkward position”! At first, Kushner and the White House chose to stay silent on the matter, like friends of Brett Kavanaugh refusing to dignify allegations of their pal being a fall-down drunk with a sexual-predator problem. But as the evidence kept piling up, it was clear they had to at least feign some level of concern, which apparently involved calling up M.B.S. and being like, “Hey, did you kill this guy? Nope? O.K., works for us!”

On Tuesday, the White House said, Mr. Kushner and John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, spoke to Prince Mohammed by phone about Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also called him.

“In both calls, they asked for more details and for the Saudi government to be transparent in the investigation process,” said the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Meanwhile, Kushner’s father-in-law suggested Wednesday night that he thought the Saudis probably didkill Khashoggi, expressing less anger about the situation than he did when Nordstrom dropped his daughters’s clothing line. “It would not be a positive,” he told Fox News. “I would not be happy at all.” But while the smallest perceived slights generally result in the president vowing to destroy another country—for instance, threatening to economically cripple Ecuador for promoting breastfeeding—he apparently sees no reason to stop doing business with the kingdom:

. . . The president expressed reluctance to punish Saudi Arabia by cutting off arms sales, as some in Washington were proposing. “I think that would be hurting us,” he said. “We have jobs, we have a lot of things happening in this country.”

Also on Thursday, Trump made his disregard for Khashoggi’s death even more obvious, telling reporters: “Again, this took place in Turkey, and to the best of our knowledge Khashoggi is not a U.S. citizen, is that right? He’s a permanent resident, O.K. . . . As to whether or not we should stop $110 billion from being spent in this country . . . that would not be acceptable to me.” Incidentally, many say the deal is not worth anywhere near $110 billion, though accuracy has never been the president’s forte (that would be cozying up to autocrats who flout democratic values and human rights).

Business execs worry about optics of appearing chummy with murderous despot

On the one hand, there’s a lot of money to be made as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pledges to open up Saudi Arabia to foreign investment. On the other, there’s that whole possible plot to murder a journalist business:

Since Turkish officials blamed Saudi Arabia for the October 2 disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, foreign investors have begun re-examining their relationship with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and their participation in his plans to overhaul his country’s economy.

“The disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul raises fresh questions about Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s reputation as a reformer and political developments pose a growing threat to the economic outlook,” said Jason Tuvey, an economist at Capital Economics.

It marks a moment for executives to choose whether they want to be associated with Prince Mohammed, said Karen Young, resident scholar at the  American Enterprise Institute , the Washington think tank. “For high-profile C.E.O.s, this is not a good moment for photo ops,” she said.

One opportunity for photo-ops will come later this month, when Saudi Arabia hosts the Future Investment Initiative, an event that has been dubbed “Davos in the Desert.” While The New York Timeshas said it will no longer serve as a media sponsor, advisory board member Arianna Huffington no longer plans to attend, and L.A. Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong has dropped out as a speaker, Wall Street appears to be in the “weighing the pros and cons” phase. As of Thursday afternoon, C.E.O.s from Blackstone, JPMorgan, Credit Suisse, and Bridgewater were all still listed as speakers, as was Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Trump is still mad at the Fed

On Thursday, Donald Trump spent a second consecutive day bashing the Federal Reserve for raising interest rates, which he blames for the market falling more than 1,300 points in two days. As New York’s Josh Barro points out, if Trump had idea how any of this works, he would actually blame himself for the Fed raising rates, given that 1) he literally hired a Fed chair, Jerome Powell, who is known for favoring higher interest rates; 2) he used fiscal policy to stoke an already strong economy, which typically pushes inflation up, at which point people like Powell raise rates to fight that inflation; 3) he put Powell in a position of basically having to raise rates so as not to look like Trump’s puppet because, as the president may or may not be aware, the Fed is supposed to be an independent government agency that doesn‘t cater to the whims of any idiot living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. (As for the two-day market decline, the blame finger is also pointing squarely in the direction of Big Orange and his trade war with China.)

