Saudi Arabia's de-facto leader was never next in line to the throne until the US recognised him. His never ending blunders shouldn't be allowed to continue.
I last spoke with Jamal Khashoggi this May at a conference in Istanbul.
He was a taller, wiser, more accomplished, and more importantly, humbler version of those around him. It was a brief ten minute conversation on the current state of the Saudi regime under Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS).
In the course of our conversation, Jamal made it abundantly clear that he loved his country, mentioning that twice in our last conversation.
“I’m a Saudi. I love my country, and I’m not against Al-Saud…I’m only asking for reform because I know we’re going down the wrong path.”
He knew he would not be returning to his beloved home anytime soon, not while MBS was in power, and especially not while rejecting the regime’s demands to stay silent. After all, many of his friends were already imprisoned.
This conversation will never be forgotten, not merely because of the promise Jamal held as an influential figure throughout the region, but because of what the crown prince did a few months later to crush his reasoned voice.
Jamal was given assurances that he would be safe entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2nd, only to be captured, killed, and dismembered.
Details of the gruesome killing will soon become public, as Turkish authorities reveal more and more by the day.
Something about his killing has awakened the world's moral compass, but most likely hitting a nerve that a US permanent resident was murdered in cold blood inside a consulate, only to be allegedly grotesquely dismembered.
Frankly, dismemberment of the human body using a bone saw reeks of the actions of an infamous terrorist group in the region: Daesh.
It is the brutal killing of a journalist and his consequent dismemberment that has done more to awaken humanity's conscience to Saudi evil than the Saudi-induced famine in Yemen ever could - a situation considered the worst ongoing humanitarian crisis in the world.
Jamal was a humble man who had found refuge in the United States, even successfully securing permanent residency that granted him protections through the US Constitution. He had ignored demands from Saudi intelligence to remain quiet, even rejecting their offers of positions within the regime in exchange for his blind loyalty.
It is important to remember that in liberal democracies, loyalty is not measured by critique. As a matter of fact, if well-intentioned, critique proves loyalty.
This is not so inside the Saudi Kingdom. As he so-often stated, Jamal was proud of his roots and adamant that his work outside of the Kingdom was for the betterment of the conditions of his people.
For the Trump administration and as we deem him, ‘Prince’ Jared Kushner, a long time friend of MBS, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman is now nothing more than a liability.
It's key to remember that the new de-facto leader of Saudi Arabia was not next in line to securing the throne.
It was the ‘three prince gamble’ of Mohammed Bin Zayed of the UAE, Mohammed Bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, and most importantly, Jared Kushner, senior advisor to President Trump, that led to MBS’s rise in the Saudi hierarchy.
It appears there are now only two roads for the Trump administration: protect MBS at all costs, or replace him effectively.
While this was also true with MBS's inexhaustible stream of blunders, the Khashoggi scandal has turned MBS into even more of a liability for the US establishment.
In an interview with Fox & Friends on October 16th, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham dubbed MBS a “wrecking ball” as a convergence of evidence come together, all pointing to the fact that Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate.
“I know this”, Graham said, “Nothing happens in Saudi Arabia without MBS knowing it...He had this guy murdered in a consulate in Turkey and expects me to ignore it. I feel used and abused. I was on the floor every time defending Saudi Arabia.”
“I think he’s on a bad track. I can never do business with Saudi Arabia again until we get this behind us...I feel personally offended,” he added. “This guy has got to go. MBS has tainted your country and tainted himself.”
The growing sentiment that MBS has become a liability for the US has become widespread in not only civil society platforms such as most major newspapers, but also, and more importantly, among the deep state within the Saudi establishment.
The Khashoggi scandal has not only rocked states caught up in the turmoil as well as the surrounding region; but it has also unleashed cataclysmic shockwaves through Khashoggi’s most recent refuge in Washington DC.
This was evident in his writings and one article, published just a month before his disappearance in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, where he argued that the US aversion to the Muslim Brotherhood is the root of a predicament afflicting the entire Arab world.
The eradication of the Muslim Brotherhood, or their forced removal and prevention from power, as Khashoggi saw it, was a fatal mistake that the Obama administration made in tacitly approving the coup that overthrew the first democratically elected government in Egyptian history.
This was nothing less than an abolition of democracy itself and a guarantee that Arabs would continue living under authoritarian and corrupt regimes.
In turn, Khashoggi drew the causality that this would mean the continuation of the causes behind revolution, extremism and an influx in refugees — all of which have affected the security of Europe and the rest of the world.
MBS saw this as a direct threat to his rule, not only from Khashoggi’s pen that flowed with damning ideas, but also due to Khashoggi’s mind: one that knew him well, having spent decades amongst the highest echelons of Saudi decision-makers and intelligentsia.
Nothing could be a more succinct summary of everything that has gone wrong in the MENA region than what Khashoggi wrote in few sentences.
Consecutive US administrations are complicit in this by becoming bedfellows with characters spanning from MBS, self-proclaimed Messiah of Saudi Arabia, to indiscriminate ‘civilian protester killer’ Abdel Fattah el Sisi.
It is high time for the Trump administration to revisit its relationships throughout the region.
More to the point, Khashoggi’s disappearance and presumed murder was no random event caused by personal hatred or a slighted crown prince driven by a messiah complex and delusions of grandeur.
The Daily Beast reports that Khashoggi was working to launch a pro-democracy advocacy group named Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN). The very name of the group is Prince MBS's worst nightmare, who has fought tooth and nail alongside despots in the region against the democratic aspirations of the 'Arab Spring', desperate to ensure their rule continues unabated.
The sooner the US deep state understands this simple fact, the quicker the US can recover from its self-induced post traumatic stress disorder in the aftermath of the volcanic ‘Arab Spring’.
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