The Khashoggi Affair and the Future of Saudi Arabia

If the Saudi power structure were to crumble in the wake of the Khashoggi scandal there would be chaos at home and a shift in power around the Gulf, says Daniel Lazare.

By Daniel Lazare
Special to Consortium News

If Donald Trump seems at a loss about how to respond to the Jamal Khashoggi murder, it may not be because he’s worried about his Saudi business investments or any of the other things that Democrats like to bring up to avoid talking about more serious topics. Rather, it’s likely because Trump may be facing one of the biggest U.S. foreign-policy crises since the overthrow of the shah in 1979.

At that time the U.S. counted on support from Arab Gulf states no less frightened by the Iranian revolution. That included Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, oil emirates Kuwait and Qatar, plus the Saudis themselves.

But if the Saudi power structure were ever to crumble in the wake of the Khashoggi scandal, there would likely be chaos because there is no alternative to replace it. The impact on the region would be significant. With its 55-percent Shi‘ite majority, Iraq is already in the Iranian orbit after the U.S. overthrow of Saddam; Qatar and Oman are on businesslike terms with Tehran, while Kuwait and the UAE could possibly reach an accommodation with Teheran as well. The upshot would be an immense power shift in which the Persian Gulf could revert to being an Iranian lake. That’s probably why the United States and Israel will do everything in its power to prevent the House of Saud from falling.

The consequences in terms of U.S. imperial interests would be nearly incalculable. For decades, America has used the Gulf to shape and direct its interests in the larger Eurasian economy. Thanks to trillions of dollars in military investment, the Saudis control the spigot through which roughly 24 percent of the world’s daily oil supply flows, much of it bound for such economic powerhouses as India, China, South Korea, and Japan.  Should control pass to someone else, America would find its monopoly severely impaired. The effects would also be felt in Syria, where Israel is incensed by the Iranian presence. It would be even more so should the Saudi counterweight be removed. 

Expert consensus is that the regime is conservative, consensus-oriented, and stable, and that all the king might have to do ensure the regime’s survival is to remove his son, Muhammad bin Salman (MbS), as crown prince.

MbS: Are his days numbered?

However, the kingdom may be less stable than it appears. It was already in trouble when MbS began his rise in early 2015. The second generation of Al-Saud rulers appeared played out along with their economic model.

Adjusted for inflation, oil prices had fallen two-thirds since the 2008 financial crisis while the kingdom was as dependent on oil as ever despite forty years of lip service to the virtues of diversification. Corruption was out of control while unemployment continued to climb because young Saudis prefer to wait years for a no-show government sinecure instead of taking a private-sector job in which they might actually have to work.  (Studies show that Saudi government employees put in only an hour’s worth of real labor per day.)

Internationally, the country found itself facing growing headwinds as Barack Obama firmed up his historic nuclear accord with Iran.  Obama’s statement in April 2016 that Saudis needed to “share” the Middle East with its arch-rival to the north would come as a blow to a family that thought it could always count on unqualified U.S. support.

MbS’ Trail of Disaster

Oil was supposed to keep Saudi Arabia rich and powerful, but instead total reliance on it was threatening to eventually weaken it. Something had to be done, and King Salman, although only intermittently lucid, figured his 29-year-old son was the man. Shoving rivals aside – most notably cousin Muhammad bin Nayef, the prince in charge of combatting Al Qaeda – Muhammad bin Salman began grabbing the reins and issuing orders.

The results have been disastrous. Within weeks of being named minister of defense — his appointment as crown prince would take a few months longer — MbS launched an air war on Yemen that would soon turn into a classic quagmire, one that would cause as many as fifty thousand combat deaths, propel much of the country to the brink of starvation, and generate annual costs back home of $50 billion or more that the kingdom could no longer afford.

In June 2017, bin Salman imposed a quarantine of Qatar on the grounds of excessive cordiality with Iran and too close relations with the Muslim Brotherhood, but he was taken aback when the emirate showed that it could carry on despite the blockade. A few months later, MbS’ henchmen kidnapped Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and forced him to read a resignation speech on Saudi TV. But Hariri repudiated the speech as soon as he was back in Lebanon.

Every attempt to assert Saudi strength only underscored its growing weakness. Bin Salman rounded up two hundred of the kingdom’s richest princes and businessmen last November, herded them into the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton, and then, following beatings and torture, forced them to hand over $100 billion or more.

Capital flight accelerated as a consequence while foreign direct investment is now off eighty percent from 2016 levels. The crown prince unveiled a series of grandiose vanity projects – an entertainment park twice the size of Disneyworld, a $500-billion robot city known as Neom, and a tourist park the size of Belgium – but then had to put them on hold when his father blocked plans to privatize five percent of Saudi Aramco, which he had been counting on as a revenue source.  He hiked gas prices by eighty percent and slapped on a five-percent sales tax, but then went on a Marie Antoinette-style spending spree, shelling out $550 million for a yacht, $450 million for a painting, and $300 million for a French chateau.  Whatever the benefits of austerity, they were promptly undercut.

Now the torture, murder, and dismemberment of a dissident journalist in Istanbul has made matters many times worse. With MbS persona non grata across the globe, the kingdom’s political and economic isolation is as great as it has probably ever been.  According to a report in the Paris daily Le Figaro, moves have begun to replace MbS as crown prince, second in line to the throne.

Salman with Trump: Who will replace him? (Official White House Photo Shealah Craighead)

An abundance of princely candidates compounds the confusion caused by an unclear line of succession. Since Saudi kings have generally claimed a right to choose their successors, it would be up to Salman to appoint a replacement. So far, the rest of the family has been too terrified to say otherwise. But if MbS departs the scene, factions that suffered under his reign might grow bold enough to demand a say. Since it is unclear what that would mean in an absolute monarchy, a royal donnybrook could conceivably ensue.

Other forces might also weigh in. One is the military, which can’t be too happy now that Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, a top intelligence officer, is being set up as the fall guy in the Khashoggi affair.  Another is the Wahhabiyya, the ultra-conservative mullahs who have allied themselves with the Al-Saud since the eighteenth-century, only to see themselves shunted aside by a headstrong crown prince. MbS seemed to go out of his way in recent months to stick it to the mullahs. “No one can define Wahhabism,” he said in an interview last spring. “There is no Wahhabism. We don’t believe we have Wahhabism.” Those are words that mullahs are not likely to forget, which is why they will probably speak out if the question of a new crown prince is raised.

