The gruesome murder and dismemberment of the Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, in Istanbul’s Saudi Arabian consulate on 2 October 2018 has been seriously threatening to destroy the whole mechanism through which US imperialism maintains its influence in the Middle East, and even its ability to wage economic warfare on a world scale.
Khashoggi was a Saudi national and supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood who went into self-imposed exile in the US in 2017 following Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s taking over of day-to-day management of the Saudi government shortly after his father King Salman acceded to the Saudi throne in January 2015. There had been such a crackdown on free speech that no criticism of the government was tolerated, making it impossible for Khashoggi to do what he saw as his job – so he left the country, settled in the US and became a correspondent for the Washington Post for which he wrote articles that were frequently critical of the Saudi government and its policies. He condemned, for instance, the war being waged by Saudi Arabia in Yemen as well as Saudi attempts by use of blockade and sanctions to bring Qatar to its knees. Because of his long-standing connections at the highest levels of Saudi society – besides a lifetime in journalism, he had a father who had been a medical practitioner to the royal family and his uncle Adnan was a hugely wealthy arms dealer – he was very influential among his fellow Saudis. It is indicative of the current frailty of the Saudi regime that it was felt he needed to be silenced.
The opportunity to silence him arose when he decided to get married to a Turkish woman. For this purpose he needed paperwork from Saudi Arabia confirming he was divorced from his former wife. To obtain the necessary documentation, he visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where he was greeted with great cordiality, by all accounts, and told the papers would be ready for him if he would return for them the following week. In the interim “a 15-man ‘hit squad’ flew by private jets (at least one of which is owned by the crown prince) and scheduled flights to Istanbul the morning of Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance.
“At least nine of those onboard worked for the Saudi security services, military or other government ministries. Among those is Salah Muhammed al-Tubaigy, president of the Saudi Fellowship of Forensic Pathology who specialises in gathering DNA from crime scenes and dissecting bodies. He stayed in Istanbul until 11pm on October 2.
“He was joined by Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, a diplomat assigned to the Saudi Embassy in London in 2007. He travelled extensively with the crown prince, records show.” (Josie Ensor, ‘Shady hitmen and a diplomatic mire’, The Telegraph, 17 October 2018).
Salah Muhammad A Tubaigy, who is also the head of the Saudi Forensic Medicine Institute, was apparently handily equipped with an important instrument of his profession, a bone saw.
When Khashoggi arrived at the consulate he is said to have been invited to chat with the Crown Prince over the telephone, being asked to return voluntarily to Saudi Arabia, which Khashoggi made clear he had no intention of doing. What followed, according to Turkish sources cited in the Telegraph article quoted above was that:
“Khashoggi was murdered inside the consulate. In accounts given to the Wall Street Journal and others, Mr Khashoggi is led into the office of the consul general, Mohammed al-Otaibi,
“Mr al-Otaibi is reported to have been heard saying they should do this outside, or he will get into trouble.
“A voice identified as M Tubaigy, the forensics expert, tells him to stay out of it. ‘If you want to live when you come to Saudi Arabia, be quiet’ he says.
“Mr Khashoggi is then heard screaming as he has his fingers cut off one-by-one, although there is said to have been no attempt to interrogate him.
“As he started to dismember the body, Tubaigy put on earphones and listened to music. He advised other members of the squad to do the same. ‘When I do this job, I listen to music. You should do [that] too,’ Tubaigy was recorded as saying, a source told Middle East Eye.
“Reports suggest it took him seven minutes to die.”
Khashoggi’s body parts were smuggled out of the consulate but to date it has not been discovered where they ended up.
