Ex-CIA operative explains why Trump White House won't hold 'psychopath' Saudi Crown Prince accountable for Khashoggi murder

Despite mounting evidence to the contrary, Donald Trump's administration appears poised to accept the Saudi claim that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman did not have a hand in Jamal Khashoggi's murder.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

In Saudi Arabia, prosecutors have announced that they are seeking the death penalty for five men allegedly involved in the October 2 murder of Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi—who was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. But Turkish government officials are deeply suspicious of the prosecution, and the New York Times is reporting that an audio recording has surfaced that may link Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a.k.a. MBS, to the killing. President Donald Trump, meanwhile, has been reluctant to criticize the Saudi royal family.

The Saudi Public Prosecutor’s Office is alleging that on October 2, a team of 15 Saudis traveled to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul with the intention of forcing Khashoggi to return to Saudi Arabia—and after he was injected with an overdose of a sedative that killed him, his body was dismembered by the five men who are now facing the death penalty. But the Turkish government isn’t buying that version of events, asserting that his death wasn’t a kidnapping plot gone wrong, but a premeditated murder.

In Istanbul, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters, “They say (Khashoggi) resisted going back to their country and was killed. However, this murder was premeditated, as we had announced before. The dismembering of the body is not an instant decision. They brought the necessary people and tools to kill him and dismember the body in advance.”

Those tolls, according to Cavusoglu, included a bone saw—which suggests a premeditated murder rather than a kidnapping plot.

The New York Times has reported that in the newly surfaced audio recording, a member of the team is heard telling a superior to “tell your boss” that the mission had been completed—and that boss, according to the New York Times, is believed by U.S. intelligent officials to be Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. But National Security Advisor John Bolton has so far resisted that conclusion.

In a November 15 interview with CNN, former CIA operative Robert Baer refused to believe that the “boss” referred to in the recording could be anyone other than MBS.

“The way Saudi Arabia is run today, Mohammed bin Salman is an autocrat,” Baer stressed. “Security services, the rest of the country—he’s in control. The Saudis do not have rogue operations. Ever. It’s never occurred. The chances that Mohammed Bin Salman ordered this are hitting 100%.”

Baer added, however, that he doesn’t see Trump, Bolton or anyone else in the White House throwing MBS under the bus.

Baer asserted, “Frankly, the White House at this point doesn’t know what to do….They are stuck with this guy, and I don’t see the Saudis getting rid of him either. We have a psychopath in Riyadh controlling this country.”

Baer went on to tell CNN, “Just the fact that the crown prince’s entourage, his security detail participated in the murder tells me all I need to know…. At this point, the White House—they don’t see a way out, frankly. They do not see a way out. Saudi Arabia is a volcano right now.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been calling for the Saudis involved in Khashoggi’s murder to stand trial in Turkey, but the Saudi government has denied that request—much to Erdogan’s consternation. And NBC News is reporting that Trump Administration officials—in an effort to placate the Turkish government over Khashoggi’s death—have been looking for possible ways to remove a major Erdogan foe from the U.S.: Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who has been living in Pennsylvania since the late 1990s.

The Turkish government has been calling for Gulen’s extradition back to Turkey, and sources have told NBC News that some Trump Administration officials are hoping that expelling Gulen might persuade Erdogan to ease the pressure on Saudi Arabia.

According to NBC News, the Trump Administration officials contacted the Homeland Security Department, the Justice Department and the FBI to inquire about Gulen’s legal status in the U.S. and Turkey’s case for extradition—and they were met with a cold response by those agencies. A source told NBC News, “At first, there were eye rolls, but once they realized it was a serious request, the career guys were furious.”
 

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Alex Henderson is a news writer at AlterNet and veteran political journalist. His work has also appeared in Salon, Raw Story, Truthdig, National Memo, Philadelphia Weekly, Democratic Underground, L.A. Weekly, MintPress News and many other publications. Follow him on Twitter @alexvhenderson.