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Howl

Saudis/MBS/Khashoggi/Yemen/Kushner

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Howl

I've been on a bit of a tear this past weekend about the disappearance of Jamal Khoshoggi, the Saudi dissident and US green-card holder, who went into the Saudi embassy in Istanbul and never came out.  To find these numerous posts, just put "Khashoggi" in the fj search bar, Politics section.  Most of the posts are in the Ivanka and Jared thread. 

This brings into play the billion dollar deal to sell missiles to the Saudis,  Saudi investment in the US, MBS (Mohammad bin Salman)'s dark side, US reliance on Saudi oil, how the lack of an appointment of a Saudi ambassador let's Jared communicate directly with MBS, the humanitarian crisis in Yemen with 13 million people on the brink of starvation while dealing with a massive cholera epidemic, Qatar, Magnitsky Act  and on and on.  It's looking more likely that Khashoggi was tortured and assassinated in the Saudi embassy with a good possibility of being dismembered in order to remove the body parts.  There is no indication, based on security footage, that Khashoggi left the embassy alive, as the Saudi's claim.  There is reasonable speculation that Trump's hated from the media has led the Saudis to think that they could murder a journalist with impunity. 

Because the administration works this way, there's already an alternative narrative in place about how "something" happened to Khoshoggi, but it wasn't the Saudis.  That seems familiar, somehow. 

This Saudi dissident speaks out: 

His twitter thread will help you understand just how repressive the Saudis are and how dangerous to dissidents. If you don't do twitter, thread unroll here

 

 

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Drala

More Wall Street Executives Pull Out of Saudi Conference, but Mnuchin Plans to Attend

By Alan Rappeport, NYTimes, Oct. 15, 2018

Spoiler

WASHINGTON — The disappearance of a Saudi dissident journalist has put Steven Mnuchin, the United States Treasury secretary, in an increasingly awkward position as he prepares to attend an investment conference in Riyadh next week.

Several top Wall Street executives have pulled out of participating in the summit meeting, known as Davos in the Desert, but a Treasury official said on Monday that Mr. Mnuchin still planned to attend. Mr. Mnuchin’s participation there is part of a six-country, weeklong swing through the Middle East that is focused on combating terrorist financing.

The trip is crucial to retaining good relations with Saudi Arabia as both countries try to work together to combat illicit financial activities in the Middle East that help fund terrorism. But Mr. Mnuchin is now wrestling with the economic and national security benefits of remaining in the Saudi government’s good stead with the risks of attending amid questions about the fate of the journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.

Mr. Khashoggi has not been seen since he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. The Turkish authorities have alleged that Mr. Khashoggi was killed and dismembered by Saudi operatives. The Saudi government has denied any wrongdoing, and says Mr. Khashoggi left the consulate shortly after his arrival.

Mr. Mnuchin’s staff has been closely monitoring the situation and awaiting additional evidence about the fate of Mr. Khashoggi before making a final decision. However, the trip appeared more likely to move forward after President Trump buttressed Saudi denials that it was responsible for Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance, suggesting that “rogue killers” could be to blame, and as he dispatched his secretary of state to meet with King Salman of Saudi Arabia.

On Monday, the chief executives of the Blackstone Group and BlackRock canceled plans to attend an investment conference in Saudi Arabia next week, joining Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase as the latest Wall Street titans to pull back in the wake of the disappearance, and potential murder of Mr. Khashoggi.

Mr. Mnuchin’s decision to attend is prompting criticism, including from lawmakers like Senator Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican, who say the Treasury secretary’s participation will convey to the world that America approves of Saudi Arabia’s actions. As the top economic official from the United States, Mr. Mnuchin’s presence would send a significant signal about how America views human rights issues.

But the timing of the conference comes at a delicate moment of economic diplomacy, making the decision even more fraught.

The Treasury Department oversees the United States’ sanctions arsenal and Mr. Mnuchin has been aggressively urging American allies to step up pressure against Iran after Mr. Trump’s withdrawal from an international agreement signed in 2015 to curb its nuclear program. Saudi Arabia has been supportive of that decision, and its influence in the region is needed to help isolate Iran.

Another important factor is oil. Prices have been spiking this year and the prospect of higher fuel costs in the United States ahead of the November midterm elections is problematic for Republicans. Relations between Mr. Trump and the Saudis, whom he courted lavishly last year, have been strained in recent months after the president publicly pressured Saudi Arabia to ramp up oil production. Earlier this month, Mr. Trump raised eyebrows again when he suggested that Saudi Arabia should be spending more on defense.

“We protect Saudi Arabia,” he said at a rally in Mississippi, adding that he told King Salman that he would not last two weeks without American military support.

For Mr. Mnuchin, the tension comes on the anniversary of one of his signature policy projects: the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center, which was unveiled in Riyadh on his trip last year as a multinational effort to combat illicit financial activities in the Middle East.

On that trip, Mr. Mnuchin was feted by Saudi Arabia’s finance minister, Mohammed al-Jadaan and the governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority, Ahmed al-Kholifey, in a gilded conference room at the Ritz-Carlton on the sidelines of the Future Investment Initiative.

At the conference, where chocolate truffles and cardamom coffee flowed freely, Mr. Mnuchin hailed the partnership with the Saudi government and said he looked forward to returning annually to ensure the center’s success.