Attempts at a cover up
Mr Khashoggi’s fiancée was waiting for him outside the consulate and, when he did not appear after four hours, she contacted the Turkish authorities who demanded to know his whereabouts. They were told that Khashoggi had left the consulate some time previously via a back entrance. In fact, arrangements had been made to create a cctv image of him leaving in order to back up this story, but it all went wrong. One of the hit team was Mustafa al-Madani, a man of similar build to Khashoggi, who was filmed wearing Khashoggi’s clothes and a false beard leaving out of the back door. However, he for whatever reason did not put on Khashoggi’s Oxford Brogues but kept his own rather distinctive trainers, which would of course have been noticed when the cctv of Khashoggi’s arrival at the consulate was compared to that of his supposed departure. Therefore the ‘departure’ cctv ‘disappeared’ and was not available for inspection.
Unknown to the Saudis, the Turkish intelligence services were bugging the consulate and had tapes of what was going on there. They had also listened in to the telephone calls made from the consulate to Mohammed Bin Salman’s private office – no fewer than 7 of them – by the hit team. But, for over two weeks the Saudi authorities maintained the lie that Khashoggi had left the consulate alive, while the Turkish authorities drip fed leaks about what really happened. Ultimately the revelations being made public forced the Saudis to admit that Khashoggi had died at the consulate, while they flailed around trying to compose an explanation that did not compromise the Saudi government and its de facto chief executive, the Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (commonly referred to as MBS). First they claimed that Khashoggi had been killed accidentally in the course of a ‘fist fight’ and more recently that he had been killed by ‘rogue elements’, but neither of these ‘explanations’ tallied with the accusatory facts that had come to light. If it was an ‘accident’, what was a top pathologist doing at the consulate? And where is the body? And if it was ‘rogue elements’, what are ‘rogue elements’ doing in the Crown Prince’s private jet, or making telephone calls from the consulate to the Crown Prince’s private office?
Apart from Israel, Saudi Arabia is imperialism’s chief stooge in the Middle East. Both countries are vilely vicious but it is generally the case that the bourgeois media do not if they can help it draw much attention to this because of the importance of these countries in defending imperialist interests. Imperialism would have been quite happy for this whole episode to be hushed up – but it was not to be. Turkey not only harbours visceral hatred for Saudi Arabia that peddles Wahhabism, a different, and even more archaic, brand of Islamism than do Turkey’s rulers, committed as they are to the Muslim Brotherhood, but currently it is also enraged by Saudi Arabia’s US puppet master which, in a vain attempt to prevent Bashar al Assad from regaining control over the whole of his country, has been supporting Syrian Kurdish separatists aligned with the separatist movement of Turkish Kurds whom successive Turkish governments have been fighting tooth and nail for decades. The fury that Turkish leader Erdogan feels towards US imperialism knows no bounds. There was no way the Turkish authorities were going to bypass this chance to damage both the Saudis and their US masters.
In so doing they have been supported albeit implicitly by very powerful lobbies.
To start with, there is the full weight of that part of the US establishment that deplores Trump’s presidency. Since Trump has made his friendship with Saudi Arabia such a pivot of his Middle East policy, with his son-in-law Jared Kushner cosying up to the Crown Prince as a best buddy, outing the outrageous behaviour of said best buddy is an opportunity too good to miss.
Then there are all the rich and influential people in Saudi Arabia whom, on charges of corruption, the Crown Prince has forced to part with a large portion of their billions. They are joined by Saudi clerics whose nose has been put out of joint by MBS’s ‘modernisation’ programme that allows women to drive and cinemas to open. Nor should the royals be forgotten who have been cut out of the traditional order of succession by King Salman’s decision to make his son the Crown Prince in place of candidates who would otherwise have had priority. All these people have an axe to grind and are no doubt only too happy to wield it!
Then there is the Muslim Brotherhood who may be down, but is certainly not out, and is in a strong position to influence public opinion.
And finally there are the journalists who write for the bourgeois media and who would be hard to repress when faced with the grisly murder of one of their own.
All in all, there was no way of brushing this particular atrocity under the carpet.
Imperialism on the horns of a dilemma
Saudi Arabia is vital to imperialist interests for a number of reasons. Perhaps the most important of these is the authority it has in the Islamic world as ‘guardian of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina’ to influence the religious masses of the region and further afield away from any thoughts of revolution and freedom, and to mobilise large numbers of them, furthermore, to fight against those who refuse to accept imperialism’s diktat, such as the people of Syria, Iraq and Libya.