But Trump doesn’t understand how any of this works, so on Thursday, instead of blaming himself, he said: “The Fed is out of control. I think what they’re doing is wrong,” adding for some unintentional humor that the rates are “not necessary in my opinion and I think I know about it better than they do.” That critique came less than 24 hours after he told reporters, “The Fed is going wild. I mean, I don’t know what their problem is but they are raising interest rates and it’s ridiculous. The problem in my opinion is Treasuries and the Fed. The Fed is going loco and there is no reason for them to do it and I’m not happy about it.”

But if you thought the president was simply interfering with monetary policy because he wants to be able to tout the stock market’s gains in the run-up to the midterms, you thought wrong! Naturally, he also has his own bottom line on the brain:

Trump on Thursday also indicated that the Fed’s policies were harming him personally. Trump owes more than $300 million to Deutsche Bank AG of debt with interest rates that rise or fall depending on Fed policy. Higher interest rates could increase his debt payments considerably.

Meanwhile, White House National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow, commenting on the president’s obvious attack on the Fed’s strategy, somehow had this to say: “He has never attacked the Fed’s plan or strategy. He has never interfered with that. He is giving his opinion, and it’s an informed opinion.”

President threatens to expose private citizen

In what has now become a regularly scheduled feature of the administration, on Thursday the president of the United States seemingly threatened to reveal the kind of dirt on someone that the National Enquirer used to buy and bury about him. Per CNBC:

Discussing the various leaks coming out of his administration that have been turned into multiple news stories and a few salacious books, Trump responded sharply when an interviewer on Fox & Friends suggested that [Gary] Cohn, along with former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, was one of the sources.

“I was very good to both of them. It could have been [them leaking]. A lot of people have said that,” the president said. “Gary Cohn, I could tell stories about him like you wouldn’t believe.”

Cohn who has claimed Fear “does not accurately portray my experience at the White House,” did not respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

Treasury staff should probably lay low for a while

Or at least gird itself for an all-caps rage tweet filled with inexplicable capitalization and charges of being paid by China and/or the Democrats:

The U.S. Treasury Department’s staff has advised Secretary Steven Mnuchin that China isn’t manipulating the yuan as the Trump administration prepares to issue a closely watched report on foreign currencies, according to two people familiar with the matter. . . . President Donald Trump has publicly and privately pressured Mnuchin to declare China a currency manipulator, but Treasury staff haven’t found grounds to do so, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Formally accusing China of manipulating the renminbi wouldn’t trigger any sanctions or retribution, but the move would heighten tensions between the world’s two biggest economies.


Gundlach Says Trump Is “Crazy Like a Fox” to Blame Fed for Sell-Off (Bloomberg

Billionaire Auto Magnate Sues Daughter for $398 Million (Bloomberg)

S.E.C., Tesla submit approval of settlement to court (N.Y.P.)

Uber Wants to Be the Next Cash-Burning Unicorn to Sell Bonds (Barron’s)

Buyer of Banksy Painting That Self-Destructed Plans to Keep It (Bloomberg)

Nixon’s Grandson May Become a Trump Aide on China, Sources Say (Bloomberg)

Facebook purges more than 800 accounts pushing political messages for profit (Washington Post)

Fyre Festival organizer Billy McFarland sentenced to six years in prison (N.Y.P.)

Wells Fargo: Market “tailspin” could last another one to two weeks (CNBC)

Kanye West to Donald Trump: “Time Is a Myth” and Other S–t That Made No Sense (The Slot)

Daughter of woman whose “emotional support” squirrel got her kicked off flight says she’s “upset and angry” (N.Y.D.N.)

Trump can’t let the Saudis get away with murder

October 12, 2018

In the face of mounting evidence that the Saudi government is behind the disappearance and likely murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, President Trump has to make it plain that he’s not the junior partner is the US-Saudi alliance.

Trump on Thursday seemed to rule out the most obvious response, saying that halting arms sales to Riyadh “is not acceptable to me.” As he explained the night before, he thinks that hurts Americans more than the Saudis.