The Extremist Threat

Then there is the threat of ISIS and Al Qaeda. After accusing Saudi Arabia of “trying to secularize its inhabitants and ultimately destroy Islam,” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliph, launched an attack inside the kingdom in July that killed two people. Al Qaeda, which also portrays itself as defender of the true Wahhabist faith, has launched a similar campaign. Hamza bin Laden, Osama’s son, has released six videos denouncing the royal family as “agents of the Americans,” and called on “honest, glorious scholars … [to] participate in promoting change with their tongues, their pens, their media, and their tweets,” and urging “youth and those capable of fighting” to join the “mujahideen in Yemen.”

Jihad abroad is a habit the Al-Saud can’t kick. Since MbS launched his ill-fated war on Yemen, Al-Qaeda’s forces in that country have mushroomed from near zero to an estimated four thousand fighters. While its strength inside Saudi Arabia is unknown, there is no question that the group continues to enjoy significant support. According to a 2015 poll of Saudis between the ages of fifteen and thirty-four, 28 percent say that groups like ISIS or Al Qaeda “are mostly wrong, but sometimes raise issues I agree with,” five percent say “they are mostly right, but I disagree with some of their words and actions,” while ten percent say that “they are not a perversion at all.” Sympathy for such forces will likely grow as disorder mounts.

Disaffected royals thus demand political change along with angry mullahs, obsessed jihadis, and millions of jobless young people. By flooding Saudi Arabia with oil revenue and high-tech armaments and allowing it to attack whomever it pleases, the U.S. has contributed to an increasingly dangerous build-up of highly combustible forces. Liberals may hope that a constitutional monarchy emerges out of the current mess, but it’s unlikely in the extreme. The Saudi crisis is likely instead to intensify.

Daniel Lazare is the author of The Frozen Republic: How the Constitution Is Paralyzing Democracy (Harcourt Brace, 1996) and other books about American politics.  He has written for a wide variety of publications from The Nation to Le Monde Diplomatique and blogs about the Constitution and related matters at Daniellazare.com.

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80 comments for “The Khashoggi Affair and the Future of Saudi Arabia

  1. Mark Walker
    October 29, 2018 at 11:21 am

    Didn’t MBS forcefully “adjust” the succession?

    What goes around, comes around.

  2. October 28, 2018 at 10:19 am

    Thank you for the outstanding article, Daniel Lazare! I learn a great deal every time I come to Consortium News. Thanks to everyone here.

    Here’s another helpful article on this subject. After reading these two articles, I almost feel like I understand the US’ Middle Eastern foreign policy. Almost…

    It’s Up to Israel to Repair the Crack in the Axis of Evil

  3. October 27, 2018 at 12:46 pm

    Kudos to Daniel Lazare; many thanks for this exclusive to Consortium News. I had not, still have not, seen as informative an article on the forces in play — and war — in the “kingdom.” Thanks, Dan

    Ray McGovern

    • Daniel Lazare
      October 30, 2018 at 6:22 am

      Thanks, Ray.

  4. dean 1000
    October 27, 2018 at 10:15 am

    @ freedom lover:
    What i posted earlier about Norway is no longer accurate. Norway has amended its government. It is still a hereditary monarchy. The national legislature is now entirely unicameral. The government is still republican in form – a prime minister and a unicameral national legislature chosen by proportional representation. Norway is very democratic.
    https://www.britannica.com/place/Norway/Government-and-society.

    If the U.S. had legislative representation proportional to Norway it would have a 10,315 member unicameral Congress.

    btw Daniel Lazare wrote a very good book on the U.S. Constitution – The Frozen Republic

  5. October 27, 2018 at 7:42 am

    The notion that Jamal Khashoggi was a dissident journalist is not just wrong: it is risible. https://viewsandstories.blogspot.com/2018/10/khashoggi-and-media-disinformation.html

  6. October 27, 2018 at 5:39 am

    The world noticed Israel tells America what to do. So the Saudis – being the used camel salesmen they are – pretend to be friends with Israel so they can tell the US what to do too.

    Right now, all three are pretending Iran is the problem; hence, the three amigos are united by their persecution of the common enemy they’ve manufactured.

    https://opensociet.org/2018/10/21/why-wont-trump-condemn-the-saudis-hint-its-israel-also-iran/

  7. dean 1000
    October 27, 2018 at 5:20 am

    @ Freedom Lover: There are constitutional monarchies. Norway styles itself as a constitutional monarchy. It has a hereditary monarch, and a constitution last amended in 1990. The government is republican in form – A Prime Minister and a unicameral legislature that goes bicameral when considering legislation.

    Norway is really democratic. If the U.S. had House Representation proportional to Norway it would have 7,568 House members. The cost could/would be proportional to the cost of the Norwegian House.

    BTW Daniel Lazare wrote a good book on the U.S. Constitution – The Frozen Republic.

  8. October 27, 2018 at 4:18 am

    Somebody needs to explain WHY everybody is paying TOTAL attention to Saudi’s mistreatment of this one Saudi citizen, when we spent the last 18 years paying NO attention to Saudi bombing NYC and killing 3000 of OUR citizens, and HELPING Saudi kill millions in Yemen.

    If you can give a CONVINCING explanation for this sudden change of attention, then maybe I’ll listen to the soap-opera details of this basically irrelevant event.

  9. Jim Davis
    October 27, 2018 at 1:21 am

    Actually, there is no evidence that Muhammad bin Salman is not still winning. No significant sanctions have been levied against Saudi Arabia. Except for criticisms and cosmetic measures, MbS is still getting away with everything and has every reason to think his impunity can continue. Saudi Arabia is certainly an Orwellian autocracy, but why especially, with all its financial resources, should it be considered less stable than anywhere else. And if MbS can still get away with anything, isn’t that an illustration of his power? Why should it not be that he and his partner in crime, the other Muhammad, Muhammad bin Zayid, the dictator of the UAE, being younger and more worldly wise than their elder predecessors, have decided that they should use the leveraging power of the several trillion dollars of sovereign wealth funds that each controls to literally “take over the world”? That is, they can ruin anyone else, as they have openly threatened to do, so they can do whatever they want. The duo constitute the great threat of today, openly revealed. May they not succeed. I think the article and the press generally fail to appreciate the danger that MbS and MbZ pose to everyone else, even to the US and Europe.

