In This Episode Of Bonesaw Weekly, Saudi Arabia Opts For The Subtle Approach
KSA Foreign Ministry Twitter
It's Bonesaw Week, AGAIN. Also Infrastructure Week, probably. The assassination of Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi government agents at their consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, lit a firestorm that's still raging four months later. A lot of rocks got turned over, and a lot of ugly bugs are crawling out. And also this was a good man who died in horrible circumstances. He had a family and friends, so let's try and show a little fucking respect.
Recap, As If Anyone Could Forget This Nightmare
On October 2, Jamal Khashoggi was lured to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to retrieve documents attesting to his divorce so he could remarry. Lying in wait was a team of 15 assassins who had just flown in from Riyadh with a lethal injection of narcotics, a bonesaw, a coroner, a body double who resembled Khashoggi, and an iPod full of music to drown out the unpleasant sounds of a human being getting dismembered. Moments after entering the consulate, Jamal Khashoggi was dead, and another man wearing his clothes and a false beard had walked out the back door of the embassy, leaving his fiancée waiting out front for hours, growing increasingly panicked as she realized that he was never going to come out. According to Reuters, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's then-security chief Saud al-Qahtani listened to the entire murder via Skype and congratulated the assassins when it was done. Khashoggi's body has never been recovered.
Because the Turkish government had bugged the consulate, they now had leverage over their regional rivals. Ankara started squeezing, dribbling out details of the murder in a bid to embarrass KSA and up the ante to extract significant infrastructure investments from their wealthy nemesis. Because Khashoggi was a resident of the United States associated with one of the most widely read newspapers in the world, there was wide international outcry for justice for the slain journalist. Because the White House is full of cranks who envision some fantasy realignment of the Middle East led by Israel and Jared Kushner's BFF MBS -- and because we're pretending that the Saudis are going to buy $110 billion of arms from us, which they're not -- the White House has bent over backward to pretend Khashoggi's murder is some inscrutable whodunit. And because the Saudi government is confident that they can buy their way out of this problem, they've variously claimed that Khashoggi left the consulate unharmed, that he attacked the embassy staff and was accidentally killed (and dismembered), that this was an interrogation gone wrong and he was accidentally killed (and dismembered), that they're shocked, SHOCKED by this terrible rogue operation and will get to the bottom of it, and that no one high up in the Saudi government ordered the killing.
Crown Prince MBS Threatens Khashoggi With a Bullet, Un-Premeditatedly, of Course!
At this point, literally no one believes that MBS was not involved in Khashoggi's assassination. He's removed Qahtani from his post as security chief and shuffled around his ministers, making a show of taking the investigation very seriously, Mister! But he kept his position in the royal line of succession, and dangling arms sales and infrastructure developments seems to have done the trick on the international stage. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is no longer in time out, and more or less back to business as usual.
But yesterday The New York Times reported the CIA has discovered an intercept from 2017 where Prince Mohammed bin-Salman explicitly threatened to murder Jamal Khashoggi if he refused to return to the Kingdom and cease his criticism of MBS and his government.
The conversation between Prince Mohammed and the aide, Turki Aldakhil, took place in September 2017, as officials in the kingdom were growing increasingly alarmed about Mr. Khashoggi's criticisms of the Saudi government. That same month, Mr. Khashoggi began writing opinion columns for The Washington Post, and top Saudi officials discussed ways to lure him back to Saudi Arabia.
In the conversation, Prince Mohammed said that if Mr. Khashoggi could not be enticed back to Saudi Arabia, then he should be returned by force. If neither of those methods worked, the crown prince said, then he would go after Mr. Khashoggi "with a bullet," according to the officials familiar with one of the intelligence reports, which was produced in early December.
Which looks, bad, okay. But perhaps this helpful PSA from the Saudi Foreign Ministry will convince you.
So, we're cool, yeah?
Yes, Apparently We, the US, Are Totally COOL WITH IT!
On October 10, 22 Senators -- 11 Democrats and 11 Republicans -- sent a letter to the Trump administration formally requesting that he evaluate the Saudi role in Khashoggi's murder and determine whether imposition of Magnitsky sanctions is warranted. Yep, those same sanctions that Russians were so pissed about that they ratfucked our elections in a desperate bid to get them lifted.
The Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act requires the President, upon receipt of a request from the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, to determine whether a foreign person is responsible for an extrajudicial killing, torture, or other gross violation of internationally recognized human rights against an individual exercising freedom of expression, and report to the Committee within 120 days with a determination and a decision on the imposition of sanctions on that foreign person or persons.
And the president said, HAHAHAHA, FUCK YOU. Only he sent an anonymous source out to do it, because he is giant whiny manbaby. The Post reports:
"The President maintains his discretion to decline to act on congressional committee requests when appropriate," a senior administration official said in a statement. "The U.S. Government will continue to consult with Congress and work to hold accountable those responsible for Jamal Khashoggi's killing."
The Trump administration cited the constitutional separation of powers and the precedent of the Obama administration in declining to meet what the lawmakers had called a deadline.
Yeah, the guy contemplating a national emergency because a co-equal branch of government won't abrogate its authority and and let him dictate the budget for the moronic Fuck You Mexico WALL is bitching about separation of powers. You bet, Poppy! And making official announcements anonymously? Very legal! Very cool!
Thursday the Senate introduced a bipartisan bill requiring the president to sanction anyone determined to have participated in the torture and murder of Jamal Khashoggi under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which imposes a 30-day deadline on the president to enact sanctions once he has determined that a foreign actor has violated it. The bill is backed by Susan Collins and Lindsey Graham, who said, "It is not in our national security interests to look the other way when it comes to the brutal murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi." So we look forward to the Senate holding the president accountable on this one ... NEVER.
Needz Moar Dick Pics
But what does this have to do with nekkid selfies, you are asking! Well, this week The National Enquirer tried to extort Jeff Bezos to stop saying its coverage of him was politically motivated by threatening to publish purloined photos of his "semi-erect manhood" and his girlfriend Lauren Sanchez's "nether regions." As Bezos pointed out in the Medium post where he called their bluff:
Several days ago, an AMI leader advised us that Mr. Pecker is "apoplectic" about our investigation. For reasons still to be better understood, the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve.
In fact, the Enquirer, which declared bankruptcy in 2010 and was bought by two private equity funds in 2014, has been desperately seeking funding from Saudi Arabia. And Donald Trump has been only too happy to help his old pal David Pecker, hosting the Enquirer publisher and French middleman Kacy Grine, who brokers foreign deals for MBS, at a White House dinner in July 2017. Yes, the guy who cracks jokes to White House guests about the Clintons pimping out the Lincoln Bedroom is playing procurer for a tabloid publisher looking to hook the biggest john of all. (Well, besides us.)
Luckily, the Saudis are also on the hunt for a hot media whore who'll do whatever nasty, dirty things you ask if the price is right. If buying up salacious stories of dalliances with porn stars is not to the Prince's liking, perhaps he'd be interested in a 97-page full-color glossy magazine with no advertising showering praise on Saudi Arabia and its revolutionary young prince, a modernizing genius who will set the world ablaze with his vast wealth and ravishing good looks.
Turns out, he would. Pecker traveled to Saudi Arabia in September of 2017 and was in talks to have them bankroll the Enquirer's acquisition of Time magazine in January of 2018.
And then ... WHAT? Did the relationship fizzle once Pecker and AMI got caught up in the president's campaign finance investigation? Are the Saudis totally down with murdering journalists, but so squicked out by a whiff of sexual scandal that they abandoned the whole venture?
Oh, we are silly on Saturdays! The Saudis were only too happy to enter into a partnership with Vice to produce glowing content about the kingdom, despite the media company's well-documented sexual harassment and labor issues. In fact, as the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday, the Kingdom has been on a media-buying spree, spreading its influence in the Arab world through purchases of Farsi, Turkish and Urdu news outlets, and partnerships with Bloomberg LP and the UK's Independent.
So if the National Enquirer is ready to take on the world's richest man, who just happens to own the newspaper that employed Jamal Khashoggi and which has pursued the story of MBS's involvement in his assassination the hardest, maybe it's because they have a pretty good reason to pick this fight. Bezos had already called Pecker's bluff once, blunting the impact of the Enquirer's story on his stolen texts by immediately announcing his divorce. AMI had every reason to walk away, particularly since their immunity deal with SDNY requires them to quit committing alllll the crimes. And yet, they still stuck out their necks and tried to blatantly extort Bezos to kill a story and force the Washington Post to quit investigating the Enquirer's ties to Saudi Arabia.
UH HUH. Well, looks like they picked a fight with the wrong guy.
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.