Former Treasury officials were divided on the wisdom of Mr. Mnuchin traveling to Riyadh under the current circumstances.

Paul O’Neill, who served as Treasury secretary under President George W. Bush, said that the fact that Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, was making his own trip to Saudi Arabia could give Mr. Mnuchin a graceful opportunity to bow out. He suggested that the conference itself would offer the secretary little value, since he has easy access to business executives from around the world.

“If it turns out that it’s true that they caused a journalist to be assassinated, I can’t imagine the secretary of the Treasury would go,” Mr. O’Neill said. “He is kind of a token now, in that if he pulls out, it will strengthen what the president has said, in terms of being upset with them.”

But making the trip could also be an opportunity for Mr. Mnuchin.

Elizabeth Rosenberg, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, said that more engagement is crucial during fraught diplomatic times. One option, she said, is for Mr. Mnuchin to skip the investment conference and just pay a visit to the terrorist finance center. Or the secretary, who was planning to participate in a moderated discussion with Thomas Barrack, the founder of Colony Capital, could opt to give a speech addressing human rights.

“I think the U.S. Treasury secretary can still engage and not crush the credibility of the U.S. position of being a tough interlocutor,” said Ms. Rosenberg, who is a former senior adviser to the department’s Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes division.

However, she added, it would be a dire mistake to attend the conference and avoid the human rights issue.

“It would be particularly awkward if all these people had pulled out and then he had nothing further to say other than just a desire to participate,” Ms. Rosenberg said.

 

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fraurosena

This part from @Howl's link is the most poignant and relevant in today's politics. In America, but also all over the world, if you ask me.

"I'm talking to everyone who failed to take their own elected leaders to account. I freaking speak about democracy every day and I've never had the right to vote for an hour of my life. What were you all doing with your votes?

Stop the your butthurt and accept personal responsibility. Accept personal responsibility. Without that change can *never* happen."

It saddens me, but I have no doubt that this whole Khashoggi catastrophe will be forgotten about in a week's time, as the midterms inch closer and everyone will be focussed exclusively on that. In a sense, it's good that so many citizens will be exercising their right to vote. On the other hand, it's appalling that the outrage at the brutal murder of a journalist who dared to speak out to a dictatorial regime will die down so quickly and for the large part this atrocity will then be ignored.

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fraurosena

They've come up with a likely explanation. And of course it will be enough of an excuse for this administration.
And so it all fizzles out. 

I keep thinking of his poor bride to be. How she must be suffering. The poor, poor woman. :pb_sad:

And here it is. The denial. Right on cue. 

 

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Howl

Everybody knows that embassies have rogue elements in place wandering the halls, ready to carry out brutal interrogations that "accidentally" result in death. 

FFS, this is already being spun like mad.  Major damage control is already under way and it will be eclipsed soon by God knows what. 

CNN: 

It's scary how quickly the PR machine spins up to sink stories that have negative implications for global actors, especially when there's money at stake.  Lots and lots and lots of money. 

Edited by Howl

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GreyhoundFan

image.png.18c2ce965a4e55cde2bbe5379bc5d8f4.png

Edited by GreyhoundFan

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Howl

Just the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia putting citizens on alert that spreading the truth will land you in prison. 

  • Upvote 3
  • WTF 1
  • I Agree 3

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AmazonGrace

Looks like MBS is short for More BullShit.

 

 

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fraurosena

For Rufus' sake NBC, stop peddling the lie! 

Pompeo is most certainly NOT meeting with the Saudi king over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. They're meeting about MONEY, arms deals, and how the Saudi's can aid Kushner and what the administration can do for the Saudi's.

Don't kid yourselves it's anything else. That's only playing into the narrative they want to spin.

 

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Drala

WaPo published these exerpts of Jamal Khashoggi's columns.  They give an inside view to life in Saudi and the reader gets a feel for how courageous he was in speaking truth to power.

Spoiler

By Jamal Khashoggi

October 6

Jamal Khashoggi, a veteran Saudi journalist, was killed in Istanbul after walking into the consulate of Saudi Arabia, according to Turkish officials. In a statement released Saturday, Fred Hiatt, The Post’s editorial page editor, said that if true, this would represent “a monstrous and unfathomable act.”

Khashoggi had been writing a column for The Post’s Global Opinions section since last year. “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,” wrote Karen Attiah, Khashoggi’s editor, on Wednesday.

Hiatt, in his statement, called Khashoggi a “committed, courageous journalist.”

“He writes out of a sense of love for his country and deep faith in human dignity and freedom,” Hiatt said. “We have been enormously proud to publish his writing.”

Read excerpts from some of Khashoggi’s columns below.

Saudi Arabia wasn’t always this repressive. Now it’s unbearable. – Sept. 18, 2017

When I speak of the fear, intimidation, arrests and public shaming of intellectuals and religious leaders who dare to speak their minds, and then I tell you that I’m from Saudi Arabia, are you surprised?

With young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s rise to power, he promised an embrace of social and economic reform. He spoke of making our country more open and tolerant and promised that he would address the things that hold back our progress, such as the ban on women driving.

But all I see now is the recent wave of arrests. Last week, about 30 people were reportedly rounded up by authorities, ahead of the crown prince’s ascension to the throne. Some of the arrested are good friends of mine, and the effort represents the public shaming of intellectuals and religious leaders who dare to express opinions contrary to those of my country’s leadership. …

It was painful for me several years ago when several friends were arrested. I said nothing. I didn’t want to lose my job or my freedom. I worried about my family.