  10. October 26, 2018 at 8:52 pm

    “United States and Israel will do everything in it’s power” – USI, one power. Right, Daniel Lazare?

  11. Hide Behind
    October 26, 2018 at 7:45 pm

    #1: Saudi Arabian/ Kuwit jointly owned and operated oil fields is no longer worlds largest producer/ exporter of oil and Natural gas and its condensates
    the US and Canada are.
    While we, the populace at large pay an increasingly raising price for imported oil, and largely Canadian imported natural, thereby paying tax to local state and fed funds, the oil and gas firms pay the timiest royalties and make approximately 25 more per barrel of crude and almost double profits on liqified gas because of that.
    If you were to take all of US investments in our major known oil firms it adds up to less than i% ownership.
    No I will not get into true econonmic ownership of stocks, just say they are like US currency, built upon nothing but faith.
    Saudi/ Kuwit figureheads do very little of hands on management of fields, as al.ost all are run by foreign technicians and engineers.
    As an example: Ever wonder why Japan contributed almost 10 millions to Bush library upon liberation of Kuwait?
    Well before Iraq invasion all the Kuwit/Saudi oil fields were managed by Japanese concerns.
    It was a “Thank You ” gift to Bush for saving their hundreds of millions, and discounted oil imports, for them.
    Money gains political control but also gains sales of military means for our few wealthy Defence Contractors and financial educational institutions whose endowment and retirement funds invest in non oil joi t venture of US firms.
    US and running close second, (2nd), far from being a moral beacon of light is / are the most ammoral people on earth.
    This killing and slashing body into pieces is on same par in Eurocentric eyes as being entertained by a horror slasher entertarrtainment video.
    The Zionist Christians and their military – political heros, can now hide behind their complicity,by saying, Our sins are no wheres near as bad as the Saudi Islamic sins.

  12. Patricia P Tursi, Ph.D.
    October 26, 2018 at 5:29 pm

    Genocide of Yemeni People and little is said about starving people and children dying daily of cholera ..Khashoggi’s death results in nations discussing inhumane policies. His death was horrible, but this is insanity.

  13. Slammy
    October 26, 2018 at 12:35 pm

    Mr Lazarre says-

    “But if the Saudi power structure were ever to crumble in the wake of the Khashoggi scandal, there would likely be chaos because there is no alternative to replace it.”

    Not sure I agree with you there. It’s time for the Ibn al Saud regime to go. Would be great to see the crumbling you describe happen and a more secular, democratic and westernized government put in its place. Many of the younger Arabs who have travelled want this to happen.

    • Patricia P Tursi, Ph.D.
      October 26, 2018 at 5:51 pm

      Was Libya destroyed due to Qadaffi’s plan to unite Africa under a gold Dinar The US likes the control and Israel is also there puling the strings. I hope Assad holds out and his people choose their leader….not the US

    • Ibn Insha
      October 26, 2018 at 6:50 pm

      Replacing a government by force but without bloodshed and chaos has hardly ever happened, specially in monarchies. It is easy to say let one regime to crumble so that a more favorable can take its place. It is a wishful thinking. We may be halfway around the world from chaos, when it happens, but it will effect us profoundly.

    • EscapeArtist
      October 27, 2018 at 10:22 am

      The chances of a “secular, democratic and westernized government” in Arabia are just about zero.

  14. October 26, 2018 at 12:17 pm

    I forget which horror inspired me to write this one

    Sewing seeds of division
    in this psychotic prison
    we have built the walls
    that wound our empty souls
    that keep us in the dark
    digging deeper in the hole
    Sewing seeds of fear
    as they push the ending near
    Selling death and war
    Prostitutes that whore
    all the weapons you will need
    to make the children bleed.
    Planting distractions
    Inciting reactions
    Diverting attention
    from your murderous intention.
    Let us fight amongst ourselves
    who would cross the great divide
    to listen to the enemy
    on the ‘other’ side?
    Everybody knows
    that money rules the show
    We pretend we have control
    then choose the status quo
    It’s insane and we’re to blame
    which only proves the more we know
    the more we stay the same.?

    • October 27, 2018 at 1:45 am

      Sounds a bit like the US of A. ….

    • Eddie
      October 27, 2018 at 8:47 am

      Your beautifully written verse lays out the reality of the US in the twenty-first century.

    • Sam F
      October 27, 2018 at 2:52 pm

      Very nice, and very true!

  15. SocraticGadfly
    October 26, 2018 at 11:49 am

    One correction: As one can find on other non-mainstream media sites, Khashoggi is hardly a dissident. Not as the term is normally understood.

    • Susan Sunflower
      October 26, 2018 at 3:51 pm

      He’s worse than a “dissident” … he’s a member of the establishment who apparently lost his faith …
      The WaPo wrote that there is a growing Saudi ex-pat community in Istanbul which Kashoggi and wife were planning to join …. they had bought a condo and planned to divide time between USA and Istambul.

      (from today’s guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/oct/26/jamal-khashoggi-was-worried-about-consulate-visit-says-fiancee)

      I think Kashoggi as WaPo reporter of years and WITH his past “friendly” associations with with the Saud “establishment” … would have been considered a prominent defection …. and this move would have had more significance that “we” in the west appreciate.

      I’ve seen some charts but I’ve been impressed for years (decades) by the KSA’s control (suppression) of MENA “news” … This incidence has made me appreciate how global and longstanding it is … as “establishment” press is still pulling punches or even considering the MBS might be deposed or exiled … he may fade into the woodwork, but I hope someone assesses the actuality of his “bold new programs” for signs they were EVER real.

    • rosemerry
      October 26, 2018 at 4:27 pm

      As’ad the Angry Arab makes this clear in his articles and interview on the Real News Network.

