Wednesday, October 24, 2018
By John Brennan
It appears increasingly likely that Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was detained and killed at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul. There is still much that we don’t know, but if such an audacious act was carried out, it almost certainly would have required the approval of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Since the passing of King Abdullah in 2015 and the ascension of Mohammed’s father, King Salman, to the throne, the crown prince has been on a relentless march to consolidate political power. He has used his royal standing as the king’s favored son to outmaneuver, sideline and effectively neuter both royal and nonroyal obstacles in his path. Taking advantage of his father’s diminished mental acuity, Mohammed gained the king’s acquiescence to push his uncle, Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz, and his older and more senior cousin, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, off the crown prince perch in short succession, grabbing for himself the role of day-to-day decision-maker in Riyadh. His political consolidation campaign did not stop there. The well-publicized detention and shakedown of more than 100 princes, senior technocrats and businessmen at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh that began in November 2017, under the guise of an anti-corruption crusade, was akin to a single pot calling dozens of kettles black. The move was intended to root out and intimidate potential opposition as well as to fill Mohammed’s royal purse with more than $100 billion in funds needed to pursue his domestic ambitions and regional adventures, including his disastrous military foray into Yemen.
To leaven some of his aggressive political moves and gain popular support, the crown prince also spearheaded some long-overdue social initiatives, such as allowing women to drive, curtailing the activities of the much-resented religious police and breaking down some mixed-gender prohibitions. But here, too, he brooked no criticism of the pace and scope of social change, ordering the arrest of activists, including outspoken Saudi women, who dared to challenge him.
Khashoggi was a particular irritant to the crown prince. Khashoggi was widely known and respected inside and outside the kingdom for his literary talent, political acumen and principled opposition to Mohammed’s increasing authoritarianism and arrogance.
Several decades ago, Saudi intelligence and security services had a well-deserved reputation for heinous extrajudicial acts against Saudis and non-Saudis alike. Much of that sordid history was left behind when Nayef, the former crown prince, served as deputy minister and minister of interior from 2004 to 2017. But Nayef lost his security portfolio, and his ability to continue the professionalization of Saudi security forces, when he was deposed by Mohammed. The security forces now answer to the intolerant and vindictive crown prince.
As history has shown, authoritarian leaders such as Mohammed become increasingly paranoid over time and use the instruments of national power to eliminate real and perceived sources of opposition. By leveraging his absolute control over subservient internal security services, the crown prince has methodically intimidated and neutralized political opponents. The news reports and Turkish government accounts of Khashoggi’s disappearance from the Saudi Consulate, and the contemporaneous arrival of two planeloads of Saudis, have the hallmarks of a professional capture operation or, more ominously, an assassination. As someone who worked closely with the Saudis for many years, and who lived and worked as a U.S. official for five years in Saudi Arabia, I am certain that if such an operation occurred inside a Saudi diplomatic mission against a high-profile journalist working for a U.S. newspaper, it would have needed the direct authorization of Saudi Arabia’s top leadership — the crown prince. Maybe Mohammed thought that his close ties to the Trump administration and the virtual absence of U.S. moral leadership on the global stage would help protect him from fallout. In particular, a visceral, shared animus for the Iranian regime probably gave him the impression that the U.S.-Saudi relationship is bulletproof. I am confident that U.S. intelligence agencies have the capability to determine, with a high degree of certainty, what happened to Khashoggi. If he is found to be dead at the hands of the Saudi government, his demise cannot go unanswered — by the Trump administration, by Congress or by the world community. Ideally, King Salman would take immediate action against those responsible, but if he doesn’t have the will or the ability, the United States would have to act. That would include immediate sanctions on all Saudis involved; a freeze on U.S. military sales to Saudi Arabia; suspension of all routine intelligence cooperation with Saudi security services; and a U.S.-sponsored U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the murder. The message would be clear: The United States will never turn a blind eye to such inhuman behavior, even when carried out by friends, because this is a nation that remains faithful to its values.
By Bernie Sanders
Mr. Sanders is a United States senator from Vermont.
The United States is deeply engaged in this war. We are providing bombs the Saudi-led coalition is using, we are refueling their planes before they drop those bombs, and we are assisting with intelligence.