I have made a different choice now. I have left my home, my family and my job, and I am raising my voice. To do otherwise would betray those who languish in prison. I can speak when so many cannot. I want you to know that Saudi Arabia has not always been as it is now. We Saudis deserve better. 

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince wants to ‘crush extremists.’ But he’s punishing the wrong people. – Oct. 31, 2017

Prince Mohammed is right to go after extremists. But he is going after the wrong people. Dozens of Saudi intellectuals, clerics, journalists, and social media stars have been arrested in the past 2 months — the majority of whom, at worst, are mildly critical of the government.  Meanwhile, many members of the Council of Senior Scholars (“Ulema”) have extremist ideas. Sheikh Saleh Al-Fawzan, who is highly regarded by Prince Mohamed, has said on Saudi TV that Shiites are not Muslims. Sheikh Saleh Al-Lohaidan, also highly regarded, has given legal advice that the Muslim ruler is not bound to consult others. Their reactionary opinions about democracy, pluralism or even women driving, are protected by royal decree from counter argument or criticism.

How can we become more moderate when such extremist views are tolerated? How can we progress as a nation when those offering constructive feedback and (often humorous) dissent are banished? 

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince is acting like Putin – Nov. 5, 2017

Corruption in Saudi Arabia is quite different from  corruption in most other countries, as it is not limited to a “bribe” in return for a contract, or expensive gift for the family member of a government official or prince, or use of a private jet that is charged to the government so a family can go on vacation.

Instead, in Saudi Arabia, senior officials and princes become billionaires as contracts are either enormously inflated or, at worst, a complete mirage. In 2004, Lawrence Wright wrote in the New Yorker about “The Kingdom of Silence” where a massive sewer project in Jeddah was really a series of manhole covers across the city with no actual pipes underneath. I, as the editor of a major paper at the time, can say that we all knew, and we never reported on it. 

Saudi Arabia is creating a total mess in Lebanon – Nov. 13, 2017

Today, Saudi Arabia alone is the most politically stable and economically secure country in the region. Neither the kingdom nor our conflict-ridden region can afford to see my country lose its footing. MBS’s rash actions are deepening tensions and undermining the security of the Gulf states and the region as a whole. 

With Ali Abdullah Saleh’s death, Saudi Arabia is paying the price for betraying the Arab Spring – Dec. 5, 2017

The choice of waging even more war is tempting for those in Riyadh who want an overwhelming defeat for the Houthis and to get them out of the political game, but it will be very costly — not only for the kingdom but for the Yemeni people who are already suffering immensely. This conflict is the horrific result of  preventing the people of Yemen from achieving their desire for freedom. Now the Houthi has become a significant force, and they do not hold the values of the Arab Spring based on power sharing. The world is watching Yemen; not only should the Saudis  stop the war, but there should be pressure for the Iranians to stop their support for the Houthis; both sides must accept a Yemeni formula to share power. Perhaps the fall of Saleh the tyrant is a chance for peace in Yemen. 

Why Saudi Arabia’s crown prince should be worried about Iran’s protests – Jan. 3, 2018

It is still too early to judge how the events in Iran will unfold. If the hard-liners succeed in suppressing the protests, they will continue their expansionist policy, which could mean an escalation of the confrontation with Saudi Arabia. If the regime or [Hassan] Rouhani’s government falls, the chants heard in a number of Iranian cities — “Neither Gaza nor Lebanon, my life will only be sacrificed for Iran” — could become the country’s foreign policy. 

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince already controlled the nation’s media. Now he’s squeezing it even further. – Feb. 7, 2018

When many of Saudi Arabia’s media tycoons ended up in Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton along with more than 300 royals, senior officials and wealthy businessmen accused of corruption, many people assumed that the kingdom’s strongman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, aims to control the media, too.

This is far from true, simply because he already does. 

What Saudi Arabia’s crown prince can learn from Queen Elizabeth II – Feb. 28, 2018 (co-bylined with Robert Lacey)

MBS’s downsizing and relative humbling of the House of Saud is welcome news. But maybe he should learn from the British royal house that has earned true stature, respect and success by trying a little humility himself. If MBS can listen to his critics and acknowledge that they, too, love their country, he can actually enhance his power. 

Why Saudi Arabia’s crown prince should visit Detroit – March 20, 2018 (co-bylined with Robert Lacey)

Many inner cities in Saudi Arabia fester today as Detroit once did — they are miserable Third World slums that completely mock the oil riches of the kingdom. So, before MBS ventures into building new cities, perhaps he should deal with the old ones. During his visit to Egypt, which kicked off his current global tour, the crown prince revealed his shared dream with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi of building a prosperous region in northern Saudi Arabia stretching across the Gulf of Aqaba to Egypt — a “Riviera of the Red Sea” to attract millions of tourists yearly. Yet since neither Saudi Arabia nor Egypt has a free press, no one asked the two leaders about Egypt’s numerous tourist destinations, such as Sharm El Sheikh, Hurghada and El Gouna. All have gorgeous beaches on the very same coast and a chronic lack of tourists; they are sad shadows of the resorts they used to be. Surely that problem should be addressed before splashing out precious government funds on still more cities in the sand. 