Also, with massive Saudi oil deposits effectively at its disposal, US imperialism is able to some considerable extent to use Saudi Arabian production as an economic weapon against other countries – although the downside of this is that Saudi Arabia can also use oil threats to secure concessions from imperialism. Nevertheless, such actions are unlikely, as reducing oil production would seriously hurt the Saudi economy which is already suffering from high unemployment:
“Saudi Arabia enjoys a privileged position both in geopolitical and economic terms. It will have a powerful hand to play if tensions with the US and the west escalate …
“Its vast oil reserves – it claims to have about 260bn barrels still to extract – afford the most obvious advantage. The kingdom is the world’s largest oil exporter, pumping or shipping about 7m barrels a day, and giving Riyadh huge clout in the global economy because it wields power to push up prices.
“An editorial in Arab News by Turki Aldhakhil, the general manager of the official Saudi news channel, Al Arabiya, offers a hint of what could be in the offing.
“He said Riyadh was weighing up 30 measures designed to put pressure on the US if it were to impose sanctions over the disappearance and presumed murder of Jamal Khashoggi inside the country’s Istanbul consulate. These would include an oil production cut that could drive prices from around $80 (£60) a barrel to more than $400, more than double the all-time high of $147.27 reached in 2008”. (Rob Davies, ‘How much damage can Saudi Arabia do to the global economy?’, The Guardian, 15 October 2018).
So long as the Saudi government is closely allied with US imperialism, rather than being sanctioned by the latter, it is usually happy to pump more or less oil as US imperialism directs – a weapon in the US’s armoury to use against its opponents such as Iran. When faced with US anger at Khashoggi’s murder, the Saudi Energy Minister complained that the Kingdom had long served as the world’s energy ‘shock absorber’, implying that it was beyond criticism even when committing murder.
Related to this, US imperialism needs Saudi cooperation if it is to have any hope of putting down Iran.
“[What is he reason why Trump] is laying the ground to exonerate the regime in general and bin Salman in particular.
“The answer can be spelled out in four letters: Iran. Trump realised, belatedly, that his long-plotted strategy for confronting Iran, which culminates on 5 November with a sweeping, potentially crippling global embargo on Iranian oil, cannot work without Saudi support.
“The plan, which many analysts believe is actually an attempt to force regime change in Tehran, depends on the Saudis pumping extra oil to compensate for the anticipated shortfall. If not, the outcome could be a worldwide oil shock, with rapidly rising prices and massive, negative knock-on impacts on international markets and trade.
“That’s why Trump refuses to contemplate sanctions, such as suspending arms sales, as urged in Congress. For the same reason, he has failed to check the Saudi-led carnage in Yemen. Iran is why Trump will not apply his punitive tool of choice – penalties on named individuals in foreign governments – in the Khashoggi case. Surely nobody honestly believes the high-risk Istanbul operation was undertaken without the prior knowledge of bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s most powerful man. But sanctioning him would blow up Trump’s entire Iranian bonfire night plot…
“Trump needs the Saudis not only because the oil embargo could prove chaotic without them. He will also need their political and military cooperation if, as threatened, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards take reciprocal, physical action to halt Saudi and Gulf states’ oil exports via the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf and the Bab-el-Mandeb strait, at the mouth of the Red Sea. If this crisis point is reached, escalating confrontations across the region cannot be ruled out” (Simon Tisdall, ‘Regime change in Iran is Trump’s real reason for siding with the Saudis’, The Guardian, 18 October 2018).
And finally US imperialism is dependent on Saudi Arabia for massive arms purchases that favour its military-industrial complex and for massive inward investment.
