Mohammed Bin Salman, Saudi Arabia, United States discussed on World Affairs Council
That's one word and now back to our program. Let's talk more about Jamal kashogi. In some ways. It's it's a fascinating. As this crisis continues to roll out as people continue to operate in their interest in sometimes contrary to their own interests with these half truths and reports and arrests and prosecutions. This seems to be an unusual and unpredictable source of an international crisis sympathy and bipartisan support in the United States for some sort of truth telling around the kashogi killing seems to be growing this isn't going away. Just because the Saudis would like it to go away. It's definitely not going away. I think the Saudis have been extraordinarily surprised by it. But I don't know why this was this. This has to go down as one of the most bizarre episodes. Of course, it was a brutal murder, but but think about this the Saudis. Murdered a journalist who works for the Washington Post in their own consulate in Istanbul. The major city is a NATO partner of the United States. That is at odds with Saudi Arabia, in what way did the Saudis think that this was one set aside, the appropriateness of murdering someone a journalist. But in what way did they think that they were going to get away with any of this? Of course, the Turks were monitoring and third countries are at odds over the rift in the Gulf in number of other issues. Why you kill someone from the Washington Post? We sit in why we're sitting in Washington DC. This is a town where people make news right news and obsessive about the news. This is the hometown newspaper of those people any murder of any journalist is is terrible thing that the Saudis handled this in in the worst way. And then when they got caught. To come up with a series of bizarre explanations for this. Was I think. I only increase the outrage the global outrage and the outrage in the United States, and I think that the way in which they handled the kashogi murder, especially here in Washington, especially when it came to the congress of reinforced four people in the congress that the Saudis need to pay a price for a number of things that they've done over the years war were they relying on a kind of kingdom institutional memory. We're for decades some of the outrageous conduct both abroad, and at home a committed in the name of Saudi Arabia financed by Saudi money was papered over if you could hang in long enough, you would get past it. The problems would go away there'd be a mush mouth communique issued both in Washington and Riyadh and stuff. Would just go away did Mohammed bin Salman, not understand that he's operating in a different environment. Clearly, he did not understand this. Clearly, they thought that given their tight relationship with the Trump administration that the Trump administration would explain this away and everybody in Washington would go back back to doing business as usual. And I think they obviously miscalculated all this, especially the fact that the Turks were going to be so dog it in unearthing and revealing what they knew about the murder now rigid type one the president of Turkey. Really has no commitment to journalistic freedoms. Jail to is the world's leading jailer of journalists, but in his geo political maneuvers in the region, the Saudis are a competitor. And he would like to peel the United States away from the Saudis, so the Turks dead Washington. These the the absolute shocking details of casualties murder. Congress was already bipartisan members of congress were already quite concerned even outrage over what was happening in Yemen Saturday Arabia's conduct in Washington the way in which they dealt the high handed way in which they've dealt with a elected representatives in the United States has not won them any friends on Capitol Hill. And then of course, the president's own ten year when it comes to this his suggesting to them what their. Cover story should be hit the connection between his son-in-law. And the crown prince there was an undeniable certain partisan aspect to the outrage because of the connection between Trump President Trump and his son-in-law to mom been somewhere. But it's really become more. Bipartisan over time. This outraged. I think the Saudis have been stung by the concern is that they actually haven't learned their lesson and are continuing to do some nasty things. It's just kind of pushed them further away from the United States. Well, for decades, what the Saudis would do is sort of the PR equivalent of lawyering up. I don't know what you'd call it PRN up higher high-power international firms to make these problems go away. And I don't think there are enough Bali loafers or custom suits on the planet to handle this one now that the predicate has been laid of increasingly ridiculous and. Unbelievable explanations for what happened to a man who walked into a building. And never walked out of it. Why it happened who's to blame symbolic arrests? And now of theatrical prosecutions all in the interest of pursuing the story line that Mohammed bin Salman that this might have gone on without him being aware of it without him ordering it an over zealous public servant wanted to impress the boss. I it's hard to believe where you come down on that. Do you believe that Jamal Khashoggi couldn't have been murdered without people high up in the food chain in Riyadh knowing exactly what was going to happen? Saudi Arabia the country that's essentially run by five people. No decisions are made without any the most senior level signing off it strikes me as. Way. The gap between the reality that we know about how Saturday Arabia actually works and the story that the Saudis were saying about oh, these are overzealous skies. They didn't he never meant that he never meant to order a killing that to me sounds like it just does not conform to the reality that we know about Saudi Arabia. Look, you have foreign ministers who were signing off on people's visa applications. This is a place where the bureaucracy civil servants are frozen until the most senior level says yes, or no. So the idea that these guys who killed kashogi. In stumble were out freelancing, and they were just trying to impress the boss. Stretches credulity. In addition to the fact that the Turks have intercepts in which these guys are calling back to Saudi Arabian saying, essentially, the deed is done. Tell tell Mohammed bin Salman, we've we've accomplished our mission. So. No. These explanations these prosecutions as you as you point out are a folly, and there are a way in which trying which the Saudis, and they still have a robust roster