By blaming 1979 for Saudi Arabia’s problems, the crown prince is peddling revisionist history – April 3, 2018

In Saudi Arabia at the moment, people simply don’t dare to speak. The country has seen the blacklisting of those who dare raise their voices, the imprisonment of moderately critical intellectuals and religious figures, and the alleged anti-corruption crackdown on royals and other business leaders. Liberals whose work was once censored or banned by Wahhabi hard-liners have turned the tables: They now ban what they see as hard-line, such as the censorship of various books at the Riyadh International Book Fair last month. One may applaud such an about-face. But shouldn’t we aspire to allow the marketplace of ideas to be open?

I agree with MBS that the nation should return to its pre-1979 climate, when the government restricted hard-line Wahhabi traditions. Women today should have the same rights as men. And all citizens should have the right to speak their minds without fear of imprisonment. But replacing old tactics of intolerance with new ways of repression is not the answer. 

What Saudi Arabia can learn from ‘Black Panther’ — April 17, 2018

This Wednesday, Disney’s blockbuster “Black Panther” will be shown in theaters in Saudi Arabia, officially ending a decades-long ban on movie theaters in the country. This may seem odd to Americans who have grown up with cinema and popcorn, but to many Saudis it’s a huge step toward normalization. For too long, hard-line religious figures have preached that cinema would bring about the collapse of all moral values. When the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman decided to end the ban, he also effectively stopped the preachers from repeating such foolishness. By taking the lead to remove the ban, he proved that the government has the final say when it comes to deciding what’s permissible or not, and that some things should be left up to the personal choice of citizens, not the clergy. …

At the end of the film, the young king of Wakanda chooses to use his country’s power to engage with the world for the greater good. Will Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who likely will soon become king of his country, use his power to bring peace to the world around him? 

Saudi Arabia’s reformers now face a terrible choice – May 21, 2018

It is appalling to see 60- and 70-year-old icons of reform being  branded as “traitors” on the front pages of Saudi newspapers.

Women and men who championed many of the same social freedoms — including women driving — that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is now advancing were arrested in Saudi Arabia last week.  The crackdown has shocked even the government’s most stalwart defenders.

The arrests illuminate the predicament confronting all Saudis. We are being asked to abandon any hope of political freedom, and to keep quiet about arrests and travel bans that impact not only the critics but also their families. We are expected to vigorously applaud social reforms and heap praise on the crown prince while avoiding any reference to the pioneering Saudis who dared to address these issues decades ago. …

The message is clear to all: Activism of any sort has to be within the government, and no independent voice or counter-opinion will be allowed. Everyone must stick to the party line.

Is there no other way for us?  Must we choose between movie theaters and our rights as citizens to speak out, whether in support of or critical of our government’s actions?  Do we only voice glowing references to our leader’s decisions, his vision of our future, in exchange for the right to live and travel freely — for ourselves and our wives, husbands and children too? I have been told that I need to accept, with gratitude, the social reforms that I have long called for while keeping silent on other matters — ranging from the Yemen quagmire, hastily executed economic reforms, the blockade of Qatar, discussions about an alliance with Israel to counter Iran, and last year’s imprisonment of dozens of Saudi intellectuals and clerics.

This is the choice I’ve woken up to each morning ever since last June, when I left Saudi Arabia for the last time after being silenced by the government for six months. 

Saudi Arabia’s women can finally drive. But the crown prince needs to do much more. – June 25, 2018

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman deserves consider credit for bringing the matter to a close the right way. While previous leaders were reluctant to take up the issue, he faced it head-on and did the right thing for Saudi Arabia. At the same time, I hope he will not forget the brave actions of each and every Saudi who individually worked hard for freedom and modernization. He should order the release of Hathloul, Aziza al-Yousef, Eman al-Nafjan and the other brave women who campaigned for women’s right to drive. They should be allowed to finally witness the results of their tears and toil. 

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince must restore dignity to his country — by ending Yemen’s cruel war – Sept. 11, 2018

The longer this cruel war lasts in Yemen, the more permanent the damage will be. The people of Yemen will be busy fighting poverty, cholera and water scarcity and rebuilding their country. The crown prince must bring an end to the violence and restore the dignity of the birthplace of Islam. 

 

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fraurosena

As @Howl mentions in her first post, the humanitarian crisis due to the atrocious war in Yemen is beyond description.

Yemen on brink of 'world's worst famine in 100 years' if war continues

Quote

UN warns that famine could overwhelm country in next three months, with 13 million people at risk of starvation

Yemen could be facing the worst famine in 100 years if airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition are not halted, the UN has warned.

If war continues, famine could engulf the country in the next three months, with 12 to 13 million civilians at risk of starvation, according to Lise Grande, the agency’s humanitarian coordinator for Yemen.

She told the BBC: “I think many of us felt as we went into the 21st century that it was unthinkable that we could see a famine like we saw in Ethiopia, that we saw in Bengal, that we saw in parts of the Soviet Union – that was just unacceptable. Many of us had the confidence that would never happen again and yet the reality is that in Yemen that is precisely what we are looking at.”

Yemen has been in the grip of a bloody civil war for three years after Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, seized much of the country, including the capital, Sana’a. The Saudi-led coalition has been fighting the rebels since 2015 in support of the internationally recognised government.