“Public Investment Fund (PIF), Saudi Arabia’s sovereign-wealth fund, has poured $4.9bn into American start-ups. Another Saudi-backed venture has made at least $17bn worth of deals. Banks have hauled in hundreds of millions of dollars in fees for advising on Saudi projects” (GC, ‘The kingdom has made strong threats, but it has little leverage’, The Economist, 19 October 2018).
Trump’s son Eric was very frank about this:
“…Eric Trump said Thursday on Fox News’ Outnumbered: ‘Saudi Arabia has actually been a friend to the US in many ways. They’re ordering from us, massive, massive orders. Hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of arms that will create tens and tens of thousands of jobs.
“‘So what are you going to do? You’re going to take that and you’re going to throw all of that away?’” (Marlene Lenthang, ‘Eric Trump asks ‘Are we just supposed to throw away our relationship with Saudi Arabia’ following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’, Daily Mail, 19 October 2018).
History of appeasement of Saudi Arabia
Enough has been said to demonstrate why imperialism would feel it can’t afford to be on bad terms with Saudi Arabia and to explain why, despite the overwhelming evidence that a heinous crime has been committed at the instance of the Saudi regime, no sanctions have been imposed and no ambassadorial staff have been expelled – in stark contrast to the reaction of the ‘international’ (imperialist) community when the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal was poisoned in the UK and the finger was pointed at Russia despite a complete absence of evidence.
Imperialism’s toothless response to Saudi Arabia’s egregious crime totally under-mines the myth underlying imperialism’s expansionist adventures that it is the defender of human rights on a mission to expand democracy and freedom to every ‘barbaric’ corner of the globe.
To have as its ally Saudi Arabia, with its medieval regime practising medieval torture on its citizens as a matter of routine and forcing them to abide by an antediluvian code of conduct that notoriously infantilises women, among other outrages, has always been an embarrassment to the country’s imperialist masters, who have nevertheless been forced to close their eyes to their puppet’s antics. Under the Crown Prince, things were hyped as now undergoing change for the better. He was presented to the world as the great moderniser who lifted the ban on women driving and allowed cinemas to be opened where not only would Saudi citizens be able to watch films but men and women would be able to attend the same viewings! MBS was standing up to the clerics and to the old guard and bringing Saudi Arabia into the 21st century. Except that he wasn’t, as all the imperialist powers were very well aware:
“In June, when the ban on Saudi women driving ended, it was portrayed around the world as part of a modernising, liberalising agenda by the new crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. Yet the authorities ordered female activists not to speak out in its favour. Their blunt message was that what was being offered was the gift of King Salman and his crown prince son, and not a result of the campaign by female activists. In fact, the government had arrested 11 of these activists a month beforehand. Though four were released, the remaining seven had led a petition demanding that the female guardianship system – which treats adult women as legal minors – be abolished. They remain in detention without charge, but could face up to 25 years in jail…
“Before the ascension to the throne by Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz in January 2015, the Saudi monarchy allowed space, however reluctantly, for non-establishment Wahhabi clerics, and silenced dissenters by intimidation, co-option through cash handouts, and in the case of foreign-based opponents, periodic kidnaps. With the swift ascendancy of the headstrong Bin Salman, this changed.
“He has grabbed all centres of power, not only in the government – defence, the National Guard, interior ministry and its intelligence agencies – but also in the form of Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil corporation, as well as in construction and broadcasting. Bin Salman achieved this under the guise of launching a seemingly popular anti-corruption campaign, sanctioned by his father, in November 2017 – detaining 326 businessmen and princes in the swanky Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh. Royal court officials said the detainees had stolen assets from the government…
“In January, security services arrested 11 princes after their refusal to leave the historic Qasr al-Hokm palace in old Riyadh. They were held at al-Hair maximum-security prison. They had gathered there merely to frame an objection to a decree in which the government would stop paying the princes’ utility bills.
“The detained women’s rights activists have been smeared in the state-guided newspapers, which have accused their campaign of treason and implied it is funded by the much maligned Qatar.
