On Tuesday, the Jamal Khashoggi drama took yet another turn for the absurd.
At this point, it is impossible to communicate how ridiculous this charade is. Yesterday, CNN first reported that the Saudis are preparing to change their story on Khashoggi, presumably because exactly nobody believes it.
In addition to video evidence supporting Turkish intelligence claims that Khashoggi fell victim to foul play while inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Ankara also claims to be in possession of audio tapes that document his torture and murder. On top of that, the Washington Post has spoken with numerous sources with knowledge of intelligence intercepts which they (the sources) say prove the U.S. knew about Mohammed bin Salman’s plans to “lure” Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia and then capture him.
So far, the Saudis have vehemently denied Turkish intelligence reports and on Monday, Bloomberg said King Salman ordered an “investigation” into the incident, a farcical notion for obvious reasons.
Yesterday, before embarking on a jaunt through hurricane-ravaged Florida, Donald Trump tried to float the idea that if Khashoggi was murdered, it was the work of “rogue killers“. That, after he spoke with King Salman over the phone. The takeaway is that Trump is prepared to be complicit in this coverup and predictably, the President took to Twitter in an effort to downplay his personal connections to the Kingdom.
For the record, I have no financial interests in Saudi Arabia (or Russia, for that matter). Any suggestion that I have is just more FAKE NEWS (of which there is plenty)!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 16, 2018
You know, “in case anybody was asking”.
During the same Monday remarks to reporters, Trump said he was sending Mike Pompeo to Riyadh, ostensibly to try and get to the bottom of something which the Turks were at the bottom of the day it happened. Here’s what we said about Pompeo’s trip on Monday:
The fact that Donald Trump has repeatedly said he will not cancel a $110 billion arms deal even if the Saudis admitted to butchering Khashoggi means America is just wasting taxpayer money by flying Pompeo to Riyadh.
Fast forward to Tuesday and it’s now clear just how big of a waste Pompeo’s trip really was, because his meeting with the King reportedly lasted “about” 15 minutes.
According to a State Department readout of the pow wow, Pompeo “thanked the King for his commitment to supporting a thorough, transparent, and timely investigation of Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance”.
I don’t think I have to tell you this, but that is insulting to the collective intelligence of the entire world.
Pompeo would go on to meet with MbS, and the official word on that is equally (if not more) ridiculous.
According to State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, Pompeo and bin Salman agreed on just how critical it is that Riyadh conducts “a thorough, transparent, and timely investigation that provides answers.” Here is a picture from that meeting (do note the guy in the background who appears to have serious reservations about whether anybody is going to believe the Saudis):
Meanwhile, Turkey has now searched the consulate and according to one official who spoke to AP, they did indeed find evidence to support the claim that Khashoggi met his end in Istanbul.
Pompeo will travel to Turkey next, where I suppose he’ll chat with Erdogan about how exactly everybody is supposed to spin this.
If the Saudis do intend to try and float the “botched interrogation” story, they are going to need to explain a number of readily apparent discrepancies, not the least of which is why Salah Muhammad al-Tubaigy, chief of forensic evidence and an autopsy expert, was present for the “interrogation”.
Additionally, it is wildly implausible that 15 Saudis would procure not one, but two Gulfstream IVs, fly to Istanbul, kidnap a dissident, torture him, murder him, chop him into pieces and (maybe) bury his severed limbs in Mohammad al-Otaibi’s yard without the Crown Prince knowing about it.
All of this just underscores the notion that this is going to go down in the history books as one of the more amateurish cloak-and-dagger operations in the history of shady geopolitical dealings.
Somewhere, a man who knows how to do these things “right” is chuckling…