Thousands of civilians have been caught in the middle, trapped by minefields and barrages of mortars and airstrikes. The resulting humanitarian catastrophe has seen at least 10,000 people killed and millions displaced.

Speaking on Sunday evening, Grande said: “There’s no question we should be ashamed, and we should, every day that we wake up, renew our commitment to do everything possible to help the people that are suffering and end the conflict.”

Her comments came after the UN and humanitarian workers condemned an airstrike in which the Saudi-led coalition targeted Yemen’s Shia rebels, killing at least 15 people near the port city of Hodeidah.

Video footage released by the rebels showed the remains of a mangled minibus littered with groceries following the attack on Saturday, which left 20 others injured. The Houthi rebels reported that five members of the same family were among those killed, adding that many children were among the casualties. 

“The United Nations agencies working in Yemen unequivocally condemn the attack on civilians and extend our deepest condolences to the families of the victims,” said Grande.

She added: “Under international humanitarian law, parties to the conflict are obliged to respect the principles of precaution, proportionality and distinction. Belligerents must do everything possible to protect civilians not hurt, maim, injure or kill them.”

Hodeidah, with its key port installations that bring in UN and other humanitarian aid, has become the centre of Yemen’s conflict, with ground troops allied to the coalition struggling to drive out the rebels controlling it.

The killing and maiming of civilians including many children in the Red Sea city of has soared in the last three months according to aid workers. Since June more than 170 people have been killed and at least 1,700 have been injured Hodeidah province, with more than 425,000 people forced to flee their homes.

A Gulf coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates has been trying to wrestle back control of the strategic port city.

If the array of Yemeni militias takes the city it would be their biggest victory against the rebels, although the battle on the Red Sea coast also threatens to throw Yemen into outright famine.

Last month Save the Children warned the fighting was turning into a “war on children” with thousands suffering life-changing injuries in the attacks.

On a visit to Yemen the charity’s CEO, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, warned attacks on schools and hospitals were on the rise, with children on the frontline of violence and medics unable to cope with the influx of the wounded.

Meanwhile the country’s currency has collapsed and food prices have doubled in the last month, fuelling the threat of famine.

 

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fraurosena

A shockingly shameful and sycophantic sideshow.

 

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fraurosena

This article is from last year, but currently relevant again. Still not a word from the WH about the reason for the trip.

Kushner Took Secret Trip to Saudi Arabia

Quote

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner returned home this weekend from an unannounced trip to Saudi Arabia, where the White House said he continued discussions on securing Middle East peace.

Kushner was accompanied by Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell and Jason Greenblatt, special representative for international negotiations, Politico reports. Kushner traveled commercially last Wednesday but flew separately from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who arrived in Riyadh to discuss combating financing to terrorist networks.

The White House did not reveal who Kushner met with. News of his trip comes as speculation swirls over who will be the first to face charges in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, which is reportedly due to produce its first charges Monday. It also came amid reports Sunday that Maryland’s attorney general is investigating one of the Kushner family’s real estate businesses over claims of abusive debt collection practices and poor conditions.

 

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AmazonGrace

Marco Rubio is saying that the Senate is going to do something, which is how we know the Senate is not going to do anything.

 

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AmazonGrace

We accidentally tortured him to death doesn't seem such a great defense to me.

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Drala

I really wonder what's going on with Marco Rubio and Lindsay Graham that is prompting them to buck the amoral stance of Trump & Company on the issue of Saudi violation of human rights.  I can't imagine these Repug senators have suddenly grown spines.  Is it because the Saudis haven't contributed to their campaigns?

  

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AmazonGrace

Talk is cheap, let's see if they do anything.

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fraurosena

In Saudi Arabia, few signs of a crisis as Pompeo and Saudi officials exchange pleasantries

Quote

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo came to Saudi Arabia to highlight U.S. concern over the fate of Jamal Khashoggi, the disappeared journalist whose name Pompeo has not yet uttered in public since arriving in the kingdom.

Pompeo’s talks with three officials, including the king and crown prince, were “direct and frank” about the need to investigate what happened to Khashoggi, said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.

But the cameras that recorded the officials’ small talk ahead of the private meetings captured smiles and pleasantries, giving no hint that relations between the two countries are in crisis over Khashoggi’s disappearance.

“We are strong and old allies, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Pompeo before reporters were ushered out.We face our challenges together — the past, the day of, tomorrow.”

Pompeo replied with enthusiasm, “Absolutely.”

And when King Salman bin Abdul Aziz welcomed Pompeo, saying, “I hope you are comfortable here,” Pompeo replied that he was and added, “Thank you for accepting my visit on behalf of President Trump.”

The exchanges underscored the administration’s dilemma in deciding how to respond if anyone in Saudi Arabia’s ruling family is determined to have approved harm to Khashoggi, who has written critically of his native country as a contributing columnist for The Washington Post. He has not been seen since Oct. 2, when he went to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to attain documents he needed to remarry.

After Turkey accused Saudi Arabia of sending a squad of 15 people to lure Khashoggi to the consulate, torturing him and eventually killing him, Congress has threatened to impose sanctions against the kingdom’s leaders.

Trump has promised “severe punishment” against anyone found responsible. But he also has touted military arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the jobs they bring. Saudi Arabia, which has denied hurting Khashoggi, has promised to retaliate against any sanctions.

