The Khashoggi case, discussed here, will be moved off the news pages even faster than assumed.
A CNN correspondent just tweeted this:
Erdogan spox: “At the request of Saudi Arabia, a joint working group will be established to uncover the events surrounding Jamal Khashoggi.”
Erdogan spox: “Our Sultan received a sufficient down payment to start negotiating about the burial of the case.”
Erdogan will use the ‘joint working group’ to squeeze as much as he can out of the Saudis. (A deal may even include a political settlement of the Saudi blockade of Erdogan’s sponsor Qatar.)
Yesterday 22 Senators signed a request to Trump to investigate the Khashoggi case under the Global Magnitsky Act. The Trump administration has 120 days to finish the investigation and to report back to the Senate. Any person or organization found to be involved in the kidnapping and possible murder of Khashoggi could then come under U.S. sanctions.
Those 120 days are the time-frame for Erdogan to use the thumbscrews the Saudi fuckup in its consulate in Istanbul handed him. The Saudi clown prince Mohammad bin Salman will get squeezed like never before. It will cost him billions to purchase the video of the Khashoggi killing the Turkish government claims to have.
Erdogan will not be the only one to profit from the issue. The Senate move gives Trump enormous leverage over the Saudis. He will use it.
Trump loudly claimed that he personally closed a $110 billion deal in which the Saudis purchase more useless weapons. There never was a ‘deal’, only some non-binding letters of intent.
The Saudis have been reluctant to follow through. They did not pony up the $15 billion for the U.S. made THAAD missile defense systems Trump ‘sold’ them and even talked with Russia about buying the much cheaper and better S-400:
According to The Washington Post, among the agreements still up in the air is the $15 billion purchase of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System [THAAD], made by US defense contractor Lockheed Martin.
In a sign of Trump’s continued emphasis on arms sales as a component of US foreign policy, White House senior adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner personally intervened with Lockheed to secure a 20% discount for the air-defense system.
Yet Riyadh let a September 30 deadline to wrap up that purchase come and go, according to The Post.
The new sales-pitch is easy to see. Either MbS buys the THAAD and other useless systems (without discount), or the investigation Trump has to pursue will reluctantly find MbS involved in the Khashoggi case. That would put MbS and his assets within the U.S. under sanctions. The Saudi King would have to replace MbS as clown king and successor.
Others will also try to gain political profit from the case. Netanyahoo will request that the investigation under the Global Magnitsky Act finds that Iran is guilty of the murder. Others will want to blame Russia. Was it a GRU cyberattack that hindered the Saudi consulates CCTV from recording the events while Qasem Soleimani slipped into the Saudi consulate and novichoked Khashoggi?
That might sound far fetched or even crazy but we have been here before. When in December 1988 Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie it was quite obvious that it was a revenge act for the July 1988 murder of 290 people on board of Iran Air flight 655 by the U.S. navy. But the investigation was fudged and in the end it was politically most convenient to blame Libya’s Ghaddafi for the Pan Am disaster even while he had nothing to do with either incident.
Deals will be made and the case will be buried. If the deals are good enough, several dozen billions will be required, the U.S. might even allow Mohammad bin Salman to stay in his position.
But King Salman, or some Saudi citizens, may well find that the various crazy endeavors MbS tends to launch – the war on Yemen, the Qatar blockade, the Khashoggi assassination – are becoming way too costly for the country. A simple unlucky home accident could solve that problem.