Saudis claim consulate torture-killing a ‘brawl’: Despite gory revelations, West tries to duck Istanbul journo murder | Sunday Observer

Saudis claim consulate torture-killing a ‘brawl’: Despite gory revelations, West tries to duck Istanbul journo murder

Blood-spattered walls, bone-saw-wielding doctors, role of close aides of the Saudi Crown Prince notwithstanding, Washington and even host country Turkey seem ready to avoid blaming the Saudi Arabian monarchy for the likely abduction-murder of Arabian publisher Jamal Khashoggi inside a diplomatic office in Istanbul. And even as the world’s powerful moved swiftly to gloss over yet another, obvious, human rights atrocity, the atrocities elsewhere – in Palestine, Yemen, Afghanistan – continued barely noticed.

In Palestine’s continuously besieged Gaza Strip, one more civilian died and dozens more injured in retaliatory aerial strikes by Israeli jets last week in response to a home-made rocket fired from the Gaza side into Israeli territory. In Yemen, the Saudi-led offensive continued against the Houthi tribal forces. In Afgahnistan, which conducted voting for assembly elections yesterday, a very senior counter-insurgency commander was killed in an Afghan insurgent attack in Kandahar city in which a senior US military commander narrowly escaped harm.

Fist fight

Yesterday, Saudi Arabia officially claimed that exiled wealthy dissident publisher Khashoggi had been ‘accidentally’ killed in ‘a brawl’ that occurred between him and the consulate officials, that fatal morning on October 2 in beautiful Istanbul, Turkey’s one-time imperial capital.

Al Jazeera TV reported that the official Saudi Press Agency quoted the Saudi Attorney-General, Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb, as saying that: “Discussions that took place between him and the persons who met him … at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul led to a brawl and a fist fight with the citizen, Jamal Khashoggi, which led to his death, may his soul rest in peace.”

The Saudi monarchy now wishes that his “soul rest in peace”, but where is Khashoggi’s body? If it indeed was an accidental death, then how has the victim’s body been disposed of?

“The investigations are still under way and 18 Saudi nationals have been arrested.” And, Saudi Royal court adviser Saud al-Qahtani and, deputy intelligence chief Ahmed al-Asiri were fired from their positions, the Riyadh statement said.

Saudi culpability

After literally, weeks of prevaricating, Donald Trump now seems to accept Saudi culpability, but insisted yesterday that US-Saudi relations will remain on track.

It seems left to the news media, now labelled ‘fake news’ purveyors, to continue to inform and convince the world of the shocking details of this alarmingly blatant crime, that should, technically, wholly disrupt long-standing military alliances and lucrative inter-state trade. Despite over 160 journalists jailed in Turkey alone, it is the Turkish news media that is now leading the way in exposing the crime and the suspect Saudi perpetrators. Major Western news outlets are supplementing with exposés of manoeuvres in Western capitals to avoid directly blaming their pet despots in Riyadh.

Last week, United States’ Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo returned from the Saudi and Turkish capitals to make soothing public noises about ‘stern response’ and ‘full investigation’ and ‘assurances’ by the Saudi monarchy. But, long before that, when first responding to media about the Khashoggi abduction-killing, Pompeo’s boss, President Donald Trump had already categorically ruled out any shake-up of the intimate ties between Washington and the Saudi monarchy.

As his own country news media sadly noted, when confronted with a clearly ugly atrocity, the American President (unlike his more coy predecessors) bluntly talked of money – specifically, the supposed Saudi ‘commitment’ (there is nothing specific on paper) to spend billions of dollars buying American arms. To all those familiar with the politics of inter-state alliances and the priority given by states to power interests over civilised social behaviour, this official posturing yet again reveals the cynical nature of geo-politics.

Political analyst after analyst is busy emphasizing on news media platforms that this is what must be expected of the world’s powerful whether from a democratic republic or a despotic monarchy. Harsh sanctions either by host country Turkey or by the so-called guardians of liberal democracy, the Western powers, seem not to be on the cards at all. At most, in addition to the widespread boycott by top western business leaders and government officials of a high level investor seminar scheduled to be held shortly in Riyadh, there may be several individual Saudi officials – now named as ‘suspects’ – who are targeted for sanctions.

Rogue action

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has yet to make any official statement on the Saudi announcement. But, clearly, his officials have been busy not only investigating the killing but also assiduously leaking all their findings to the news media.

Hours after Pompeo returned following hurried talks last week with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, he was brushing aside any culpability of the Saudi monarchy itself for this murder and hinting at a ‘rogue’ action by lower ranking officials. At that time, US news media reacted with suspicion and charged that Washington was coaching Riyadh in a cover-up.

The Saudi government spent nearly a fortnight denying that anything had happened to Khashoggi while inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and claiming that he had freely left the building. That a wealthy Saudi Arabian government could not find out what really happened inside its own consulate (in a nearby country, at that) for days, let alone weeks, gives the lie to what is now being ‘officially’ said.

Thanks to the ‘fake news’ media, we now know, to a large degree, what happened inside those normally pristine diplomatic chambers in Istanbul. It is also thanks to ultra-modern communications technology in the form of Khashoggi’s own Apple brand watch. This hi-tech, multi-purpose time-piece, not only had audio recording capability but also transmitted the recording live to Khashoggi’s mobile phone left behind in the hands of his fiancée who had remained outside the consulate in anticipation of just such a crisis.

According to the data obtained from this recording by the Turkish authorities, it is likely that not only was the 60-year-old veteran publisher-cum-activist immediately seized on his entry to the consulate, but he was then subjected to horrific torture.

The Turkish forensic probe team later found that some interior walls of the consulate had been hurriedly painted over to hide the splashes of blood now revealed beneath the fresh paint by chemical analysis. They have evidence that a bone saw was used to dismember the body. Even more blatant, the dismemberment seems to have been done by none other than a top Saudi government forensic expert flown in to Istanbul from Riyadh that very morning! There is formal record of his entry into Istanbul by direct flight in a private jet.

Whitewash

And that government expert is among fifteen other Saudi agents on record of arriving in Istanbul on that fatal morning and then swiftly departing from Turkey within hours, presumably having done their dastardly deed. Now, Turkish agents are scouring the Istanbul environs in case parts of Khashoggi’s body have been disposed of by the Saudi hit team on their way back to the airport.

Horrifically, some Turkish news reports hint that Khashoggi may have been initially tortured with his fingers being systematically cut off while he was conscious. Reportedly, his screaming (recorded on his watch) had then prompted the torturers to inject him with a drug to quieten him.

The Saudi monarchy’s western backers may certainly whitewash all this bloody mayhem in order that they retain their alliances and dealings with what has become one of the world’s more repressing regimes. But the exposure of the cynical cover-up (done so crudely) as well as the information about the sheer barbarity of the crime, the Saudi regime has been irreparably sullied.

Thus, while the alliance will remain, the West’s ability to use the alliance flexibly and to the fullest in its geo-politics in West Asia has surely been hamstrung.

To that degree, the inter-state power balance in the region remains as it was, with Iran – possessing a far cleaner reputation – poised as effective counterpoint to the western-backed and pro-Israeli network of West Asian states.

Bolstering that network is the West’s prime motive behind the whitewashing of the Saudi monarchy but that endeavour has been somewhat blunted by the dynamics of active, courageous, news media as well as the magical role played by a hi-tech watch. 

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