In Saudi Arabia, the local news media in recent days has played up the positive elements of the case for the kingdom, including “congratulations” for Riyadh’s offer to cooperate in a joint investigation with Turkey. There is little sense of urgency in its rapidly deteriorating relationship with the United States, or the reputational damage being played out in an international investors conference from which many prominent executives have pulled out over the Khashoggi case.

On Sunday night, Trump ordered Pompeo to head to Saudi Arabia to talk face to face with Saudi leaders about the crisis. The State Department has said the United States aims to “get to the bottom” of what happened.

There were no indications late Tuesday that Pompeo had come any closer to solving the mystery of Khashoggi’s disappearance.

If there was any confrontation, it was behind the giant wood doors with gilded gold trim in the Royal Palace where Pompeo met with Salman and his son.

State Department officials insisted that his private talks with Saudi leaders had focused almost entirely on Khashoggi. He spoke with Trump and national security adviser John Bolton afterward to give them an update.

“Secretary Pompeo conveyed the importance of a conducting a thorough, transparent and timely investigation,” Nauert said of substance of the meetings.

“While the United States has a number of regional and bilateral issues to discuss with Saudi leadership, learning what happened to Jamal Khashoggi is the primary purpose of this trip and is of great interest to the President,” she said in a statement. “The secretary has made that clear in each of his meetings today.”

Pompeo is scheduled to have dinner Tuesday night with the crown prince, who is known both for his attempts to reform and modernize the kingdom, but also for a wave of arrests and executions that followed his installation as the heir to his father.

During Pompeo’s first trip as secretary of state in April, the crown prince kept him waiting several hours for an appointment because he was presiding over the groundbreaking of an entertainment center. On Tuesday, Pompeo returned to his hotel for an hour as his aides awaited a call that Mohammed was ready to see him.

Pompeo smiled as he sat down in a chair next to Mohammed, who asked: “How was your trip? I hope you don’t have jet lag.”

Pompeo predicted he would feel the time-zone difference in a little while, and expressed his gratitude for the meeting. “Thank you for hosting me,” he said.

 

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Howl
1 hour ago, Drala said:

I really wonder what's going on with Marco Rubio and Lindsay Graham that is prompting them to buck the amoral stance of Trump & Company on the issue of Saudi violation of human rights.  I can't imagine these Repug senators have suddenly grown spines.  Is it because the Saudis haven't contributed to their campaigns?

I'm intrigued as well.  Maybe Lindsey has been assigned to be the voice of faux outrage, since he was so good at it at the Kavanaugh hearing. 

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fraurosena

Unsurprising by now, but abhorrent nonetheless.

And it flies into the face of the mounting evidence:

The Jamal Khashoggi Case: Suspects Had Ties to Saudi Crown Prince

(the article has multiple pictures depicting several suspects and MBS together)

Quote

One of the suspects identified by Turkey in the disappearance of the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi was a frequent companion of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — seen disembarking from airplanes with him in Paris and Madrid and photographed standing guard during his visits this year to Houston, Boston and the United Nations.

Three others are linked by witnesses and other records to the Saudi crown prince’s security detail.

A fifth is a forensic doctor who holds senior positions in the Saudi Interior Ministry and medical establishment, a figure of such stature that he could be directed only by a high-ranking Saudi authority.

If, as the Turkish authorities say, these men were present at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul where Mr. Khashoggi disappeared on Oct. 2, they might provide a direct link between what happened and Prince Mohammed. That would undercut any suggestion that Mr. Khashoggi died in a rogue operation unsanctioned by the crown prince. Their connection to him could also make it more difficult for the White House and Congress to accept such an explanation.

The New York Times has confirmed independently that at least nine of 15 suspects identified by Turkish authorities worked for the Saudi security services, military or other government ministries. One of them, Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, was a diplomat assigned to the Saudi Embassy in London in 2007, according to a British diplomatic roster. He traveled extensively with the crown prince, perhaps as a bodyguard.

How much blame for Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance or death settles on the 33-year-old crown prince has become a decisive factor in his standing in the eyes of the West and within the royal family.

The prince has presented himself as a reformer intent on opening up the kingdom’s economy and culture, and has used that image to try to influence White House policy in the region and to woo Western investors to help diversify the Saudi economy.

But the international revulsion at the reported assassination and mutilation of a single newspaper columnist — Mr. Khashoggi, who wrote for The Washington Post — has already sullied that image far more than previous missteps by the crown prince, from miring his country in a catastrophic war in Yemen to kidnapping the prime minister of Lebanon.

The crown prince and his father, King Salman, have denied any knowledge of Mr. Khashoggi’s whereabouts, repeatedly asserting that he left the consulate freely. Saudi officials did not respond to requests for comment for this article.

But in the last few days, as major American businesses have withdrawn from a marquee investment conference in Riyadh and members of Congress have stepped up called for sanctions, the United States, Turkey and Saudi Arabia appear to have been searching for a face-saving way out.

The royal court was expected to acknowledge that Mr. Khashoggi was killed in the consulate, and to blame an intelligence agent for botching an operation to interrogate Mr. Khashoggi that ended up killing him.

President Trump floated the possibility on Monday that Mr. Khashoggi was the victim of “rogue killers.”

But such explanations would run up against a host of hard-to-explain obstacles.

