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MBS Usurps King Salman’s Authority

Reuters news agency report October 19, 2018, said that Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has intervened to contain the growing scandal surrounding the death of Jamal Khashoggi. The five sources cited in the report have connection to the Saudi ruling family. One of the sources mentioned that the King has been “asserting himself” to handle the current situation. Two other sources indicated that the King was ignorant of the severity of the “crisis” because the aides to MbS had been guiding the King to only TV channels that showed Saudi Arabia in good light.

Khashoggi’s death

The Saudi national and US resident Jamal Khashoggi was a Washington Post reporter living in the United States in a self-imposed exile. When writing for Al-Watan in Saudi Arabia, his writing was within the establishment framework; he was not a radical as is portrayed in eulogies by the Western media but was a “reactionary.” On October 2, he went inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul while his Turkish fiancee Hatice Cengiz waited outside. He never came back. He was tortured and murdered; the act was over in seven minutes. According to Yasin Aktay, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s top adviser, Khashoggi’s corpse was then dismembered and dissolved in acid. A team of fifteen members belonging to Firqat el-Nemr, (tiger squad), extremely loyal to the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) had flown into Istanbul especially to carry out the gruesome killing; they were out of Turkey that same evening.

Mohammed bin Salman was presented with Khashoggi’s fingers to assure him of Khashoggi’s death, because, according to a source quoted in the Middle East Eye, “‘MBS always said that he will cut off the fingers of every writer who criticizes him.’”

The entire episode has become an international issue. The initial denial by the Saudi regime was followed by several versions of explanations for his disappearance.

Many days later, the death of Khashoggi was acknowledged by MbS; on October 23, he termed it as a “heinous crime that cannot be justified.” Two days later, the joint Turkey/Saudi investigation indicated that “the suspects in the incident had committed their act with a premeditated intention.”

MbS, who runs/ruins Saudi Arabia is under immense pressure to produce a believable story of the events surrounding Khashoggi’s brutal murder and the whereabouts of his body.

Khashoggi vs Yemen

Unsurprisingly, the question gnawing many minds is: why one reporter’s murder caused such a huge outcry in the Western world whereas the horrific war against Yemen carried out by Saudi Arabia with US-supplied weapons has elicited little reaction?

Yemen has witnessed blind bombings of its cities, towns and people causing heavy death, destruction, famine, and misery.

Every ten minutes a child dies; the insecurity for the next meal is felt by 8.4 million people; statistics of the Yemeni tragedy are indeed heart wrenching.

The answer for the unbalanced reaction to the two tragedies is simple: Khashoggi wrote for a very powerful US newspaper without deviating from the information permitted the mainstream media in the US.

The Saudi war against Yemen would have gotten a Khashoggi type coverage if:

Thomas Friedman of the New York Times would have gotten killed in Yemen by Saudi bombing while he was justifying the Saudi war against that country or Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person and the owner of Washington Post, had become a part of a collateral damage in Yemen looking for warehouse workers who used toilets at the assigned time only or … so on and so forth.

Did the King really intervene?

The Reuters report mentioned above, had one source drawing attention to the fact that Khashoggi’s disappearance became tough for MbS to hide from his father, the King, because the news was on all the Arab and Saudi TV channels. This led the King to question his aides and MbS. Therefore, MbS had to ask the King to intervene.

The report’s credibility is questionable: such a long report fails to mention anything about the King’s dementia. In December 2014, three weeks before Salman became king, Simon Henderson of The Washington Institute had written

Salman’s brain is evidently ravaged by dementia. Visitors report that after a few minutes of conversation, he becomes incoherent. The fact that Salman appears in public at all is attributed to his determination to become king — or, more likely, the ambition of his closest relatives that he should do so.”

The Editor in Chief of the Middle East Eye, David Hearst, had this to say:

“Salman’s state of health is cause for concern, which is why the power he has given his son is more significant than other appointments announced. Aged 79, Salman is known to have Alzheimers, but the exact state of his dementia is a source of speculation. He is known to have held cogent conversations as recently as last October. But he can also forget what he said minutes ago, or faces he has known all his life, according to other witnesses. This is typical of the disease. I understand the number of hospital visits in the last few months has increased and that he did not walk around, as he did before.

So his ability to steer the ship of state, in a centralised country where no institutions, political parties or even national politics exist is open to question.”

With his prevailing medical condition, it is hard to believe the King is able to comprehend what’s going on. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that King is well and understands the fallout from Khashoggi’s death. This will make the King a co-culprit with MbS for all the crimes MbS has committed such as:

+ forced resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri who was visiting Saudi Arabia;

+ the diplomatic and trade blockade of Qatar;

+ the ongoing Saudi war in Yemen;

+ arrest of womenfighting for their rights;

+ arrest of tens of ministers and princes on charges of corruption who were held for a long time;

+ the doubling of number of executions;

+ going along with Trump and his son-in-law Kushner in their recognition of Jerusalemas Israel’s capital; forgetting Palestinians for Kushner; and so on.

Saudi kings have one of the worst records on human rights and King Salman is no exception. Nevertheless, none of them have done such dangerous and foolish things as MbS has done. If King Salman were in a proper state of mind, he would have curbed MbS’s power long ago – because in today’s world, it’s impossible for anybody to find a vast country like Saudi Arabia, with plenty of oil, to conquer it, and turn it into personal family property.

What is most likely is that MbS has usurped the King’s power, and now exercises the authority of the Crown Prince and King. MbS has a Hitler-ian mind and doesn’t know how far he can go before he outstretches himself.

The adventures he has gone on have backfired:

+ Hariri was released upon French President Emmanuel Macron’s intervention;

+ the blockade of Qatar didn’t work, Qatar is doing fine and has good relations with Iran and Turkey;

+ the horrible murder of Khashoggi has forced the hypocritical governments of US, UK, and France to issue stern statements.

As observed by recent history, it can be predicted that pretty soon, all this will blow over and it will be business as usual.

The MbS modus operandi seems to be: when MbS realizes that managing his crime or folly is beyond his personal capacity, he gets a statement issued in the name of the King. It has happened in the past. MbS has become friendly with Israel and regarding Israel’s rights to exist, but, then a statement by King Salman was issued who

“reaffirmed the kingdom’s steadfast position towards the Palestinian issue and the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.”

And so the story goes on …

More articles by:

B. R. Gowani can be reached at brgowani@hotmail.com

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