  16. October 26, 2018 at 11:25 am

    Sewing seeds of division
    in this psychotic prison
    we have built the walls
    that wound our empty souls
    that keep us in the dark
    digging deeper in the hole
    Sewing seeds of fear
    as they push the ending near
    Selling death and war
    Prostitues that whore
    all the weapons you will need
    to make the children bleed.
    Planting distractions
    Inciting reactions
    Diverting attention
    from your murderous intention.
    Let us fight amongst ourselves
    who would cross the great divide
    to listen to the enemy
    on the ‘other’ side?
    Everybody knows
    that money rules the show
    We pretend we have control
    and choose the status quo
    It’s insane and we’re to blame
    which only proves the more we know
    the more we stay the same.?

  17. October 26, 2018 at 11:19 am

    The “power structure” is filled with:
    —-
    “The Horrified Hypocrites”

    Anybody with a spark of human decency is surely horrified at the latest murderous Saudi atrocity. But to see the so-called international community, the corporate media, business leaders and all the other political elites and establishment members all rightly upset over the horrific murder of Jamal Khashoggi is, I believe, to see selective hypocrisy in action.

    Where were these “pillars of society” when the Saudis murdered schoolchildren travelling in a school bus in Yemen? Did that get blanket coverage in the newsrooms of the “investigative media”? Did any of them speak out daily? Oh, I forgot, some of these “honourable people” sell arms to the Saudis, do sword dances with them, kiss their cheeks, [1] and call them “allies.” Now they pretend to be outraged at their Saudi friends. Therefore, I ask:

    What kind of “people” slaughter children in a school bus in Yemen?
    What kind of army guides the missiles into the school bus?
    What kind of “democratic governments” support this slaughter?
    What kind of governments sells weapons to the killers of children?
    What kind of politicians call selling weapons “creating jobs”?
    What kind of politicians vote for illegal wars?…

    Furthermore, what kind of media covers up the crimes of the war criminals [1a] [1b] in our midst that have supplied the weapons to the Saudis and joined their “Coalition of Carnage” [2] that is destroying and committing “Genocide in Yemen”? [2a]…
    [read more at link below]
    http://graysinfo.blogspot.com/2018/10/the-horrified-hypocrites.html

    • T
      October 26, 2018 at 4:49 pm

      > Therefore, I ask:

      – and I answer:

      > What kind of “people” slaughter children in a school bus in Yemen?

      – the kind living all around you

      > What kind of army guides the missiles into the school bus?

      – the kind that will be hyped at upcoming events at stadiums and main streets near you

      > What kind of “democratic governments” support this slaughter?
      > What kind of governments sells weapons to the killers of children?
      > What kind of politicians call selling weapons “creating jobs”?
      > What kind of politicians vote for illegal wars?…

      – the kind to be found in their hundreds and thousands in Washington, D.C.

      Any more questions?

      • Mohammed Nadir Jaffer
        October 28, 2018 at 12:02 am

        I agree with you

    • Linda Wood
      October 26, 2018 at 7:24 pm

      Thank you! Thank you for saying all of this so well. For me, you have described the entire problem perfectly!

  18. F. G. Sanford
    October 26, 2018 at 10:44 am

    Sing along to “Ghost Riders In The Sky”:

    Halloween is coming and the moon is full and bright.
    Scary things are happening and causing quite a fright-
    Erdogan could play those tapes and topple the regime,
    There must be more than body parts…behind this awful scheme!
    Kushner had a secret list of enemies to pass,
    Now the Sawdie Kingdom might jack up the price of gas-
    Khashoggi’s name was on that list and so he met his fate.
    At least the controversy took…our minds off Russia-Gate!

    [Refrain:]
    Khashoggi eye oh, Khashoggi eye aye, Halloween Bone-Saw-Man.

    The plan to bomb those mullahs in Iran could have to wait.
    Khashoggi’s femme fatale persuaded and he took the bait-
    That weapons deal pumped up the Dow and markets looked just fine,
    The Fed could hold down rates until…the midterms by design!
    Khobar Towers, Nine Eleven, and U S S Cole,
    Missing trillions from the budget, all that loot they stole-
    Brzezinski and Moo-ja-hi-deen, now hear their ghostly cry,
    They ride across those oil fields…on camels in the sky!

    Refrain

    The spooks have taped all Jarred’s calls to Sawdie Bone-Saw-Man.
    His clearance got that secret list and they made up a plan-
    Now Gina Haspel has to hide that spooky oil trail,
    Reserves will soon run out…if Uncle Sam keeps fracking shale!
    Old Erdogan’s a gamblin’ man, he knows who did the crime.
    He knows a six-gun beats four aces every single time-
    He’ll play his cards close to the vest, and never bet the draw,
    He’s not about to lose his head…to a Bone-Man with a saw!

    Refrain

    The Middle East could realign behind The Brotherhood,
    El Sissi and the Sawdies jailed and tortured them real good-
    Now Uncle Sam’s big nightmare is that other bogey-man,
    The Brotherhood could hook up with…those mullahs in Iran!
    The Kushner plan for peace was what Khashoggi couldn’t buy,
    Now his ghost is riding on a camel in the sky-
    Four hundred billion in ten years is what the arms deal hid,
    The plan might now be dead because…of Saw-Man’s risky bid!

    Khashoggi eye oh, Khashoggi eye aye, Halloween Bone-Saw-Man,
    Halloween Bone-Saw-Man, Halloween Bone-Saw-Man…

    • LarcoMarco
      October 27, 2018 at 12:13 am

      I couldn’t get the rhythm down until the second stanza, so I started over. Another incredible piece of work!

  19. October 26, 2018 at 9:35 am

    what I wonder does he think of the UK sales tax of 17.5% ?!”

    It’s 20%.

  20. dfnslblty
    October 26, 2018 at 9:10 am

    ¿What’s with the author’s/essay’s potus’ “thinking” and “liberals'” desires?
    potus ain’t “facing” nothing ”cept $$$ – read the tweets and news reports.
    There is only reäction to $$$ and oil revenues ~ no thought; liberals are the same; there is no truck with potus nor elites/oligarchs/scotus/et al.
    Progressives might desire/wish for honesty or peace or reduced conflict or diplomacy, and their population is too minute.
    Author/essay is an attempt to agrandise potus’ motives and abilities.

  21. OlyaPola
    October 26, 2018 at 5:25 am

    “If the Saudi power structure were to crumble in the wake of the Khashoggi scandal there would be chaos at home and a shift in power around the Gulf, says Daniel Lazare.”

    The continuing half-life of “Apres nous le deluge?”