The suspects’ positions in the Saudi government and their links to the crown prince could make it more difficult to absolve him of responsibility.

The presence of a forensic doctor who specializes in autopsies suggests the operation may have had a lethal intent from the start.

Turkish officials have said they possess evidence that the 15 Saudi agents flew into Istanbul on Oct. 2, assassinated Mr. Khashoggi, dismembered his body with a bone saw they had brought for the purpose, and flew out the same day. Records show that two private jets chartered by a Saudi company with close ties to the Saudi crown prince and Interior Ministry arrived and left Istanbul on the day of Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Turkish officials said Mr. Khashoggi was killed within two hours of his arrival at the consulate. That timeline would not have allowed much time for an interrogation to go awry.

The Times gathered more information about the suspects using facial recognition, publicly available records, social media profiles, a database of Saudi cellphone numbers, Saudi news reports, leaked Saudi government documents and in some cases the accounts of witnesses in Saudi Arabia and countries the crown prince has visited.

Mr. Mutreb, the former diplomat in London, was photographed emerging from airplanes with Prince Mohammed on recent trips to Madrid and Paris. He was also photographed in Houston, Boston and the United Nations during the crown prince’s visits there, often glowering as he surveyed a crowd.

A French professional who has worked with the Saudi royal family identified a second suspect, Abdulaziz Mohammed al-Hawsawi, as a member of the security team that travels with the crown prince.

A Saudi news outlet reported that someone with the same name as a third suspect, Thaar Ghaleb al-Harbi, was promoted last year to the rank of lieutenant in the Saudi royal guard for bravery in the defense of Prince Mohammed’s palace in Jeddah.

A fourth suspect traveled with a passport bearing the name of another member of the royal guard, Muhammed Saad Alzahrani. A search of the name in Menom3ay, an app popular in Saudi Arabia that allows users to see the names other users have associated with certain phone numbers, identified him as a member of the royal guard. A guard wearing a name tag with that name appears in a video from 2017 standing next to Prince Mohammed.

Members of the royal guard or aides who traveled with the crown prince may not report directly to him and may sometimes take on other duties. It is possible that some could have been recruited for an expedition to capture or interrogate Mr. Khashoggi, perhaps led by a senior intelligence official. But the presence among the suspects of an autopsy expert, Dr. Salah al-Tubaigy, suggests that killing might have been part of the original plan.

Dr. Tubaigy, who maintained a presence on several social media platforms, identified himself on his Twitter account as the head of the Saudi Scientific Council of Forensics and held lofty positions in the kingdom’s premier medical school as well as in its Interior Ministry. He studied at the University of Glasgow and in 2015 he spent three months in Australia as a visiting forensic pathologist at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine. His published writings include works on dissection and mobile autopsies.

Although there is no public record of a relationship between him and the royal court, such a senior figure in the Saudi medical establishment was unlikely to join a rogue expedition organized by an underling.

Dr. Tubaigy, whose name first appeared among reports of the suspects several days ago, has not publicly addressed the allegations. None of the suspects could be reached for comment.

 

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fraurosena

This is horrific. Apparently it was straight up murder, no interrogation took place at all.

 

Turkey Details Alleged Killing of Saudi Journalist

Quote

Saudi operatives beat, drugged, killed and dismembered a dissident Saudi journalist in the presence of the kingdom’s top diplomat in Istanbul, Turkish officials said Tuesday, as Washington urged Riyadh to provide answers.

President Trump cautioned that Saudi Arabia should be considered innocent until proven guilty. His secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, on a visit to the kingdom, said Saudi leaders had “strongly denied” involvement and were conducting “a serious and credible investigation.”

The disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, a former royal insider, has strained U.S.-Saudi ties and sparked international outrage. He was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul two weeks ago. Saudi Arabia has denied any role in his disappearance.

Mr. Trump has put Saudi Arabia and its crown prince at the center of a Middle East policy aimed at challenging Iran, Riyadh’s main rival in the region, brokering an end to the Palestinian-Israeli crisis and countering extremism. Mr. Trump chose Saudi Arabia as the site of his first overseas presidential trip. The U.S. leader has emphasized the importance for U.S. jobs of the Saudi’s purchasing of billions of dollars of U.S. military hardware.

In an interview with the Associated Press Tuesday, Mr. Trump compared the allegations that Saudi agents had killed Mr. Khashoggi to the accusations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was sworn in last week after a bruising confirmation process. “Here we go again with, you know, you’re guilty until proven innocent,” Mr. Trump said. “We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I’m concerned.”

Turkish officials said they shared evidence in recent days, including the details of an audio recording, with both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia to support their conclusion that Mr. Khashoggi was killed at the hand of Saudi operatives. It wasn’t clear how Turkish officials had an audio recording.

The recording indicates how Mr. Khashoggi was killed in the office of the Saudi consul general, Mohammad al-Otaibi, minutes after he walked into the consulate building on Oct. 2, said people familiar with the matter. Mr. Khashoggi wasn’t interrogated, the people said. Instead, he was beaten up, drugged and killed by Saudi operatives who had flown in from Riyadh earlier in the day, the people said.

Then, on the recording, a voice can be heard inviting the consul to leave the room, the people familiar with the matter said. The voice of a man Turkish authorities identified as Saudi forensic specialist Salah Al Tabiqi can be heard recommending other people present to listen to some music while he dismembered Mr. Khashoggi’s body, the people said.