“Thanks to their sympathisers, and international human rights organisations, the women’s rights activists remain in the public eye. In sharp contrast, the fate of the dissenting clerics, writers and intellectuals held without trial remains unknown. Equally unknown is the fate of the 56 Ritz-Carlton detainees who were brave enough to resist official coercion and threats, and were then transferred to traditional jails. These persecuted groups have become non-persons, the early victims of a totalitarian regime in the making under the 33-year-old Bin Salman” (Dilip Hiro, ‘Mohammed bin Salman never was a reformer. This has proved it’, The Guardian, 18 October 2018)..
In foreign policy, Bin Salman has proved equally ruthless:
“…Since he took office in 2017, Trump signaled to Saudi Arabia’s leaders, especially King Salman and his son, the ambitious and ruthless 33-year-old crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, that they can get away with anything – as long as they help keep global oil prices stable and continue buying US weapons.
“With Trump’s green light, the young prince and his advisers intensified a series of destructive policies: Saudi Arabia continued a brutal war in Yemen that has killed tens of thousands of civilians; the kingdom imposed a blockade against its smaller neighbor, Qatar; the prince detained and forced Lebanon’s prime minister to resign; and he ordered the arrest of hundreds of Saudi activists and business leaders. Without any consequences for these actions, is it any surprise that Saudi Arabia expected to get away with the alleged abduction and murder of Khashoggi, who wrote columns for the Washington Post critical of the crown prince? …
“The Saudi-led war in Yemen triggered a humanitarian catastrophe, which by some estimates has killed nearly 50,000 people. More than 8 million Yemenis are on the brink of famine, and 1.1 million are infected with cholera. Several United Nations investigations found both the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition responsible for war crimes, but the Saudis and their allies have caused far more civilian deaths with air strikes. And the US is probably culpable for these war crimes because it provides the Saudis and Emiratis with missiles and bombs, intelligence assistance in identifying targets and mid-air refueling for warplanes (Mohamad Bazzi, ‘Khashoggi’s fate isn’t a surprise. Trump has emboldened Saudi Arabia’, The Guardian, 16 October 2018).
Yet Saudi Arabia needs America even more than America needs Saudi Arabia
Despotic though the Crown Prince has always been, he was in charge of a major push to make the Kingdom less dependent on oil, especially now that the world oil price has shrunk below the levels needed to keep the Saudi economy in a state of health. This push is of course opposed tooth and nail by the obscurantist traditionalists who until lately largely ruled the roost but MBS kept them down through a mixture of concessions (hence the continued persecution of women activists) and brute force. With Saudi Arabia’s economic problems multiplying by the day, the country is desperate for reform, and it seems this cannot be effected without the active support of US imperialism:
“…One of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s primary objectives is to diversify the Saudi economy and wean his country off its dependence on oil. Unemployment in Saudi Arabia is at more than 12 percent, and some 70 percent of employed Saudis work for the government. The Saudi labor ministry estimates that the economy needs to create 1.2 million jobs by 2022 to lower unemployment to a still dismal 9 percent.
“But because the country lacks business experience and special expertise outside of the oil and petrochemical industries, that won’t be possible without foreign — and particularly American — participation. That’s why the Saudis have been making so many deals recently: The Public Investment Fund has partnered with AMC to open and run movie theaters across the country because AMC knows how to manage cinemas. Saudi Arabia is pursuing deals for Snap and Amazon to open facilities in the kingdom because they can offer tech opportunities.
“It’s not just the private sector. The Saudi government bureaucracy also relies heavily on American management expertise. Riyadh has been hiring American consultants since the 1950s, and in recent years American firms like McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group and Oliver Wyman have worked on hundreds of projects for the kingdom. In some cases, Saudi government bureaucrats work side by side with these consultants to implement government programs.
