TEHRAN – Professor Hossein Askari, an expert on Saudi Arabia who also teaches international business at the George Washington University, believes that Khashoggi abduction, torture and murder was undoubtedly done on the orders of MBS.” “This is how Saudi Arabia works. Anyone who is familiar with Saudi Arabia knows this,” Hossein Askari, who served as […]
TEHRAN – Professor Hossein Askari, an expert on Saudi Arabia who also teaches international business at the George Washington University, believes that Khashoggi abduction, torture and murder was undoubtedly done on the orders of MBS.”
“This is how Saudi Arabia works. Anyone who is familiar with Saudi Arabia knows this,” Hossein Askari, who served as special advisor to Saudi finance minister, tells the Tehran Times.
He adds that “No matter how they proceed with his contrived trial and punishment, MBS will not let anyone in the know EVER leave Saudi Arabia.”
Following is the text of the interview:
Q: Where are we in the Khashoggi tragedy after Erdogan’s speech and the ever-changing Saudi revelations?
A: On Tuesday Erdogan stated in the Turkish Parliament some of the allegations we have received little by little through leaks, but nothing new. The Saudis changed their ‘story’ yet again and admitted that the murder of Khashoggi was premeditated but still insisted that it was carried out by ‘rogue’ elements, interestingly a story first floated by Trump. The Saudis have not given Turkey unfettered access to the consulate as if they have something to hide. The director of the CIA visited Turkey, a country she knows well as she was stationed there and speaks the language quite fluently. She has admitted to listening to audio tapes. Upon her return on Thursday, she briefed Trump. Trump has remained silent since his briefing, maybe because he learned some facts and knows that Saudi disclosure have been lies and he has enabled them. On Friday, Turkey demanded the extradition of 18 Saudis to Turkey for interrogation and trial. The fiancé of Jamal Khashoggi gave her first interview and revealed that she had been invited to the U.S. but would not go because of U.S. insincerity in addressing Khashoggi’s murder. Later, the Saudi foreign minister stated that those arrested would be tried in Saudi Arabia.
Q: Will Saudi Arabia extradite any of the culprits to Turkey?
A: No. Absolutely not. The Saudi foreign minister has ruled this out. Let me back up. Erdogan knew full well that the Saudis would not extradite anyone but he made this request to tease the Saudi ruling family and especially MBS as he has been doing all along. If the Saudis extradite even one person, they would be afraid that the person would tell all. A supposed closed trial in Saudi Arabia would reveal nothing. They could determine the punishment, if any. And they would hope that this would be the end of the story. Most important, MBS wants to protect himself. Let me emphasize one point. This abduction, torture and murder was undoubtedly done on the orders of MBS. This is how Saudi Arabia works. Anyone who is familiar with Saudi Arabia knows this. No matter how they proceed with his contrived trial and punishment, MBS will not let anyone in the know EVER leave Saudi Arabia. As a further piece of evidence, the Saudis have refused to produce Khashoggi’s body, or its parts, and after the CIA briefing on Thursday Trump he has gone silent on the Khashoggi affair. He knows what happened and does not want to continue his public support of MBS.
Q: Can justice be served in Saudi Arabia?
A: Absolutely not. Closed trial. No public evidence. A complicit judiciary. No way!
Q: What does this tragedy tell us about Saudi Arabia?
A: MBS has adopted cosmetic reforms while cracking down on political freedom. It is a country ruled by a family who see the land and everything in it theirs. Saudi Arabia needs meaningful reforms. The rulers must change their mindset. Stop seeing the country as simply ‘theirs’ and the people as hired hands. They should adopt a timetable for representative government, respect for human and political rights, the rule of law and end their own unfettered access to the Saudi Treasury.
Q: What does it tell us about U.S. foreign policy?
