Well, the farce continues when it comes to the Saudi monarchy’s ongoing (and increasingly desperate) efforts to pretend as though 15 operatives were somehow able to get their hands on not one, but two Gulfstream IVs, fly to Turkey and murder a famous dissident inside the Kingdom’s Istanbul consulate, all without the knowledge of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
We’re now almost a week removed from Riyadh’s about-face that found the Kingdom abandoning their initial narrative around the killing of Jamal Khashoggi in favor of a story about a “fist fight” gone wrong.
Although the Saudis’ internal “investigation” is ongoing, nobody is going to take the results seriously. The reasons to doubt the Saudi narrative are myriad, but the most damning evidence of all when it comes to asserting that the 15 men dispatched to Turkey earlier this month indeed intended to kill Khashoggi, was the presence of Salah Muhammad al-Tubaigy, chief of forensic medicine at the Saudi Ministry of the Interior and a noted expert on mobile autopsies. It’s not immediately clear why you would bring along a guy who specializes in cutting up dead bodies in makeshift morgues if you didn’t at least think it was possible that somebody might end up dead.
When it comes to the notion that the Crown Prince was completely in the dark about the operation and the whole thing was the fault of Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri going rogue, one struggles to communicate how outlandish that story truly is. One doesn’t just “go rogue” when your boss is Mohammed bin Salman. “Going rogue” when you work for a monarch with absolute power is the equivalent of committing suicide, so unless you think Assiri had a death wish, the idea that bin Salman didn’t sanction the hit on Khashoggi is laughable.
But we’re all going to be subjected to a string of denials over the next month as the Saudis pretend to investigate and on Wednesday, the Crown Prince himself weighed in, breaking his silence for the first time since the Khashoggi murder morphed into a full-fledged international incident. Here’s what he had to say:
Yes, chopping someone up with a bone saw on the top of desk in the back of a consulate is a “heinous” crime, and the Crown Prince is extremely concerned about the fact that someone close to him might have done such a thing.
But as you can see, he’s determined to bring whoever that someone is to justice. Phew.
You’ll also note that bin Salman says news that Khashoggi was dismembered (possibly while still alive) is “painful to all Saudis”.
I don’t know if that’s entirely true considering bin Salman is a Saudi and he’s no fan of his critics, but I know one Saudi for whom it was most assuredly very “painful.” Unfortunately, he’s busy being dead and as such is unavailable for comment.
Meanwhile, Ankara says President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke with bin Salman on Wednesday after the Crown Prince “demanded” a dialogue.
At the tail end of the clip above, the Crown Prince attempts to hit back at Erdogan. He shouts out the Turkish President, but that’s a charade. The “wedge” he’s talking about is being hammered in by Erdogan himself, who has ratcheted up the pressure on Riyadh. In a closely-watched speech on Tuesday, the Turkish autocrat appeared to slight the Crown Prince by suggesting that while King Salman’s sincerity isn’t in doubt, the 33-year-old’s credibility is not similarly beyond reproach.