“The Saudi Public Investment Fund — the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, which is estimated to have more than $250 billion in assets — is also closely tied to the American economy. To name just a few of its major investments: It put $3.5 billion into Uber in 2016 and almost half a billion dollars in the start-up Magic Leap this year; it invested $45 billion in SoftBank’s Vision Fund, which invests heavily in American technology start-ups; and it made a $5 billion investment with a possible growth to $20 billion in a Blackstone fund for United States infrastructure. Much of the tens of billions of dollars cannot be pulled out on a whim. These start-ups are private companies without open markets for their shares. Prince Mohammed is building a domestic reputation with this tech portfolio, so its success is politically important, too.
“All of this is at risk if the dispute worsens between Saudi Arabia and the United States over Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance. Not only could the Saudis not retaliate because their economy is so intertwined with that of the United States, but they will also be susceptible to pressure. Targeted sanctions — if it comes to that — could force consultants to withdraw or cut off the Saudi Public Investment Fund’s access to the profits of its investments. More likely, though, is that a continuing dispute would force American businesses like AMC to seriously reconsider involvement in the country because of negative publicity.
“What about oil? Whereas Saudi Arabia could once shock the world economy by cutting oil exports or production to raise prices, it no longer has that power. The oil market today is significantly more diverse than it was in 1973, when Saudi Arabia and other Arab petroleum exporters unilaterally raised the price of oil and unsettled the American economy. In fact, the United States now produces more oil than Saudi Arabia, and imports make up a smaller percentage of domestically refined crude oil.
“Saudi Arabia cannot embargo or unilaterally raise oil prices for the United States without doing greater harm to its own industry and revenues. If Riyadh directed the national oil company, Saudi Aramco, to halt exports to the United States today, it would primarily hurt Aramco itself. Aramco owns Motiva, the largest refinery in the United States, and Motiva is more reliant on Saudi oil than any other part of America’s energy ecosystem. If Aramco tried to raise prices by cutting oil production or exports, it would face irate customers in Asia and hurt its own refineries in China and Korea, too…” (Ellen R Wald, ‘Saudi Arabia has no leverage’, New York Times, 18 October 2018).
This deep commonality of interests between the US imperialist warmonger and its bloodthirsty minion will undoubtedly motivate both of them to take whatever steps, however drastic, to enable them to continue in their nefarious partnership with minimal reputational damage. The most obvious step to take would be blame Mohammed Bin Salman for everything and then unceremoniously replace him as Crown Prince. It is clear, however, that for the moment great efforts are being made to avoid any such outcome since it would be sure to destabilise the present dispensation so carefully put in place. At the same time, keeping MBS in his present position also carries the risk of destabilisation because of the powerful forces arrayed against him within Saudi Arabia and beyond. Whatever way the ruling clique turns it faces destabilisation and disintegration of its ossified and senile rule. For the moment it is trying frenetically to find some scapegoat to be sacrificed at the altar of the decaying feudal Saudi monarchy.
The role of Turkey
Turkey has undoubtedly enjoyed the discomfiture that the revelations of its intelligence services regarding the murder of Khashoggi have caused both to its regional rival Saudi Arabia and to US imperialism which is currently very much out of its favour, as has been explained above. It is, however, unlikely that it is above being bought off. In fact, it is only too likely that in revealing information piecemeal, constantly hinting there are even more dramatic revelations as yet withheld, it is inviting Saudi Arabia and US imperialism to pay for its silence on these latter issues. This would explain why President Erdogan, instead of laying out the whole of the information at his disposal right from the start, only disclosed it bit by bit, thus giving the miscreants a chance to negotiate a price for Turkish silence. It would also explain why Erdogan postponed until Tuesday 23 October the speech in which he was promising to tell all – the “naked truth”, no less – yet when the time came failed to tell anything very much at all. One can only assume that some accommodation has been reached!
Roger Boyes in The Times of 17 October 2018 foresaw such accommodation as a possible outcome of the affair:
“The cynical assumption is that Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, will soon put constraints on the investigation, not allow it to stray too close to implicating the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. There are multiple disagreements between Turkey and the Saudi leadership: the Saudis don’t like Erdogan’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood or Turkey’s closeness to Qatar (which has just offered $15 billion of investment to Erdogan and a $500 million presidential jet).
