After the disappearance and probable murder of Jamal Khashoggi (a journalist working for the Washington Post who wrote scathing opinion pieces against the Saudi Arabian government), a political and media circus has commenced.
Khashoggi walked into the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul and never came out. Some are saying that he was beaten to death during interrogation and then dismembered; some say he was dismembered and then dissolved in acid.
President Trump’s reaction was interesting in that he now proposes sanctions be laid on Saudi Arabia. The Saudi’s haven’t taken this threat lightly and have countered with the fairly believable threat to raise the price of oil to over $200.
The Saudi’s then enhanced their position by threatening to cancel their billion dollar arms contracts with the US.
The “middle part,” the part that no one is talking about, is Jamal Khashoggi’s family and the decades of their subtle and not so subtle intrigues within and without Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia is a land of palace intrigues featuring clan warfare, money, sex, and very long and sharp blood-spattered swords glinting in the sun. Beheading is a popular pastime and thousands are separated into two parts each and every year.
Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman is the man in the spotlight. He’s in a tight spot. There are eight main tribes in Saudi Arabia all fighting for power and they form what is called “The National Guard.” His problem is that his clan does not control them.
He is keeping those tribes in order through terror. He’s arrested his tribe’s opposition and confiscated billions and even tossed them into (literally) a five-star prison until they complied.
He’s now taking a great risk by trying to dissolve this “National Guard.” This is a power play that he might well lose. This “National Guard” has controlled everything from the cities to the border itself. King Abdullah built this power base and now the Prince is dissolving it.
Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman isn’t the king’s only son so things can change literally overnight. The crown prince has built a tenuous power base of his own and if the king tries to replace him there will be friction at multiple levels.
Unlike with Vladimir Putin or even a Donald Trump (look at Trump’s FBI for example) where they can’t really control what their “Deep States” do, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman is in complete control and all the puppet strings are tied to his fingers.
Even the crown prince doesn’t have enough cash to buy off all of his enemies nor does he have the number of thugs needed to kill them. His only friend now, of all people, is Donald Trump. But even Mr. Trump is not powerful enough to save the crown prince from a dire future.
The Khashoggi clan is the single most powerful clan in Saudi Arabia. It has a history of being a kingmaker. The clan’s Adnan Khashoggi was a world-renowned gun runner and conspirator who was indicted and put on trial in New York. He was one of the richest men on this planet. He participated in the Iran Contra Affair. The very dark mysteries that will eventually come to light about his relationship with Richard Perle (who is known for hiding Top Secret documents in his socks) will make for marvelous reading someday. While Adnan is now quite dead, the Khashoggi family still owns two vast properties topped with palace-like homes in Santa Barbara. Adnan Khashoggi was Jamal Khashoggi’s uncle.
But there’s more. Dodi Fayad, the paramour of Princess Diana, was also a Jamal Khashoggi relative.
To keep Mr. Trump on the side of diversity and Saudi love, the prince has banished the British, the French, and even the German arms manufacturers in favor of the likes of America’s Lockheed Martin.
It is true that when you pit one egotist against another, then odd things can happen. France has not taken the prince’s large ego with humility and has actually refused to sell weapons to the Kingdom. Yes, those weapons the Kingdom refuses to buy. In fact, all the European arms makers were looking for a way to punish Saudi Arabia for looking to Trump for weapons and they certainly found it in the death of “Fat Jamal” in Istanbul.
It is possible that the crown prince sees the future and that future won’t smell like bubbling crude. He has implemented his Vision 2030 Plan to somehow move the country away from oil and to almost anything else. Saudi Arabia’s problem is that they probably have 40% less oil in the ground than they say. Further, at the present rate of pumping, the remaining oil deliveries will drop to the point of making the country a small player in the oil markets in the 2020’s and beyond.
Jamal Khashoggi had lots of contacts within the Saudi “Deep State” as well as within the American “Deep State” including the Washington Post. It’s reasonable to assume that Mr. Khashoggi’s opinion pieces in the Post were there for multiple reasons and funded through indirect payments from America’s “Deep State” power brokers in a way similar to Chelsea Clinton being paid $600,000 a year for her “news reporting” on NBC.
This is especially true when one discovers that Jamal Khashoggi had very deep connections not only to the “Deep State” but to the American Democratic Party and to the 93% of the media standing against Donald Trump.