In far too many cases, the bomb’s targets have been civilian ones. In one of the more horrible recent instances, an American-made bomb obliterated a school bus full of young boys, killing dozens and wounding many more. A CNN report found evidence that American weapons have been used in a string of such deadly attacks on civilians since the war began.
Yet last month, responding to congressional concerns, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo officially certified to Congress — and Secretary of Defense James Mattis affirmed — that the Saudis and Emiratis are making “every effort to reduce the risk of civilian casualties.”The data refute these claims. According to the independent monitoring group Yemen Data Project, between March 2015 and March 2018, more than 30 percent of the Saudi-led coalition’s targets have been nonmilitary. According to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project, civilian deaths in one region increased by more than 160 percent over the summer from earlier in the year.
People inside the administration understand these facts. Several days after Mr. Pompeo issued the certification, The Wall Street Journal reported that he had overruled the State Department’s own regional and military experts, siding instead with members of his legislative affairs staff who argued that not certifying could endanger United States arms sales to the Saudis and Emiratis. President Trump himself echoed this logic when asked about the murder of Mr. Khashoggi, claiming that the Saudis are spending “$110 billion” on military equipment.
It gets worse. The Intercept reported that a former lobbyist for the arms manufacturer Raytheon, which stands to make billions of dollars from those sales, leads Mr. Pompeo’s legislative affairs staff.
‘The war is a strategic and moral disaster for the United States.’
Above and beyond the catastrophe that this war has created, there is the fact that American engagement there has not been authorized by Congress, and is therefore unconstitutional. Article I of the Constitution clearly states that it is Congress, not the president, that has the power to declare war. Over many years, Congress has allowed that power to ebb. That must change.
In February, along with two of my colleagues, Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, and Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, I introduced Senate Joint Resolution 54, calling on the president to withdraw from the Saudi-led war in Yemen. We did this for two reasons. The first is that the war is a strategic and moral disaster for the United States. The second is that the time is long overdue for Congress to reassert authority over matters of war.
The Senate voted 55 to 44 to delay consideration of the resolution. Since then, this crisis has only worsened and our complicity become even greater.
Next month, I intend to bring that resolution back to the floor. We will be adding more co-sponsors, and colleagues in the House have offered a similar measure. The brutal murder of Mr. Khashoggi demands that we make clear that United States support for Saudi Arabia is not unconditional.
I very much hope that Congress will act, that we will finally take seriously our congressional duty, end our support for the carnage in Yemen, and send the message that human lives are worth more than profits for arms manufacturers.
By Andy Campbell
Suspicious packages and pipe bombs have been mailed to several of the president’s favorite punching bags.
Explosive devices and suspicious packages are showing up at the homes and offices of top Democrats, the people who fund them and the press that covers them. Most, if not all, of them have made their way to people and organizations that President Donald Trump despises.
Trump has repeatedly called his followers to violence against the people and organizations that were victimized this week. There were no confirmed motives or suspects by Wednesday afternoon. But his violent rhetoric over the past two years has led one of his biggest enemies, CNN, to ascribe some blame for the attacks to the president.
In a statement Wednesday, CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker said that Trump and members of the administration “should understand that their words matter.”
“There is a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media,” Zucker said. “The President, and especially the White House Press Secretary, should understand their words matter. Thus far, they have shown no comprehension of that.”
House and Senate Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer issued even stronger statements, connecting Trump’s rhetoric to the neo-Nazi violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year, as well as to violence against protesters at his rallies and more.
On Wednesday, CNN evacuated its New York offices after an apparent pipe bomb and an envelope with white powder were discovered in the mailroom. Several top Democratic individuals received similar threats ― Bill and Hillary Clinton, former President Barack Obama, George Soros, Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.) and others received explosive devices or suspicious packages in the mail.
All of them have been Trump’s very public enemies. CNN has been the acute focus of Trump’s ongoing war against the media, or what he calls “the enemy of the people.”
