Jamal Khashoggi Disappearance Doesn’t Faze White House: Reason Roundup

Evidence suggests that Mohammed bin Salman, a recent darling of the D.C. foreign policy crowd and the young crown prince of Saudi Arabia, ordered the capture of Jamal Khashoggi, a self-exiled Saudi writer and regular Washington Post contributor, who went missing in Turkey. Cameras outside the Saudi consulate in Instanbul show Khashoggi arriving there on October 2, but do not show him leaving.

Before he went missing, U.S. intelligence agents “intercepted communications of Saudi officials discussing a plan to capture him,” the Post reported yesterday. Since Khashoggi’s disappearance, “Turkey’s government says it has seen no evidence supporting the Saudi claim that Khashoggi ever left the consulate alive.”

The U.S. and many other countries generally ignore what the Saudi government does to Saudi Arabians while they’re in Saudi Arabia. But the Saudi government possibly abducting and harming a dissident writer living in Istanbul is a different thing altogether. This move could rile Turkish authorities, sour Saudi ties with allies outside the Middle East, and shift relations with some neighbors.

“Confirmation of any state-sponsored violence against Khashoggi would make it even harder for Saudi leadership to portray Iran as the ultimate villain of the region,” writes Maysam Behravesh at Reuters. It would also “increase international pressure on the Trump administration, which has thrown its weight behind the young prince to execute his so-called reforms and helped set the stage for his ascension to the throne,” as well as “backed the controversial Saudi-led intervention in Yemen with advanced weapons and political cover in international institutions.” As Behravesh notes,

An airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition on a school bus in north Yemen left 40 children and 11 adults dead on August 9 and wounded 79 others, 56 of them children. CNN later reported that the weapon used in the deadly attack was a 500-pound laser-guided bomb made by Lockheed Martin and supplied by the United States.

Khashoggi had been critical of Prince Mohammed and Saudi-led actions in Yemen. “He lamented that Saudi Arabia’s repression was becoming unbearable to the point of his decision to leave the country and live in exile in Washington,” his editor at the Post, Karen Attiah, wrote yesterday.

Like way too many in U.S. politics, “Trump’s foreign policy toward Saudi Arabia is compromised by deep financial conflicts of interest,” points out Post contributor Brian Klaas.

In 1991, when Trump was $900 million in debt, he was bailed out by a member of the Saudi royal family, who purchased his 281-foot yacht, Trump Princess. Trump’s other princess, Ivanka, is married to Jared Kushner, who has deep ties to the crown prince. In 2015, when asked about his relationship with the Saudis, Trump said: “I get along great with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.”

Asked yesterday about cutting of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, President Trump told Fox News’ Shannon Bream that “what we are doing with our defense systems” meant “everybody is wanting them and, frankly, I think that would be a very, very tough pill to swallow for our country.”

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FOLLOW-UP

Read more on the immigrant detention case and gun-crime cases argued before SCOTUS in Tuesday’s Roundup.

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