In case it isn’t clear enough already, the Saudis are not going to be successful in cleaning up (let alone covering up) the extremely messy murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Late last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan penned a truly hilarious Op-Ed for the Washington Post, where Khashoggi was a columnist before his untimely demise on October 2.
“Hilarious” is probably a distasteful adjective, but the reason I employ it is to underline the sheer, blatant absurdity in Erdogan pretending to care about human rights and press freedom.
Once you cut through Erdogan’s pretensions to the moral high ground, the gist of the Op-Ed was that Ankara is going to keep pressing the Saudis until Erdogan gets what he wants or at least until it becomes apparent that Washington isn’t going to allow him to force a royal reshuffle in Riyadh.
The main question now in the ongoing investigation is simply this: Where is the body?
Fast forward to Monday and a senior Turkish official says the 11-member Saudi team dispatched to Turkey ostensibly to assist in the investigation last month included Ahmed Abdulaziz Al-Janobi and Khaled Yahya al-Zahrani, experts on chemistry and toxicology whose job it was to get rid of evidence.
“The official said Turkey believes that two members of the team ‘came to Turkey for the sole purpose of covering up evidence’ before Turkish police were allowed to search the Saudi Consulate”, AP reports.
Over the weekend, Sabah said that after Khashoggi’s body was cut up by Salah Muhammad al-Tubaigy’s now infamous bone saw, he (al-Tubaigy), Maher Mutreb (an aide to Crown Prince bin Salman) and Thaar al-Harbi, stuffed the parts into five suitcases which they then delivered to Saudi Consul General Mohammed al-Otaibi’s house.
As noted here last week while documenting Larry Fink’s exceedingly unfortunate comments about Khashoggi’s death, rumor has it that the body parts might have been dissolved in acid. Last month, Turkish investigators took samples from a well in al-Otaibi’s garden.
Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons, reporting from Istanbul, said the following on Sunday:
This is a looming question. No one knows where the body went. One Turkish official is reported saying that there was acid used to dissolve the bodies; there’s another report that the well shaft was used in the garden of the consul-general’s residence – it is unclear.
There is a real concern now that the Saudis aren’t being open enough with the Turkish investigators. Furthermore, on a political level, [there is] a big concern that world attention is beginning to wane somewhat on this whole case and whether or not the US is prepared to take firm action against the Saudis that Turkey wants to see.
Last Wednesday, Istanbul’s chief prosecutor, Irfan Fidan, said Khashoggi was strangled as soon as he entered the consulate. “The victim’s body was dismembered and destroyed following his death by suffocation — again, in line with advance plans”, Fidan continued.
According to AP, “the fact that a clean-up team was dispatched suggests that Khashoggi’s killing ‘was within the knowledge of top Saudi officials.'” In other words, this is just further evidence of bin Salman’s participation.
It’s not clear why the Saudis seem to believe they are going to be successful in covering this up given how determined Erdogan obviously is to exploit this debacle. AP’s reporting on Monday indicates that less than two weeks after getting caught shuttling in 15 people (including an autopsy expert, bone saw in tow) to assassinate a high profile journalist, bin Salman actually thought he was going to get away with covering up evidence via the two chemistry and toxicology experts he sent in as part of an 11-man operation whose ostensible purpose was to help Turkey figure out what happened.
It’s almost too stupid to be true.
Which brings me neatly to the final point here, which is simply that if brutality doesn’t disqualify bin Salman when it comes to leading Saudi Arabia, then maybe stupidity does.