Imran Jan |
Mohammad Bin Salman, referred to by his initials MBS, in March pledged to invest $400 bn in the United States in ten years. Back then, Khashoggi was an irritant for the 33-year old Prince because Khashoggi was criticizing him in his Washington Post Op-Ed columns. Today, MBS is all over the place. Khashoggi refuses to die down. The damage control strategy has only exacerbated the situation. KSA is eager to do whatever it takes to escape this quagmire.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan seized the day at the “Davos in Desert” conference and has secured a Saudi pledge of $6 bn for his cash-starved nation. Over 10,000 Yemenis have been killed by Saudi bombing. But Trump says that the military equipment sales to KSA created 40,000 American jobs. The silence over 10,000 Yemeni lives earned 40,000 American jobs.
Trump called MBS a “great purchaser” of American armaments and investments. “A lot of people are at work” thanks to KSA business, Trump said. The silence over Khashoggi’s death would have to cost much more. All in, MBS might end up spending more than the combined net worth of the 5 richest men on earth, just to make Khashoggi go away. Financially, diplomatically, and politically Khashoggi in death is worth more than anyone in recent memory.
The damage control strategy has only exacerbated the situation. KSA is eager to do whatever it takes to escape this quagmire.
That being said, there is not much that his death might achieve for freedom of journalism or for those who speak truth to power or even for those who want to punish crime regardless of the criminal’s power and worth. Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation triggered a revolution across the Arab world starting from Bouazizi’s home country, Tunisia. Some of the most powerful Arab dictators and strongmen were gone as a result of Bouazizi setting himself on fire.
In retrospect, not much has been achieved in the cause of justice, social redistribution, democracy, and happiness. The old guard is back in Egypt despite the fact that Hosni Mubarak is gone. The House of Saud aggressively protected itself from being exposed to the heat of democracy. It went to horrible lengths to that end including the suppression of people’s legitimate struggle in Bahrain where the leadership, not the people, is a Saudi ally.
Khashoggi’s brutal murder is directly targeting the House of Saud. The noise over Khashoggi’s death– especially by Turkey and others– is not about general democratic and social struggle across the Arab world. It is very country specific and is, in fact, seeking answers about a murder from one individual namely, MBS. However, the self-proclaimed promoters of democracy around the world are going to brush this issue under the carpet while appearing to side with the pursuit of justice just like when the Jasmine revolution started, Washington continued to prop the regimes until it became impossible, which is exactly when it sided with the people as if it had been on their side all along.
Washington’s behavior right now of calls for coming clean on this murder is intended for domestic consumption. The Saudis are well aware of this. Given my years of living in America, I won’t bet on the American people being very well informed of this drama. Americans have a remarkable tendency to believe what they see on FOX, MSNCB, and CNN. The Saudis in my view are not much worried, except for the noise made by Erdogan, because they know Washington will sanitize every crime they commit.
All in, MBS might end up spending more than the combined net worth of the 5 richest men on earth, just to make Khashoggi go away.
Washington after all is the place where certificates of sanitization are issued to their favored killers, thugs, drug pushers, jihadists, dictators, chemical weapon users, and so forth. Turkey has been looking for a deal with the Saudis. There is no love lost between the Saudis and the Turks but the Turks would n’t mind a piece of the pie. In the movie Godfather, a Nevada Senator tells Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) how much he despised Corleone and his Italian roots but that he would still do business with him so as to squeeze money out of him.
The Turks intend to squeeze the Saudis and if they cannot then they’ll spill the beans. Erdogan has already started telling the “naked truth” that he has been threatening about. His systematic and episodic leaks are reversing Saudi propaganda aimed at damage control. MBS is straight out of Syriana, a movie loosely based on the book See No Evil by Robert Baer. In the story, there is a Pro-American second born Saudi prince who is groomed to hold the throne despite the fact that he is not the next in line.
His older brother is Pro-China and therefore, not acceptable to American oil companies. He is ridiculed in the western media as a terrorist and a Godless communist and is eventually murdered so as to pave the way for his younger brother to become the unchallenged Emir. MBS has been, for a lack of a better word, installed by the de facto Emirati leader Muhammad bin Zayed with not so different initials, MBZ.
The Saudis in my view are not much worried, except for the noise made by Erdogan, because they know Washington will sanitize every crime they commit.
MBS’s 57-year-old cousin Muhammad bin Nayef was removed to make way for MBS. The grooming of MBS has some key advices by MBZ; that if MBS wants to be Washington’s blue-eyed boy, he must “end the rule of Wahhabism” in KSA as well as open a “strong channel of communication” with Israel. Furthermore, UAE has a Brotherhood (Ikhwan) problem. MBZ groomed MBS because of his opposition to ballot loving Islamists such as the Ikhwan. MBS scored ‘A’ on all those counts.
The Saudi bounty is what’s keeping Trump from criticizing KSA. Trump is a businessman. He knows that customer is always right; because he was quick to expel Russian diplomats and spies from America and shut down the Russian consulate in Seattle after allegations of Russian role in the attempted assassination of the Skripals in Salisbury, England.
As kids, we would take offence when our classmates joked about us resembling the cartoons in our textbooks. Maybe MBS as a kid was bullied that way. He hates personalities, which have been labeled as villains by the western media. He compared the Iranian supreme leader to Adolf Hitler. Khashoggi had equated MBS with Putin. MBS perhaps killed Putin repeatedly in his video games. Khashoggi was n’t famous enough for PlayStation or X-Box makers to insert him in MBS’s kill list.
The writer is a political analyst. He can be reached at email@example.com. Twitter @Imran_Jan. A different version of this article was published in Express Tribune. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.