    To some “in the wake of the Kashhoggi scandal” infers a significant causal relationship towards the sole/primary.

    To some wakes infer waves of interaction.

    To some “chaos” is a construct to bridge doubt to attain comfort; to others “chaos” is a mantra to control some.

    The resort to projection in the frames of opponents is often a land of opportunity.

  22. October 25, 2018 at 11:30 pm

    Saudi Arabia’s biggest problem is being in bed with Israel.

    That now-intimate but still-covert connection is at the root of many Saudi problems

    Heavy involvement in supporting the Syrian terror – an Israeli project from the beginning. The horror in Yemen. The extreme antagonism towards Iran.

    If there is one person in the entire region who is more brutal and ruthless than the Crown Prince, then that person is Netanyahu.

    Cozying up to Israel has been a way to supposedly gain greater influence on America.

    Readers may enjoy:

    https://chuckmanwordsincomments.wordpress.com/2018/10/18/john-chuckman-comment-the-israeli-saudi-de-facto-alliance-what-the-murderous-crown-prince-represents-for-america-re-making-the-planet-and-hitlers-willing-helpers/

    • Sam F
      October 26, 2018 at 7:19 am

      The relationship of Israel and Saudi Arabia is conspicuously unmentioned in the US. Both have had close and secretive relationships with the US since the formation of Israel. Either might have the greater influence on the US, or might seek influence via the other. So it is inevitable that they have a close and secret relationship that both conceal.

      KSA has the oil, and Israel has the bribed US politicians, but KSA can do the same. Israel controls the US mass media and evangelicals, via its fanatical and tyrannical US zionists. That US mass media says nothing of their relationship shows that Israel fears exposure.

      Perhaps the Sauds would fall to the Wahhabists if their closeness to Israel were known. Why Al Qaeda and Isis attack Shiites and secularists instead of Israel is a great mystery. It appears that the Sauds are either Jewish, controlled by Israel, or dependent upon Israel for US support. That does not suggest that KSA wields any oil power over the US. But surely it could turn Al Qaeda and Isis against Israel.

      • Gregory Herr
        October 26, 2018 at 11:35 pm

        Al Qaeda and Isis are constructs and assets of CIA/Mossad. Bandar’s Saudi intelligence was/is in on the terrorism gig via mercenaries and other supply–Bandar openly bragged to Putin about his ability to deploy terrorists. It’s thus no great mystery why Al Qaeda and Isis attack Shiites and secularists instead of Israel. It’s what they are paid to do. The war is on Iran and secularists such as Assad.

        We aren’t “dependent”, per se, on Saudi oil for domestic energy, but the Saudi’s still have a big spigot and the petrodollar remains, for now, a lever.

        The three intelligence agencies would appear to be very much linked and wield, ahem, a great deal of “influence”.

    • Sam F
      October 26, 2018 at 8:30 am

      When I deleted cookies, my response about Israel was made invisible until I commented again, unlike my comments below, so the Akismet comment module is tricking commenters to think that their deleted comments are still there. No wonder there have been no replies lately.

      • Realist
        October 28, 2018 at 5:23 pm

        You are most definitely right, Sam F. When I posted the above and received a cookie from CN, all the disappeared and/or invisible posts attached to the other articles re-appeared as if by magic–at least for the time being.

        This unintended effect must be corrected by someone with the necessary skills because users are not going to stop scanning their systems for viruses and automatically deleting cookies, adware, spyware and all that detritus.

        • Realist
          October 28, 2018 at 5:25 pm

          Maybe I spoke too soon. As soon as I posted the addendum to my original response to you, Sam F, that original response was disappeared. Seems it’s more complicated than simple cookies.

      • Realist
        October 28, 2018 at 7:18 pm

        Well, I guess that theory was shot down.

        All three of my responses to you, Sam F, which I initially thought supported your theory, have now been disappeared, and I have not purged my computer of any cookies, adware or spyware in the interim.

        The system seems to simply select specific individual posters and delete their entries for no obvious reasons.

        I say it’s hackery by some nefarious source that wants to sow dissension and destroy this web site.

        Apparently, they want me gone because I come too close to truths they hate.

        And, unless Joe Lauria takes some effective action on this, the hackers will win, because I’m not about to keep posting thoughtful and inoffensive remarks that quickly get removed.

        Aufwiedersehn. Lotsa luck to this site for surviving such a relentless attack. Been interesting times, but this is not working.

  23. christina r garcia
    October 25, 2018 at 10:23 pm

    it serves no purpose going over the same old arguments. Act. Vote.

    • October 25, 2018 at 11:37 pm

      Vote for what?

      Obama was in all the blood and dirt up to his armpits.

      He just comes off better in public speaking. More graceful, less argumentative than Trump. But every bit the same ruthless killer and supporter of scum like the Crown Prince.

      And Hillary? A natural born killer.

      Joe Biden? He pushed Obama to create America’s massive hi-tech extrajudicial killing industry run by CIA.

      What choice do Americans have?

      Close to zero in my view.

      • Al Pinto
        October 26, 2018 at 8:39 am

        You still seems to be somewhat optimistic in the otherwise excellent post. In my view, it’s not close to zero, it is zero choice that we have…

      • Ashanti Kofi
        October 26, 2018 at 12:59 pm

        John, you are spot on.
        And here is a piece on Obama published on this site earlier.
        https://consortiumnews.com/2017/01/18/obamas-bombing-legacy/

      • Mike From Jersey
        October 27, 2018 at 12:20 pm

        I have come to the same conclusion. The Democrats are every bit as murderous as the Republicans. And, if no real choice is possible, you cannot describe this country as being a democracy.

        Voting just gives legitimacy to a rather artless fraud.

  24. Don Bacon
    October 25, 2018 at 9:50 pm

    “Now the torture, murder, and dismemberment of a dissident journalist in Istanbul has made matters many times worse. . .”

    No. For one thing, torture and murder are a US specialty, and it hasn’t worsened anything.
    Regarding “dissident journalist,” as published here on CN:
    “Actually Khashoggi was not a journalist. Khashoggi was a loyal member of the Saudi propaganda apparatus. There is no journalism allowed in the kingdom: there have been courageous Saudi women and men who attempted to crack the wall of rigid political conformity and were persecuted and punished for their views. Khashoggi was not among them.”

