“There is no Bob Mueller” in Saudi Arabia, says friend of missing journalist

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is headed back to the U.S. after meeting with top Saudi and Turkish officials about the disappearance of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi. Turkish officials claim they have proof a 15-member Saudi hit squad killed Khashoggi inside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul.

Khashoggi’s longtime friend and New Yorker contributor, Robin Wright, has has covered the Middle East for more than four decades and written eight books about the region. She told “CBS This Morning” on Wednesday that Khashoggi said the Saudis “wanted him out of the picture” over his recent criticisms of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

“He had begun to call the current crown prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, the most autocratic leader of all six kings who have ruled since the founder of Saudi Arabia died in 1953 and this was clearly a line that went too far,” Wright said.    

With Turkish officials releasing what they claim to be evidence of his grisly murder in drips and drabs and repeated denials by the Saudi government about their involvement of his disappearance, many have called for an independent investigation amid questions over both countries’ reliability. But, as Wright pointed out, that might not be possible in Saudi Arabia.  

“There is no Bob Mueller in the kingdom and the challenge for the legitimacy of any report is finding someone who is going to tell something that even begins to resemble the truth. There’s no independent judiciary and, in fact, the crown prince over the past 16 months has consolidated all five sectors of power: economic, military, and the royal court. It’s very hard to find someone who will dissent,” Wright said.

There has long been criticism over America’s relationship with Saudi Arabia. President Trump has been reluctant to terminate its $110 billion arms deal with the kingdom because he argues it would harm U.S. manufacturers. Wright see Khashoggi’s disappearance as a turning point.

“That just six months ago the crown prince was touring, whether it was Harvard, Hollywood, or Houston, he was fêted by some of the most luminary names in the technology industry and the movie industry. And this is a moment where his place, his power within the kingdom is actually being questioned and that was something that Jamal had accomplished in his disappearance that he hadn’t been able to do in his life,” Wright.

President Trump floated the idea that perhaps “rogue killers” were behind the journalist’s disappearance Monday. That, Wright says, is an “enormous gamble” by Mr. Trump.

“Three of his most important objectives anywhere in the world are in the Middle East. And he’s invested particularly in the crown prince, whether it’s on the elusive Middle East peace plan, counterterrorism in the age of ISIS, or squeezing Iran into changing its behavior or even changing the regime itself. So this is a real challenge for his foreign policy as well as relationship with the kingdom,” Wright said.

An entirely separate narrative within Khashoggi’s disappearance is the relationship between Turkey and Saudi Arabia.  What does Turkey hope to gain by leaking these reports?

“It’s a really interesting power play between two of the most significant players in the region,” Wright said. “Turkey and Saudi Arabia have been rivals for power in the Gulf and in many ways interpreting how Islam and politics intersect. So this will play out on levels that have far more repercussions than just Saudi Arabia and the United States, it will play out across the region.”

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Categories: International News, US & World News

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