He’s called CNN fake news. His family has laughed as Trump supporters angrily call out and threaten its reporters at the president’s rallies. The president has lauded a video depicting him beating up a person with the CNN logo superimposed on his head. Press freedom experts have long pegged Trump’s rhetoric as the begging of violent ends for American reporters. CNN’s inclusion in Wednesday’s terrorist activity was inevitable. There are reports that the package sent to CNN was addressed to former CIA Director John Brennan, who does not work at the network. The White House publicly revoked his security clearance in August, in what he called a “broader effort by Mr. Trump to suppress freedom of speech and punish critics.”
Bill and Hillary Clinton were also victims. They’ve been demonized by the right for decades, but only one leader has suggested that Republican voters shoot Hillary Clinton or her Supreme Court appointees dead if she won the presidency.
“If she gets to pick her judges ― nothing you can do, folks,” Trump said with a shrug at a rally in 2016. “Although, the Second Amendment people. Maybe there is. I don’t know.”
To this day, Hillary Clinton is one of Trump’s most valuable punching bags. He’s still talking about her emails. His constituents still chant “Lock her up” at his rallies. He is still demanding ― this year! ― that his followers get angry about her.
“Let’s see if she gets away with it,” he said in August.
A “potential explosive device” was intercepted as it made its way by mail to the Clinton household in the New York City suburbs late Tuesday, the Secret Service said. Nobody was injured.
“We are fine, thanks to the men and women of the Secret Service who intercepted the package addressed to us long before it made its way to our home,” she said Wednesday. “It is a troubling time, isn’t it? It’s a time of deep divisions, and we have to do everything we can to bring our country together.”
In various tweets and speeches, President Donald Trump has fanned the flames of Soros conspiracy by claiming that there is a bogeyman behind various news events. That bogeyman always ends up becoming Soros, whether it’s true or not. Recently the president said that a “lot of money” was given to a caravan of migrants traveling toward Mexico and the United States, leading The New York Times to file a story headlined, “Did Democrats, or George Soros, Fund Migrant Caravan? Despite Republican Claims, No.” Trump also claimed that Kavanaugh’s protesters were paid and were awaiting their checks, another thread that led back to Soros online. That list, too, goes on, and the GOP has followed suit by publishing anti-Semitic ads featuring Soros as the Jewish donor behind every nonwhite demonstration out there.
Explosive devices and suspicious packages have also been intercepted after they were sent to the homes or offices of Obama, Waters and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), a former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee — all of whom Trump has personally and publicly attacked. Republicans now hate Waters in particular for Trump’s repeated attacks on her.
As the midterm elections approach ― and the polls begin to look bleaker for Republicans ― Trump’s words have become more and more desperate. More broadly, he has promised violence if he loses. He has said that the Democrats will “overturn everything that we’ve done, and they’ll do it quickly and violently” if Republicans lose control of Congress.
While many pulled out of the ongoing Saudi investment summi#JamalKhashoggi: How Pakistan 'ignored' journalist's murder to secure Saudi loant citing the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Pakistani PM Imran Khan chose to rub shoulders with the Saudis to seal a bailout package. Social media reacts.
Pakistani authorities announced on Tuesday that Prime Minister Imran Khan managed to secure a $6 billion (€5.25 billion) bailout package from Saudi Arabia to avoid further deterioration of the South Asian country's economy.
"A MoU (memorandum of understanding) was signed between Finance Minister Asad Umar and the Saudi Finance Minister Muhammad Abdullah Al-Jadaan. It was agreed Saudi Arabia will place a deposit of USD 3 Billion for a period of one year as balance of payment support," Pakistan's Foreign Office said in a statement.
It was further "agreed that a one year deferred payment facility for import of oil, up to $3 billion, will be provided by Saudi Arabia. This arrangement will be in place for three years, which will be reviewed thereafter."
The agreement was signed on the sidelines of the second edition of the annual Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.
A number of world leaders had boycotted the Saudi summit, also called "Davos in the desert." The reason behind staying away from the high-profile investment conference was the criticism over journalist Jamal Khashoggi's murder inside a Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The Saudi royal family has come under sharp scrutiny over the journalist's killing, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claiming on Tuesday that the Saudis had "planned" Khashoggi's assassination.
But Khan, who won the July 25 general election and was inaugurated as prime minister in August, chose to look the other way on the Khashoggi killing.
