Turkish Theory from Producer David H.
Jamal Khashoggi was a player, not a bleeding heart liberal: Alexander Downer | afr.com
Mon, 05 Nov 2018 16:27
I was at a dinner last week with the new British Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt. Hunt was telling us of his recent meeting with Henry Kissinger. He had asked that doyen of diplomacy what separated the good foreign ministers from the ordinary. "Good foreign ministers have an understanding of strategy," the great man growled. Indeed.
The temptation foreign ministers must avoid is to lose sight of strategy as they react to day to day events, often driven by the ephemeral excitement of the media. Well, the West's media is in overdrive over the murder by the Saudis of Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul. There's a demand the West should turn its collective back on Saudi Arabia in response to this criminal act.
I'm not defending what the Saudis did. It was clearly unacceptable. Murder always is. But what is it about Saudi Arabia we have learned in the last month that we didn't already know? It's a tough autocracy, the home of Wahhabism, the hardline sect of Islam which harks back to the values and practices of the middle ages. Its political and economic system is run by an eye-wateringly rich royal family who spray their wealth around Mayfair and Fifth Avenue, if not entirely at home.
And Saudi Arabia is hardly a model of economic efficiency. It has the same population of Australia, produces about 12 per cent of the world's oil and has a GDP not much more than a third of Australia's.
My own experiences of Saudi Arabia have not been entirely happy. As foreign minister I expelled a senior Saudi diplomat because he had been allegedly imprisoning and raping his Filipina maid. The next time I visited Riyadh as foreign minister my reception was distinctly chilly. I sat in the hotel room for hours waiting for meetings which never happened. But I didn't ever publicise the expulsion of the Saudi diplomat because I knew two things. First, raping anyone was a serious criminal offence and since a diplomat couldn't be prosecuted I did the next best thing: expel him.
But I also knew Saudi Arabia was strategically important. It was and still is a partner of convenience for the West. It's not about oil. The Saudis have to export oil to survive. And it's not about arms sales. It's about maintaining a power balance in the Middle East and in particular in the Persian Gulf.
There's no doubting the aggression and ambitions of the Iranian theocracy. They've been pushing their influence from Afghanistan to the Mediterranean. They fund and arm Hezbollah and Hamas, deeply divisive and confrontational organisations. They have actively supported the attempted Houthi takeover of Yemen and Iran is deeply engaged in cyberwarfare.
In this febrile environment, Saudi Arabia is the ally of the West. Abandoning the relationship with Saudi Arabia would further weaken the interests and influence of the Western powers in the Middle East. And if you think that doesn't matter you're quite wrong. The Middle East is volatile enough without adding to that volatility by creating new power vacuums.
So back to the tragic murder of Jamal Khashoggi. My intelligence sources tell me he had worked as an intelligence agent for the Saudi intelligence service, GID, for around 20 years. At one point he was sent by GID to Sudan to meet Osama bin Laden and to try to lure him away from terrorism. He failed.
Khashoggi had always been close to the Muslim Brotherhood, the people who took over Egypt under Morsi following the so-called Arab Spring. The Muslim Brotherhood is a hard-line Islamist organisation dedicated to the introduction of Sharia and the creation of an Islamic caliphate. These people are no bleeding heart liberals. Indeed, the Muslim Brotherhood has been outlawed as a terrorist organisation in a number of Middle Eastern countries and is part of the Hamas support group. They have been implacably opposed to many of the more liberal reforms of the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS).
To add to the complexity of the story, the Brotherhood is supported by the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Qataris. This is a source of real tension between Saudi Arabia, Egypt and their regional allies on the one side and the Turks and Qataris on the other.
So Jamal Khashoggi '' a former Saudi intelligence agent, a man who was close to the Muslim Brotherhood and a sworn opponent of MBS' reform program'' was in the process of setting up a centre to promote the ideology of the MB. He was setting it up in Turkey with Qatari money. The Saudis wanted to stop him. In September they offered him $9 million to return to Saudi Arabia and to live there unhindered. They wanted him out of play. Khashoggi refused and the rest you know. The Saudis killed him.