OK, but he’s got to find some way to make Riyadh feel some hurt.

New York Post

Yes, Saudi Arabia has been a US ally since President Franklin Roosevelt met with King Abdul Aziz on his way home from the Yalta conference in 1945. More, Riyadh is now a key part of the anti-Iran alliance.

But the relationship remains strained by Saudi funding of extremism around the globe, and the fact that nearly all the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi citizens.

Hopes had been high that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was bringing real change with his economic and political reforms. Yet he’s already raised nerves by spending the past year purging his critics.

And an extrajudicial murder in another country is a whole new level — “a game-changer,” as Sen. Lindsey Graham put it.

Trump must make Riyadh understand that such behavior is unacceptable from a US ally. If he won’t stop the arm sales, his advisers need to find some other sanction — combined with private threats of more severe action.

The president said Thursday he’s waiting “for more information.” Fine, but Congress may force his hand. Four senators from both parties have written Trump, triggering a probe under the Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act — which may quickly lead to sanctions on MBS and his inner circle.

Meanwhile, major foreign investors have already started re-evaluating their relationship with the kingdom and MBS.

Trump needs to take the lead — and send a clear message that he’s the one in control.

Where’s the outrage over Hillary’s call for a ‘civil’ war? — Politics, Democrats and the Dangers of Rage

October 10, 2018

Two events from the last two days stand out. The first came Monday night with President Trump’s forceful yet compassionate speech at the swearing in of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

The president opened with an extraordinary apology on behalf of the country to Kav­anaugh and his family“for the terrible pain and suffering” they endured during the historically brutal confirmation process. He said the unfounded allegations violated fairness and “the presumption of innocence.”

Trump also tenderly addressed Kavanaugh’s young daughters, telling them “your father is a great man, a man of decency, character, kindness and courage.”

The event was something of a spike-the-football moment in front of a cheering White House audience and as such was a clever piece of stagecraft, where Republican Sens. Mitch McConnell, Charles Grassley, Lindsey Graham and Susan Collins were saluted.

By Michael Goodwin
New York Post

But the ceremony was much more than that mere boosterism. With the eight other Supremes sitting in the front row, Trump aimed to restore dignity to the judiciary at a time when the dirtiest tricks of politics have buried the court in a mountain of mud.

The president is right to worry that the character-assassination attempt on Kavanaughmay turn out to be a seminal moment in American political and cultural history. The ideas that the court is just another political branch and that the presumption of innocence no longer applies if you are on the other team represent a seismic shift in how we look at each other and the nation as a whole.

If those ideas stick, we are in more trouble than we can imagine.

And while Trump has at times unnecessarily contributed to the rancor, he was terrific Monday in trying to repair what Senate Democrats and their media handmaidens tried to destroy.

Which brings me to the second event of note: Hillary Clinton’s statement Tuesday that Democrats “cannot be civil” as long as Republicans hold the White House and Congress.

“You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about,” Clinton told CNN. “That’s why I believe, if we are fortunate enough to win back the House and/or the Senate, that’s when civility can start again. But until then, the only thing that the Republicans seem to recognize and respect is strength.”

There you have it — a declaration of war and a license for violence. Where is the media outrage?

Clinton knows we are already in the danger zone when it comes to the political temperature. Her comments, then, are as reckless as bringing a can of gasoline to a bonfire.

She’s stoking trouble to gain a foothold in the 2020 race — and damn the consequences.

Her claim that civility can return when Dems have power is an admission that the ends justify the means.

Then again, she never fails to disappoint. As I wrote Sunday, she has spent the last two years casting doubt on the legitimacy of the Trump presidency because the election didn’t go her way. That makes her guilty of the very thing she found “horrifying” when Trump suggested he might not abide by the results if he thought they were rigged.

“He is denigrating — he is talking down our democracy. And I am appalled that someone who is the nominee of one of our two major parties would take that position,” she said in their final debate, in October of 2016.