    Now some Saudis have been banned from visiting the US. (oh dear)
    These barring actions were taken under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act which applies to citizens who attempted to crack the wall of rigid political conformity and were persecuted and punished for their views. Khashoggi was not among them.
    ..from the Act:

    This bill authorizes the President to impose U.S. entry and property sanctions against any foreign person (or entity) who:
    –is responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights committed against individuals in any foreign country seeking to expose illegal activity carried out by government officials, or to obtain, exercise, or promote human rights and freedoms;
    acted as an agent of or on behalf of a foreign person in such activities; . . .here

    • Andrew Dabrowski
      October 26, 2018 at 3:54 pm

      “Actually Khashoggi was not a journalist. Khashoggi was a loyal member of the Saudi propaganda apparatus. ”

      No, he was an ex-pat he did not tow their line.

  25. October 25, 2018 at 9:13 pm

    What about this idea-
    Call for the Saudi regime to honor Khashoggi as a national hero by holding a funeral and by dedicating a park in his honor? Of course that isn’t likely but why shouldn’t it be asked of them to make them squirm which would confirm they have no real remorse.
    Thoughts?

    • anon
      October 26, 2018 at 9:11 pm

      1. They wouldn’t want public reminders of him.
      2. Why give them an excuse to pretend remorse?

  26. Susan Sunflower
    October 25, 2018 at 9:08 pm

    One of the unsurprising side efffects of SAud control of American MENA press seems to be apparent in the lack of”backgrounders” or examination of the global Umma. I have no tea leaves to read — but –in this incident I suspect the despised Erdgan may apppear to be a bettter shepherd of international muslims, particularly “moderates” or even easy-going non=wahabbists many of whom live with the threat of ISIS or Alqaeda coming to town, “sharpening the contradictions” and mking their lives in their countries miserable.

    Not just killing muslims, but (as alqaeda mentions often) under the control of and at the behest of the USA — great satan.

    KSA has very real power as the #1 producer, but it that forever and always? Starving Yemen., long the poorest nation of MENa, World Heritage sites being damaged with impunity — yes, I ask at what point (with some promises of support) hae they disqualified themselve from leadership ….and then there’s BFF Trump and Jared and MBS, the priniclings (and unimpressive economic reinventiono and jobs,jobs, jobs.

    I’ve seen nothing wrt if not MBS, then who. I read that Bush Bff Prince Bandar was rounded up by MBS in 2017 ( he’s alive) but he was the last nex-generation wannabe who largely vanished. (also a career Arms dealer with Arms for Hostages Koshoggi connection).

    The story’s future changes, but I think the SAudis are aware of their jeopardy …. even to the point of knowing that MBS is a tip-of-iceberg. …. but no backgrounders.

    I’ve noticed generally a remarkable lack of polls — for years — and certainly non-Saudi opinions have rarely been featured. …. I think there will be stonewalling — yesterdqy the SAudis said they would try the suspect; the UN legal type think it falls under their jurisdication (seeLockerbie, not terribly reassuring),

    Finally I realized that Khoshoggi was probably a “rock star” in the Arab World, delivering “responsible reporting” from the WaPo. I think MBS may have been unwilling to let him defect. to Istanbul and the growing expat Saudi community there.

  27. KiwiAntz
    October 25, 2018 at 7:55 pm

    The obvious question that hasn’t been mentioned in this article is this?? Hypothetically, if the House of Saud was to collapse, what would happen to the US Petrodollar recycling “oil for dollars” system that has been a central pillar of America’s exorbitant privilege & undeserving advantage of being the Worlds reserve currency which has not only provided a major domestic, economic advantage to the Nation but also had a Foreign policy advantage that has enabled it to meddle & interfere in numerous Countries affairs, for years whilst not suffering any financial hardship & the huge costs involved with financing this interference! How would this affect America with the so called “Triffin Dilemma” that has dominated its economy for decades? The US Govt & it’s out of control MIC, with its trillion dollars of wasteful weapons spending will result in the Country being unable to finance & fund it’s never ending warmongering activities or impose its economic terrorism by weaponisation of the US Dollar & the tyranny it imposes via the Swift Banking system & also using its Tariffs punishments on the World via Trump’s Trade wars to destroy those opposing Countries economies via blackmail & extortion? Already other Nations are starting to de-dollarise & move away from the Swift Banking system so a collapse of the US Petro system would completely end America’s reign as a Hegemonic, unipolar Empire! And I completely agree with the writer that the US will do whatever it takes too prevent this Saul Royal Family from collapse & prop up it’s puppet regime as Saudi Arabia is “to big too fail” using American logic because it would also have a massive destabilising effect on not only the Saudi economy but America’s Hegemonic Empire & Middle East domination as well! A former US President, I can’t remember who, noted that this Dictator may be a SOB but he’s our SOB! Sums up perfectly America’s “Devil’s deal” with Saudi Arabia!

    • Sam F
      October 26, 2018 at 6:37 am

      While many countries need to trade with the US, and find our vast trade deficit profitable, the “petrodollar” concept seems more of an excuse than an explanation. Any preference for dollar trade would exist without Saudi oil, and KSA would have to sell its oil without any special relationship with the US. The US could buy oil from Russia and Venezuela instead of KSA, and many of its foreign policy problems would seem to disappear.

      • Hawk Eye
        October 27, 2018 at 10:40 am

        if the petro dollar collapses, then no one will want to accept US$ in exchange for products of real value.
        If you dig deep into currency values and what stands behind it, you will see that the US $ is the world’s biggest ponzi scheme.
        Iraq and Libya both wanted to sell oil in alternative currencies and what happened to them?
        follow the money.
        And many of the US’s foreign policy problems are self created. Leave people alone and they will tend to leave you alone. But bomb them, support their corrupt dictators,steal their resources and then preach about human rights and democracy tends to leave others a little bitter.

    • Hawk Eye
      October 27, 2018 at 10:34 am

      BINGO – we have a winner.