Let me make two points. First, there is no justification for murdering Khashoggi. Secondly, this man wasn't some Western-oriented liberal brutally murdered because of his passion for freedom. This man was a player.
So it makes you wonder why the American press is so particularly outraged by Khashoggi's murder. Well, he was a columnist for the Washington Post and it's a standard bearer of American liberalism. But it's also been a great propaganda coup against Saudi Arabia in general. Many Westerners blame the Saudis for the tragedy of Yemen. More than that. President Trump has made a great play of embracing Saudi Arabia as America's ally '' much more so than Obama who instead, against Saudi objections, did the nuclear deal with Iran. As for Erdogan, it's absolutely in his interests to milk the Khashoggi murder in Turkey for all it's worth. Erdogen wants Turkey to replace Saudi Arabia as the leader of the Islamic world.
You see my point. You can in government be swept up in the prevailing media narrative and if you design your foreign policy on that basis you will achieve nothing. The wise government is the government which has a clear strategic direction and manages ephemeral events often driven by others with ulterior motives.
Alexander Downer was foreign minister from 1996 to 2007 and is a former high commissioner to the UK.
Another journalist in Saudi Arabia 'is killed during torture while in custody' | Daily Mail Online
Wed, 07 Nov 2018 20:01
Turki Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Jasser (pictured) is said to have been murdered in jail
Another dissident journalist has reportedly been tortured and killed in Saudi Arabia.
Turki Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Jasser is said to have been murdered in jail a month after Jamal Khashoggi was slaughtered in the kingdom's Istanbul consulate.
News site The New Khaleej reported Al-Jasser's death on Saturday quoting human rights sources. The report has not been confirmed.
Human rights groups say the Saudi government believed Al-Jasser secretly ran a Twitter account called Kashkool, which exposed human rights violations by officials and the royals.
Saudi spies in Twitter's regional HQ in Dubai unmasked him and he was arrested in March, according to reports.
The spy ring was said to be run by Saud al-Qahtani, Crown Prince Mohammad's 'thuggish' aide who was demoted after being blamed for the Khashoggi crisis.
If true, the revelations that Saudi Arabia is still killing journalists even after the uproar caused by the Khashoggi scandal will dismay the West.
It comes after Turkish media claimed yesterday that Saudi consulate staff tried to dismantle CCTV equipment at their Istanbul compound to help cover up Khashoggi's murder.
Human rights group Prisoners of Conscience claimed al-Jasser was behind a Twitter account critical of the royals
Khashoggi (pictured), a Washington Post columnist critical of the Saudi government, disappeared at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2
Workers attempted to tear out a security camera inside the building on October 2, the day the writer walked in and was killed, according to reports in Turkey.
Attempts were also made at tampering with a video system in the police security booth outside the complex days later, it is claimed.
According to Turkey's pro-government Sabah newspaper, a member of staff at the consulate went to access the police security post video system at 1am on October 6.
Sabah said the same individual entered a digital lock code into the system to block access to footage showing movements at the entrance - including the moment Khashoggi arrived at the consulate.
However, Al Jazeera reports that police had already deciphered codes and accessed the system before the attempted tampering allegedly took place.
Meanwhile, Turkey's foreign minister has claimed a 15-man Saudi team that flew to Turkey before the killing of Jamal Khashoggi must have been acting on orders.
Speaking to reporters in Tokyo, Mevlut Cavusoglu added that it was Saudi Arabia's responsibility to tell Turkey what happened to the Khashoggi's body, according to Anadolu news agency.
But he reiterated Ankara's stance that the directions had not come from King Salman.
Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist critical of the Saudi government and its de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, disappeared at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
Saudi consulate staff tried to dismantle CCTV cameras in their Istanbul compound to help cover up the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, Turkish media have claimed. The tough critic of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is pictured entering the Saudi consulate (pictured) in Istanbul on October 2 to collect a document for his upcoming marriage