Speaking to The Independent newspaper earlier this week, Khan said that although the murder of one of Saudi Arabia's biggest critics "shocked" him, the reason he was visiting Riyadh was "to take this opportunity because we are a country of 210 million people and we have the worst debt crisis in our history."
"We are desperate for money," Khan added. "Unless we get loans from friendly countries or IMF, we actually won't have foreign exchange to either service our debts or to pay for our imports, so unless we get loans, or investment from abroad, we'll have real, real problems," the Pakistani PM stressed.
A 'mercenary trade off'
Pakistan's human rights defenders, however, criticized the premier's decision to turn a blind eye to Khashoggi's "brutal" murder and cozy up with Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman at a time when the international community is trying to mount pressure on the two.
In a sarcastic tweet on Tuesday, journalist Umar Cheema said: "#IK lets the world know he's desperate."
Former Pakistani Senator Farhatullah Babar said that PM Khan's visited Riyadh at a time when "new evidence in Khashoggi case ensnares [the] House of Al Saud."
"Kingdom's isolation and rattling monarchy may seem to create space for financial bailout. Remember, trade offs that are mercenary in character intrinsically unsustainable, will haunt Pakistan for long," Babar tweeted.
Pakistani TV anchor Syed Talat Hussain also lashed out at PM Khan for seeking a financial loan from the Saudis.
"Even those countries that are drowning don't say publicly 'we are desperate for funds.' It is graceless and denigrates the country. PM Imran [Khan] has said this and it is absolutely embarrassing," Hussain tweeted.
A 'diplomatic success'
But Khan's supporters lauded the premier for securing a much-needed financial bailout package. They argue that their country cannot afford a conflict with Riyadh, which has been one of Pakistan's biggest financiers for decades.
"$6 billion in aid from Saudi Arabia. Thank you. Good work by @ImranKhanPTI. Pakistan has to delicately manage complex regional dynamics and an insatiably hungry youth-based economy. This is a fine start. But this only buys oxygen for reform. The real test is reform," Mosharraf Zaidi wrote on Twitter.
Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI, Movement for Justice) party projected the premier's meetings with Saudi officials as a great diplomatic success.
"Prime Minister @ImranKhanPTI meets Saudi Crown Prince Mohd Bin Salman, discusses matters related to mutual interests," said PTI's official Twitter account.
Moeed Pirzada, a TV anchor, took a dig at the former ruling party, the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), for hoping that Khan's Saudi Arabia trip would be unsuccessful.
"Imran Khan, the skipper, you have played well! But I am feeling bad for all those in opposition, liberal fringes and media, who had high hopes of throwing out this govt. before December. Guys, you are gone, finished, history (that too only in N Media Cell)," Pirzada tweeted Tuesday.
A compromise on neutrality?
It is yet to be seen whether Khan's Riyadh visit was a success or a failure, but some rights activists and political analysts already fear that the Saudi cash will increase the kingdom's influence on Pakistan.
Sectarian conflict is rife in Pakistan, with Saudi Arabia and Iran engaged in a protracted proxy war in the South Asian country.
While Riyadh promotes its version of Wahhabi Islam — by supporting hardline Sunni groups, political parties and religious seminaries — Tehran, too, propagates Shiite Islam in the Muslim-majority nation through various channels.
Islamabad's ties with Tehran have been tense for quite some time, and PM Khan's decision to deepen relations with Saudi Arabia could raise eyebrows in Iran.
The sectarian strife in Pakistan has been ongoing for some time now, with militant Islamist groups unleashing terror on the minority Shiite groups in many parts of the country. Most of these outfits, including the Taliban, take inspiration from the hardline Wahhabi ideology.
"For Pakistan's Islamic fundamentalists, the country is already a 'Sunni Wall' against Shiite Iran," Siegfried O. Wolf, an expert at the University of Heidelberg's South Asia Institute, told DW in an interview.
Reacting to the latest Saudi bailout package for Pakistan, Michael Kugelman, a Washington-based South Asia analyst, wrote on Twitter: "Will the #Pakistan govt [government], which had initially telegraphed a desire for a more neutral position in the Saudi-Iranian rivalry, now need to revert to the norm and pivot closer to Riyadh? Could there be implications for Pakistan's energy/trade ties w/ #Iran?"