      The US has to support the Saudi’s.
      Nixon switched the dollar from gold backed to “petro backed” in 1973 I think.
      When (not if) the world drifts away from the US $ as reserve currency, then the empire collapses and the US goes into a depression when the dollar cannot pay for imports anymore. The only question left to answer is how the US deals with it. Does it accept it? Or does it go ballistic – literally? A huge economic crisis and a very religious population that only trusts one government entity – the military – probably ends up as some sort of fascist dictatorship.

      pretty sure that quote was from LBJ, but it could apply to every president and about 100 different dictators

  28. Linda Wood
    October 25, 2018 at 6:50 pm

    https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/national/article134393744.html

    Families of 9/11 victims might soon get day in court against Saudi officials | Miami Herald
    BY JAMES ROSEN
    February 23, 2017

    … For more than 14 years, relatives of the nearly 3,000 people who died Sept. 11, 2001, battled Washington and several federal judges for the right to sue Saudi Arabia and the royal family in Riyadh — suspected by families and senior members of Congress of providing money and other support to the 19 attackers.

    First, district and appellate courts in New York ruled — repeatedly — that a legal protection called “sovereign immunity” prevented the families from suing Saudi Arabia. Then Republican President George W. Bush and Democratic President Barack Obama stymied one effort after another by Congress to pass legislation that would overcome those court rulings and open a path for a case to proceed.

    But the 9/11 families’ fortunes changed in September, when during a distracting, raucous 2016 presidential campaign, Congress delivered the only veto override of Obama’s eight-year tenure and made the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, or JASTA, settled law.

    … Now, the families are heading to court in the coming weeks, seeking a punitive payout that legal experts say could exceed $1 trillion.

    But Saudi Arabia is not done fighting — in court or in Congress. Indeed, Riyadh looks ready to pump unprecedented sums into a lobbying effort to unwind the new law.

    The Saudis have hired a team of Washington powerbrokers who have held senior White House and congressional posts going back decades, paying at least 17 firms in Washington, Houston, Cleveland, Denver and Alexandria, Virginia, more than $1 million a month to try to turn back the clock.

    Tony Podesta, one of Washington’s top lobbyists and the brother of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign manager John Podesta, is among the top figures on the team of influential insiders…

    • KiwiAntz
      October 26, 2018 at 3:29 am

      That’s the demented thing about America’s support of Saudi Arabia, 15 out of the 19 Terrorist’s who hyjacked planes & killed three thousand innocent Americans on 9/11 where Saudi National’s! Not Iraqi’s or Iranians or Syrians but Saudi Arabians! And America has protected this sadistic Saudi Country for decades despite the 9/11 attacks! Saudi Arabia are the biggest sponsors of Terrorism in the World, despite the US pinning the blame on Iran for decades! It’s sickening & I hope the Families of 9/11 victims get their day in court & sue the hell out of this evil Nation!

      • Litchfield
        October 26, 2018 at 8:19 pm

        “15 out of the 19 Terrorist’s who hyjacked planes ”

        Well, if you actually believe that . . .
        They were probably patsies.
        And if they were, it’s the Saudis who should be po’d!!

      • Will
        October 26, 2018 at 8:57 pm

        worse than that, the House of Saud and their diplomatic staff paid for the hijacker’s apartments, took them to sea world…ect ect. that information obtained from the san Diego office of the FBI is the basis of the law suit. big stuff. oddly, the American press has been ignoring this as well as Mueller’s role in suppressing such evidence

    • Will
      October 26, 2018 at 8:53 pm

      Linda Wood: this is the crux of the issue. If the American people find out the real Saudi role in supporting the 9/11 terrorists there will be trouble…that wont just effect SA…

  29. Mike From Jersey
    October 25, 2018 at 6:37 pm

    Excellent and informative article. It brings together a lot of threads and gives a good insight in the forces lying beneath the surface in Saudi Arabia.

  30. DavidH
    October 25, 2018 at 6:26 pm

    Speaking of losing the bubble, I’d like to see a rundown on what exactly t’d Osama off. US troops in SA? But the we-didn’t-stay-to-help-build (Afghanistan) explanation is the one that to me always lacked detail. I once told a friend about things Chalmers Johnson was saying, and that friend bought his trilogy. And so it’s weird that now I’ve got so much to do that to borrow the set, or to buy the set, is really a matter of too much time. And then there’s the space it would take up (just wondering about one little chapter). Don’t even know if Johnson covered it or not.

    Weird also that now when we have a legitimate use for the Magnitsky Act, we’re not using it. Should have been used already. Haspel has heard the recording, right?

    • October 25, 2018 at 11:41 pm

      Haspel was an excellent choice.

      A true expert.

      There are probably secret recordings of her doing similar things at the ‘black site” she used to run for the CIA.

      She’s a killer.

  31. karlof1
    October 25, 2018 at 6:16 pm

    Nobody “demands change” within Saudi if they want to keep their head. Whisper it between the closest of friends while walking in the desert away from unwanted ears is most likely. A cover-up deal’s now in place, but intrigue still rules as King Salman phones Putin for a chat–high ranking Kremlin energy officials were in Saudi when the deed was being done, Russia refused to jump a la Skripal and indict MbS, plus it sent its delegation (China sent theirs too) to the Davos in the Desert confab as planned, whereas most Americans and Europeans stayed away. Thus, the Great Power relations chemistry with Saudi that existed on Oct 2 is no longer as something new is being formed. Russia and China have played the Long Game with Saudi since 2000, and their efforts are about to bear fruit. Trump’s “Two weeks” insult on top of the CIA’s media play were decisive straws on Saud’s camel, which will now turn East much to the chagrin of those who thought they had Saudi in their pocket.

  32. mike k
    October 25, 2018 at 4:14 pm

    The author seems to be worried that the fall of Saudi Arabia would cause “chaos” in the middle east. What does he think reigns there now? The fall of that fake nation is inevitable, as is the collapse of the American Empire. This period of chaos is inevitable in any case. We are just going to have to accept that. There is no real stability in the world today – get used to it. Get real.

    • Susan Sunflower
      October 26, 2018 at 1:02 pm

      yes, apparently it’s “unthinkable” for the mantle to pass to Iraq and Iran (as we claim the future is in shale)…. iadditioiallyn, of course, our control of other countries access to oil that’s golden and keeping oil expensive enough that fracking is feasible. …. Iran oil sanctions start, iirc November 20 ….

      Reality check countdown.