“Yet it would be consistent with Erdogan’s taste for creating geopolitical leverage for Turkey to keep a tight rein on the probe, to encourage evidence-gathering but not draw any conclusions about who pulled the strings. The fact that he allowed the Saudis to become part of a joint team was for many critics an omen of an impending cover-up. Saudi Arabia is, after all, a prime suspect. Turkey should have invited international assistance from elsewhere.
“If the Turks end up swallowing the lie, the US would perhaps demonstrate gratitude by withdrawing support for Kurdish units in Syria. The tone of relations is already changing after a Turkish court last week freed an American pastor who had been in prison for two years on spurious terror charges. That is a gift to the Trump administration, and in particular the evangelical Christian vice-president Mike Pence, ahead of next month’s midterm elections” (‘Erdogan smells weakness in the US-Saudi pact’).
Even if US imperialism would not go so far as withdrawing its support for Syrian Kurds – at least not yet – Turkey could also use large injections of cash …
Whatever arrangement is ultimately pieced together, there is no doubt that imperialist interests have been seriously harmed, quite possibly irreparably.
The gruesome nature of the Saudi regime has been highlighted to such an extent that many businesses that were minting it through contracts with Saudi Arabia have had seriously to think about pulling out for fear of losing business elsewhere if they do not: “Now, the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has turned the spirited pursuit of trophy deals in the kingdom into an exercise in crisis management for some of the world’s most influential financiers.
“Among those caught in the crosshairs are executives who have been most successful in courting Prince Mohammed — including such chief executives as Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase; Larry Fink of BlackRock, the world’s largest fund manager; and Stephen Schwarzman of Blackstone, the world’s largest private equity firm. All three men joined the exodus of corporate titans, media companies and sponsors that withdrew from Saudi Arabia’s flagship business conference set for next week in Riyadh, which was meant to present the kingdom’s modernising face” (Arash Massoudi and James Fontanella, ‘Khashoggi disappearance puts dealmakers in a bind’, Financial Times, 16 October 2018).
While imperialist corporations have been forced by public outrage to downgrade their presence at the business conference in question, Saudi Arabia’s much-hyped ‘Davos in the desert’, their junior representatives have found themselves sitting uncomfortably next to executives from Russia and China looking to bag some of the lucrative contracts which would normally have gone to imperialist concerns as a matter of course.
The Khashoggi murder has also drawn the world’s attention to the unparalleled horrors of the war being waged by Saudi Arabia against the Yemeni people, with armaments and logistical support from various imperialist countries, especially the US and the UK. It would be a bonus for humanity if that war could be forced to an end – to the detriment, no doubt, of imperialist military-industrial enterprises.
The possibility has also been mentioned that to avoid further Turkish revelations, US imperialism might find it prudent to abandon its support for Kurdish dissidents in Syria, which in effect would mean having to pull its troops out of Syria altogether. That would be a bonus indeed.
As things stand at the moment there are three major parties in this dispute, each with differing interests.
• First, Saudi Arabia’s rulers, whose main concern is to ring-fence Mohammed Bin Salman, the organiser of this foul murder.
• Second, US imperialism, which is desperate to preserve its highly lucrative relationship with the medieval, brutal and autocratic regime in Riyadh, and
• Third, Turkey, which wants to extract as many concessions as it can from its rival, Saudi Arabia, and from US imperialism at a time when its relationship with US imperialism have gone through a very difficult period.
In view of this, it is the endeavour of all three parties to cover up this foul truth and prevent the evidence in support of the truth, and indeed the whole truth itself, ever reaching the public domain. Their problem is that, on the basis of the evidence that is already out, it is clear to the whole world that Khashoggi’s murder was pre-planned and carried out at the behest of MBS.
Into the bargain, this murder has shaken the Saudi regime to its foundations and laid some of the ground for its destruction. In addition it has made more clear than ever before that imperialism in pursuit of its sordid selfish interests has not the slightest interest in human rights.