of consultants year in lobbyists here in Washington, but it's their effort to try to make this thing. Go away. It it just it doesn't wash. And I think that they're unaware that the United States is at least elected members of congress as well as others are going to keep digging until the truth is now are there signs. The administration in Washington is backing away from its earlier explanations excuses. Attempts to make this thing. Not look quite as bad as it is administration is basically ignoring me issue at this point. In on February eighth. The administration was supposed to report to congress about whether Hamad bin Salman should be sanctioned under the global Magnitsky act series of sanctions that can be applied to people for a variety of transgressions human rights violations. What have you? The president did not report to the congress. The secretary of state essentially said we've looked into the matter, and we will not be going forward with any kind of sanctions against anyone in Saudi Arabia, essentially, a two line note to the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, they want this very much to go away. They want to have businesses usual. They regard Saudi Arabia as central to their Middle East strategy now in their defense. Anybody who would have walked into the Oval Office in January twenty seventeen would have surveyed the Middle East and recognize that essentially the only major Arab states still standing with Saudi Arabia. On the other hand. They have enabled. The worst instincts of Mohammed bin Salman by essentially letting him out of the box on this one. And I think by all indications the Saudis are unrepentant and are continuing to arrest people and go after their opponents, whether it is in Saudi Arabia or abroad, is it remarkable to you. How quickly the story has turned from young modernizing handsome hip. Prince two now a guy who's youth may be a problem because it means it's going to be around a really long time. It's in in one sense. It's it's absolutely shocking. How poorly the Saudis calculate how poorly? Mohammed bin Salman, his advisors calculated and how quickly they fruit and as a result. How quickly they frittered away this extraordinarily international goodwill. This is a guy who is seen in Starbucks with Michael Bloomberg in New York, chilling with I think it was Brad Pitt in a number of other Hollywood stars given a warm reception in in Silicon Valley. This is the new face of Saudi Arabia, but the new Saudis are looking a bit like the old Saudis that they that this was PR and that the way of doing business in Saudi Arabia remains opaque. An often brutal. I will point out. However that Mohammed bin Salman plans goal is to rule actually more like his grandfather even sewed king Abdelaziz, then any of his uncle's or his father. For the last four or five decades. Certainly the the the the Saudi King is is the absolute monarch, but behind the scenes there have been delicate negotiations between constituents of the Royal family. The religious establishment non-royal elites within the Royal family and once consensus. Once they come to a consensus, then the king issues decree. Prince Mohammad bin summa and wants to rule at really adds, the the absolute monarch sees that. This is the only way to reform cetera. But but these top down reforms often don't work and lead to all kinds of problems in society. And he himself is not as smart as he thinks he thinks he is. And he has undermined a major pillar of support for what he's wanted to do in Saudi Arabia, and that is the international community. He's toxic hot on the heels of the kashogi killing and the dissembling that followed. It comes news that the Trump aligned media group AM, I may have had a relationship with Riyadh of some sort. This seemed to be a shockingly, unsophisticated and obvious and clunky. Attempt to buy a little goodwill peculiar, but also at the same time kind of interesting as a as a gambit reports suggests that the Saudis approached a number of media outlets including vice. And a number of others, but they got no takers and AM, I which publishes the National Enquirer took this on and produced this ninety one page glossy magazine about Mohammed bin Salman. I remember when it came out. It was it was actually very hard to find. Because I was desperate to get my hands on it not only because it was interesting. But I thought it would look great with all of the other kitsch that I've collected in the Middle East that that that adorns my office. But there was clearly an effort underway to make Mohammed bin Salman. The kind of reformer Ford looking solid ally of the United States. It was a strange strange way of doing it. But in a way, you know in the abstract Mohammed bin Salman should be a rock star in the United States. I mean after all this is a guy who he wants to. He wants to fight extremists. He is allowing women to drop, and he deals pretty openly with these rallies, and they don't have diplomatic relations. So these are kind of hot button issues that you would think in congress in particular, people would be falling all over themselves about Mohammed bin Salman. So just goes to show how poorly Mohammed bin Salman has handled. His time as the defacto ruler of Saudi Arabia, and how poorly the Saudis have done in Washington telling their story. Major things have gotten in the way the killing of kashogi the blockade cutter the. Incident at the Ritz where all these people were arrested the forced resignation of Ruffy. Hurry. The Yemen war. No amount of glossy magazine is gonna overcome those kinds of things if you're arresting women activists who are you are natural constituency, and if in torturing them, I mean, there are reports of torture unconfirmed, but credible enough. This is not something that anyone can look upon this ruler. And call him a genuine reformer apart from regional intrigue apart from undermining your enemies, both inside the kingdom and on its borders. Is this stuff that Saudi Arabia is trying to get accomplished as a state in order to ensure its security in the coming decades diversify its sovereign wealth portfolio move away from a dependence solely on petroleum petroleum products for its national wealth diversify. By it's Konami, bring up its people. So that they don't all live in this incredible welfare state, where largest rains down from a very small group at the top and just sort of gets spread out on a still fairly small population of people aren't there national goals that sort of get sidelined or derailed by this crazy intrigue and own goals and other mistakes that are being made at the top. That's one of the things that is so shocking.