A: All bad. Sadly, yet again, the U.S. confirms its support for its client dictators. The U.S. has not confronted Saudi Arabia. It can do this without breaking its relations with the country. It is not only saying nothing negative about MBS but it continues to support MBS’ misguided adventures, especially his genocide in Yemen with U.S. intelligence, covert support, mid-air refueling and American weapons and bombs. Before Trump the U.S. at least pretended to be the supporter of human and political rights around the world, did not give active support to dictators and was trying to ramp down support in the Yemen war. Now even the pretension for human rights has evaporated. Trump expresses his admiration for strongman dictators. This is encouraging dictators and oppressors around the world. Oppressors around the world who might have at least feared the U.S. just a little now see its welcoming embrace. But while the U.S. is becoming more attractive to dictators it is becoming increasingly despised by the oppressed around the world. As a result, the U.S. is dissipating its soft power at an alarming rate. It will take the U.S. years, if not decades, to regain some measure of trust around the world.
Q: Why did this affair develop in the first place?
A: Because MBS simply could. He also wanted to send a message to all of his would-be opponents. Don’t oppose me and get any ideas about plotting my overthrow. I am ruthless and I have Trump’s backing in anything I do. It was a move to consolidate power. This would never have happened if there was not a normal MBS-Kushner relationship and Trump’s active support of strongmen. MBS overstepped. He has this ‘special’ relationship with Kushner and Trump and he thought he could do anything. After all they have given him intelligence about his relatives so that he could arrest those that might have plotted hos overthrow. They continue to support him in Yemen as he commits daily atrocities killing dozens at a time. So why would they care if one journalist was killed? And knowing full well Trump’s dislike for journalists. But he does not understand the U.S. media and politics. Khashoggi was a columnist for a renowned American Newspaper, the Washington Post, and such a public abduction was sure to cause a backlash.
Q: How should have Saudi Arabia and the U.S. handled this tragedy from the beginning?
A: As I have said before. I believe that MBS ordered this murder and it was obvious to those who know the workings of Saudi Arabia. The King could have said that his son’s orders of simple abduction had been misunderstood. His son would be replaced as crown prince and he could have appointed another crown prince who he trusted would step down in a year or two. MBS would have taken a back seat and then restored to power. Trump should not have come out saying that the King and MBS had strongly denied any accusations and he believed them. He should have simply said that he knew nothing and he like anyone else would await the disclosure of facts. Instead the Saudis have produced lie after lie and Trump had supported them because they lied strongly!
Q: What should they do now?
A: They should be more truthful and transparent. They have to realize that MBS must step down, at least for a while. There is no other way out. The quicker they realize this the better. In this way they could avoid what Saudi justice demands for all those involved—beheading in public.
Q: Will we ever know the complete truth about who ordered this horrible murder and all the details of how it was carried out?
A: Yes. The evidence will eventually leak out. How long will it take? That I don’t know. The Saudis will not reveal the truth. Erdogan could do it. But he has his own agenda, to extract financial support from Saudi Arabia and their regional concessions in Qatar and Syria, and to get U.S. sanctions lifted. But who knows, Erdogan may surprise us all and do what is right. We need this in the Middle East. Doing the right thing. To stand up for justice, what is at the core of Islamic teachings. My own feeling is that someone from Saudi Arabia, an enemy of MBS, could eventually produce the evidence. And because of this possibility, MBS will crack down even more domestically and increase his intrusive domestic spying and suppression.
Q: How will tragedy affect the Middle East region?
A: I think that the Qatar embargo will be slowly lifted. Israeli-GCC cooperation will be further solidified. The so-called “Middle East Strategic Alliance” (MESA) or Arab NATO, which will encompass the GCC and Egypt will be formed but will be more or less a front for the United States in the Persian Gulf. GCC-Israeli cooperation will expand. Israel will be more emboldened to attack targets in Gaza, Lebanon and Syria. Iran will be accused by the GCC and the U.S. for anything that goes wrong in the region. There will be increased terrorism in the region and around the world. Sadly, the genocide in Yemen will continue until tens of thousands starve to death or if MBS’ full role in Khashoggi’s murder is revealed and his support in the West curtailed.