      “State Sponsor of Terrorirsm” needs to be defined. ==

    • ToivoS
      October 26, 2018 at 11:13 pm

      The chaos that would result from the fall of the House of Saud would very likely result in the loss of much innocent life. However, as Mike points out, we should consider the chaos that is there now and the loss of innocent lives that are the direct result of US intervention in that area over the last 15 years. Easily about 1 million premature deaths in Iraq alone. Then the carnage the KSA is causing in Yemen with US support — conservatively 50,000 deaths in the last three years and more to come from the forced famine and cholera epidemic.

      So we should note what some of the positive outcomes that should happen if “chaos” is to happen.

      1. The end of the war against Yemen which will result in the end of the famine and cholera epidemic.

      2. The end of Saudi support for the jihadists in Syria and the end of that war.

      3. The end of the not so secret alliance between Israel and the KSA which just might create a political atmosphere where Palestinian rights can be honestly addressed.

      There will be other repercussions, but all in all I do believe the collapse of the House of Saud will probably result in more positive outcomes than negative ones. And if I am not getting too optimistic, perhaps this might knock some sense into the US who finally realize that we cannot rule that part of the world and just leave those countries alone to solve their own problems.

  33. Andrew Dabrowski
    October 25, 2018 at 3:15 pm

    “Should control pass to someone else, America would find its monopoly severely impaired. ”

    The US currently has a monopoly? On what?

    • October 25, 2018 at 11:42 pm

      “The US currently has a monopoly? On what?”

      You need to read more.

      • Andrew Dabrowski
        October 26, 2018 at 10:23 am

        My point is that the US is a declining empire. We used to have real hegemonic power, but we no longer do.

  34. Skip Scott
    October 25, 2018 at 12:57 pm

    I can’t help but wonder what Saudi Arabia might be like if we had never attempted to influence its “development” by getting in bed with the house of Saud, just as I wonder what Iran would be like if we hadn’t ousted Mossadegh. We seem to be fanatical about “regime change” whenever a secular ruler tries to establish an economy for the benefit of its own citizens, be it Saddam, Gaddafi, Assad, or Mossadegh. And that’s only in that particular part of the globe.

    • Sam F
      October 25, 2018 at 9:13 pm

      Much of the US motive in the 1950s-60s for supporting fanatical Islamist factions was presumptive “anti-communism” leading to opposition of progressive secular governments, although there was almost zero evidence of any USSR interest in the Mideast, let alone expansionism, tied down as it was with its own central Asian SSRs. Apart from Europe, US foreign policies since FDR have been secret and anti-progressive, with little or no basis in fact. I recommend Dreyfuss’ Devil’s Game for the details, although he conspicuously omits the involvement of Israel.

  35. Jeff Harrison
    October 25, 2018 at 12:55 pm

    Who are these so-called Liberals to which you refer Mr. Lazare? I’ve completely lost the bubble on who’s supposed to believe in what. I suppose it helps if you don’t have an ideology, then you can just look for practical solutions to problems without worrying about some idiotic ideology that probably doesn’t apply.

    Constitutional monarchy? You have to have a functioning government to have a constitutional monarchy. Saudi doesn’t have a functioning government. It has a bunch of departments that await the king’s word. Without the king’s direction, things tend to grind to a halt. Transition from a totalitarian dictatorship to a more inclusive form of government is always difficult and frequently fraught with violence. The real problem is going to be that the actual king – Salman is only intermittently lucid. That doesn’t bode well for rational and firm decision making which is what Saudi Arabia needs right now.

    The good news is that this episode has exposed Donald J. Trump for the poseur he is and the US for the craven megalomaniac that it is.

    • Sam F
      October 25, 2018 at 9:23 pm

      It is indeed hard to imagine how such intransigent factions could transition to constitutional monarchy after generations of running terror insurgencies. The US “craven megalomaniac” oligarchy is certainly not part of the solution.

    • October 26, 2018 at 10:56 am

      There is no such thing as a “constitutional monarchy”. The two terms are mutually exclusive. The term was invented to fool the masses into believing a monarchy can come exist with a constitutional republic which it cannot. Saudi Arabia and Great Britain are two very good examples of this although the British people have finally decided to put a provebial end to the Monarchy wit the Brexit e if they can actually pull it off.

      • Jeff Harrison
        October 26, 2018 at 4:24 pm

        You would be incorrect. Please feel free to read Totalitarian Dictatorship and Autocracy by Carl Friedrich and Zbigniew Brezezinski. They explain the difference between absolute monarchies (like Saudi Arabia) and constitutional ones like England.

      • Litchfield
        October 26, 2018 at 9:32 pm

        How in the world would/will Brexit put an end to the monarchy?

  36. john wilson
    October 25, 2018 at 11:53 am

    If the writer of this piece thinks a 5% sales tax is bad and a sign of MBS greed, then what I wonder does he think of the UK sales tax of 17.5% ?! Whilst I agree the murder of this man in Saudi Arabia is horrible and disgusting, we should remember however, there’s still a place called Gauntanamo Bay where men have been tortured and died. The UK has had its hands in the torture bag as well with its renditions etc. Indeed, the UK would happily send Julian Assange off to the US to be tortured and maybe killed. Sadly, we are ruled by people who will torture other human beings just to maintain absolute power over them. Its not enough that we grovel before them and millions live in poverty, they actually want us to believe in them. The Saudi government does’t have a monopoly on torture and head chopping. When ISIS were chopping of people’ head on a daily basis there was hardly a squeak from the UK and US governments. Well, they could hardly complain as they were directly and indirectly funnel arms to them ! Just because we are a democracy doesn’t mean we are immune from being tortures’, actually we are just as bad as anyone else out there.

    • Andrew Dabrowski
      October 25, 2018 at 3:20 pm

      “The Saudi government does’t have a monopoly on torture and head chopping.”

      So do you propose that we race the Saudis to the bottom? (Btw, maybe they do have a monopoly on the head chopping.)

      Just because a country’s human rights record stinks doesn’t mean it shouldn’t hold others to account for theirs. The alternative is pure amoralism.

      I share the fear that things are going to get worse before they get better, but we at CN ought to at least try to find positive courses of action.

    • christina r garcia
      October 25, 2018 at 10:19 pm

      Then do something. stop bitching. I called ron Johnson my senator , got no reply, called gwen moore I got an answer. Stop bitching and call your congress people. Do not let the stupid voicemail deter you. You can get through to your congress.

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