In 2015, Mr. Obama singled out his Yemen Model for praise as his shining example of democracy and stability in the Middle East. Mr. Obama’s model of diversity and love on that peninsula has gone the way of his more local efforts in Detroit, Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia. The tragedy is that the cumulative death rate by violence for those four American cities is about the same as the death rate by violence in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia is no more enthused with toothless psychotic terrorists bombing their country than would anyone else. The kingdom has taken to protecting its borders and its own people and Iran’s proxy war in Yemen is the result.
So while the Europeans are now all up in arms (pun intended) about “Fat Jamal’s” death the reality is that they are pouting over the loss of weapons sales. Mr. Trump on the other has had a problem in that as the Europeans continue to wring their hands and demand action from the UN, the United States is reaping billions in continuing weapons sales. He has to tread lightly.
We all can gloat that Apple might be a product of interest in this Istanbul debacle. Some are saying that Jamal had his suspicions and so he activated his “Smart Watch” just prior to leaving his girlfriend in her car parked nearby and then entering the consulate. It is reasonable to conjecture that the “Smart Watch” audio was sent to the Apple phone and then to the cloud. The documented connection range of the “iWatch” to a phone is over 300 meters.
It is likely that Jamal was a bit tense before he entered the consulate and then his encounter with those 15 Saudi interrogators wouldn’t have done good things to his blood pressure or to his heart rate. That level of stress will put the heart at the 200 beats per minute mark and a BP of 190 over 100 wouldn’t even be a surprise; so he died.
We do then have the pesky question of why the consulate did not just call for an ambulance and save his life. The simple answer is that all those open wounds and broken ribs might have given the EMTs pause.
Probably the “mission” was to interrogate him at the consulate and then stuff him on a plane and take him back to Riyadh and prosecute him for treason. This “show trial” would have been enough to keep the tribes in line and also to use him as a weapon against the Saudi princes who were not supporting Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.
With so many spawn and so many loose heads rolling around, the historical process was to bribe the opponent, shoot the opponent, behead the opponent and often times marry the opponent’s daughter to a prince on your side of the ledger.
While it is certainly rude to plant bugs in a consulate (there are even international agreements against it) it does seem to happen. The simple solution is to just run the bugs up the drains. It is quite simple to stuff a robot into the main sewer line and then have it enter the consulate’s sewer line and then continue in as far as it can go. If it is trailing a cable then there will be no emissions from the device and no bug sweep will find it. Those pipes are large and everything in a room can be heard as it passes from the air to the wall to the pipe and then downwards to the listening device. Multiple sensors can be installed along the cable and give some pretty good results. Computers can usually crank through the echoes and strange reflective paths. To make the project even more of a success, one can simply visit the consulate and then just snap one’s fingers (or cough) here and there … and then here and there. Back at the monitoring site, the finger snaps (or coughs) can be used to calibrate the entire system for each room surveyed.
Something like this was done to the new Soviet Embassy in Beijing when it was constructed. In the Chinese effort, the sounds were passed through special clay piping from the fireplaces.
And don’t think that there isn’t a “sewer gap” going on here. Escalation can come in all forms and that robot does not have to look like a robot. The surveillance device can look like nothing more than the pipe itself. What’s startling about that configuration is that a fiber-optic cable itself is a marvelous microphone. What one does is simply wrap the fiber-optic cable like an external wrap on a piece of pipe and then send laser light down that fiber-optic cable. The sounds will affect the phase of the light going down the cable and then the change can be measured and the result is an extremely sensitive microphone.
If Jamal’s body parts (or his slurry) were passed down that sewer pipe then any intelligence service worth its budget would have already had collection systems there if anything to monitor for employee drug abuse or drinking habits.
The depth of this catastrophe is startling. Turkey might well demand substantial bribes to let this mess settle. They also might demand that the Saudi funded forces in Syria near Idlib be handed over to Turkey.
There is (as truly amazing as this is) a substantial fighting force of Red Chinese Uighurs fighting there as well. If you wonder how these people got there the answer is simple, they went through Vietnam and Thailand on Turkish passports. They have notionally been funded by Turkey but the reality certainly is that they hard cash is from Red China. To Beijing, this could be a repeat of their efforts in the Korean War where they sent Chiang Kai Shek’s surrendered troops south to die in Korea. The Uighurs are a bit troublesome and ridding China of as many as possible seems to be a very productive goal.
The bottom line here is that the American Democratic Party will not leave this mess alone.
Robert Beken, San Diego