Turkish investigators spent nine hours searching for clues inside the Saudi diplomatic premises on Monday and early Tuesday. Complicating the search, said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was the fact that some rooms had been freshly repainted.

Tensions between Turkey and Saudi Arabia surfaced on Tuesday when Turkish investigators then sought to search the nearby consul’s residence. In an unexpected development, Mr. Otaibi, the consul general, left Turkey for the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on Tuesday afternoon and Saudi authorities informed Ankara that the residence was off limits, according to the people familiar with the matter.

The latest Turkish allegations could complicate the Saudi government’s efforts to provide an explanation of what happened to Mr. Khashoggi while distancing itself from any direct responsibility.

On Monday, Saudi authorities had weighed whether to declare that unauthorized operatives killed Mr. Khashoggi during a botched interrogation, according to people familiar with the situation. It wasn’t known whether they were still considering that.

Turkish officials have said they suspect the Saudi crown prince had a hand in Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance because some of the operatives who took part in the alleged killing appear to have ties to him. Turkish investigators have focused on a pair of Gulfstream jets that landed in Istanbul on Oct. 2 and flew back to Riyadh on Oct. 3 after layovers. The planes belong to a company, Sky Prime Aviation Services Ltd., that was seized by the Saudi government after its anticorruption drive last year.

Among those on board, according to Turkish officials, were Waleed Abdullah Alshehri and Thaar Ghaleb al Harbi. Saudi press reports from 2016 identified Mr. Alshehri as a Saudi Air Force major; Turkish officials refer to him as a forensic expert. Mr. Harbi was promoted to lieutenant by the crown prince for his role in defending the royal family’s Al Salam palace in Jeddah during an attack in October 2017, according to Saudi press reports.

Mr. Pompeo on Tuesday held what U.S. officials described as candid and direct meetings with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir, urging them to resolve questions over the case.

Earlier Tuesday, Mr. Trump said he spoke with Prince Mohammed on the phone and the Saudi crown prince denied knowledge of what happened to Mr. Khashoggi.

“Just spoke with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia who totally denied any knowledge of what took place in their Turkish Consulate,” Mr. Trump said on Twitter. “He was with secretary of State Mike Pompeo during the call, and told me that he has already started, and will rapidly expand, a full and complete investigation into this matter.” The president added: “Answers will be forthcoming shortly.”

The tweet came a day after Mr. Trump said he spoke with King Salman, who similarly denied any knowledge of what happened to Mr. Khashoggi. After speaking to King Salman, Mr. Trump told reporters that “rogue killers” may have been involved in Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance.

In an interview that aired Tuesday night on Fox Business Network, Mr. Trump reiterated that the U.S. was evaluating the situation. He called Saudi Arabia “our ally against Iran” and warned it could turn to China or Russia for military equipment if the U.S. supply route is cut off.

“So we’re not really hurting them, we’re hurting ourselves,” Mr. Trump said. “So we want to be smart. I don’t want to give up a $110 billion order or whatever it is…You’re talking about jobs. What I’m doing is, we’ve created an incredible economy. I want Boeing and I want Lockheed and I want Raytheon to take those orders and to hire lots of people to make that incredible equipment.”

The president’s latest comments appeared to ease pressure on the kingdom after Mr. Trump repeatedly threatened Saudi Arabia with reprisals over the suspected killing of the journalist, calling it “really terrible” and “disgusting.”

Mr. Trump’s comments came amid calls from prominent U.S. lawmakers, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), to sanction Saudi Arabia over the suspected killing of Mr. Khashoggi.

“Nothing happens in Saudi Arabia without MBS knowing about it,” said Mr. Graham, using shorthand for Prince Mohammed. “The MBS figure to me is toxic. He can never be a world leader on the world stage…This guy has got to go.”

A deal whereby Saudi authorities pinpoint the blame on rogue killers could help limit the diplomatic damage that has complicated efforts under Prince Mohammed, the kingdom’s effective leader, to overhaul the kingdom’s economy and attract investment to the country. Top Western executives pulled out of Saudi Arabia’s premier business conference this week.

In Turkey, President Erdogan said Tuesday his objective was to “reach conclusive results” as to what happened to the Saudi journalist.

Under mounting international pressure, the kingdom launched its own probe to determine who is responsible for Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance and has allowed Turkish investigators to inspect its consulate in Istanbul.

Mr. Khashoggi’s children in a statement late Monday called for an “impartial international commission to inquire into the circumstances of his death.”

Three of Mr. Khashoggi’s four adult children are U.S. citizens. The fourth, a son called Salah, is a Saudi citizen and lives in the kingdom.

After Mr. Khashoggi moved to the U.S. to live in self-imposed exile last year, the Saudi government barred Salah from leaving the country, according to people familiar with the matter. Before his disappearance, Mr. Khashoggi lobbied to have the ban lifted, to no avail.

The Saudi government didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Khashoggi was an insider who maintained close ties to some of the kingdom’s most powerful princes even as he became known for his criticism of the Saudi government and sympathy for democratic movements.

The rise of Prince Mohammed, and the crackdown he oversaw against dissidents ranging from clerics to women’s rights activists, pitted Mr. Khashoggi against a ruling establishment that had long tolerated him, and ultimately he decided to leave for the U.S. last year.

 

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