She added, “That is not the way our democracy works.”

But it does work exactly that way when Democrats are denied what they feel entitled to. They should be careful what they wish for.

For if the Kavanaugh experience revealed anything, it is that Trump’s GOP knows how to fight back and win. It is hard to imagine that Kavanaugh would have survived such an onslaught under any other ­recent Republican candidate or president.

There were so many reasons, and so much media pressure, that it would not have been surprising if a bloc of senators called the allegations a “distraction” and waved a white flag. They didn’t because Trump and Kavanaugh didn’t back down.

Still, there is danger when two sides both think they can outlast the other. Responding to my concern that America might be sleepwalking into a second civil war, a number of readers agreed. Some said they welcomed it.

Curt Doolittle wrote this: “We aren’t sleepwalking into it, we know exactly what we’re doing and why. The hard right and hard left are planning on it, ready for it, and looking for an opportunity.”

He said the pressure has been building and that “the only reason it hasn’t turned hot is the outlier of Trump’s election. If Clinton had won, we’d already be there.”


Lindsey Graham Warns Saudi Arabia of “Heavy Price” if Jamal Khashoggi Allegations Prove True

October 9, 2018

Image result for lindsey graham, photos

Lindsey Graham

Saudi Arabia will pay a “heavy price” if allegations that the kingdom killed a prominent journalist prove true, said a senior Republican senator on Monday.

Jamal Khashoggi, journalist and columnist for The Washington Post, has been missing since he entered the consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

Image result for Jamal Khashoggi, photos

On his Twitter account, Lindsey Graham said Riyadh must provide “honest answers,” adding that his position is shared by fellow Senators Bob Corker, a Republican, and Ben Cardin, a Democrat.

“We agree if there was any truth to the allegations of wrongdoing by the Saudi government it would be devastating to the U.S.-Saudi relationship and there will be a heavy price to be paid — economically and otherwise,” Graham tweeted.

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Ben Cardin

On Monday, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan urged the Saudi Consulate to prove whether or not Khashoggi exited the building after entering, saying the consulate officials “can’t get away with [simply] saying ‘he left the building’.”

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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman

Turkish police investigating the case said in a statement Saturday that 15 Saudis, including several officials, arrived in Istanbul on two planes and entered the consulate while Khashoggi was inside.

“Our country’s values should be and must be a cornerstone of our foreign policy with foes and allies alike,” said Graham.

See also:

U.S. Senators Warn Saudis of Consequences Over Khashoggi’s Fate

Georgetown professor wished ‘miserable deaths’ and castration for Republican senators

October 6, 2018

Georgetown University has suspended a female professor from teaching for a public tweet last Saturday in which she said Republican senators who support Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh ought to be killed and castrated, according to a report published Friday evening.

Carol Christine Fair, a distinguished associate professor within the School of Foreign Service at the Washington university, will instead travel internationally for university research instead of teaching.

Image result for Carol Christine Fair, photos

Carol Christine Fair

“To prevent further disruption to her students and out of an abundance of caution for the security of our community, we have mutually agreed for Professor Fair to go on research leave effective immediately,” the foreign service school dean, Joel Hellman, wrote in a statement to staff, according to Fox News. “Professor Fair will accelerate previously scheduled international research travel.”

“We can and do strongly condemn the use of violent imagery, profanity, and insensitive labeling of individuals based on gender, ethnicity or political affiliation in any form of discourse,” Hellman wrote.

Fair has issued hundreds of tweets since the weekend incident demonstrating her ire over allegations of sexual assault several women have made against Kavanaugh. In that tweet, she said white GOP senators, specifically Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., “deserve miserable deaths.”

“Look at [this] chorus of entitled white men justifying a serial rapist’s arrogated entitlement,” she wrote. “All of them deserve miserable deaths while feminists laugh as they take their last gasps. Bonus: we castrate their corpses and feed them to swine? Yes.”

The tweet was removed from Twitter and her account temporarily suspended Tuesday, but was active as of Friday.