The Khashoggi debacle continues in a more complicated way

HAVVA NUR ÇELIK
Published

Trump's declaration that that the U.S. will stand by its ally Saudi Arabia is hardly surprising. The plan to "Make America Great Again" lies with Saudi Arabia.

Any "punishment" of Saudi Arabia will affect U.S. regional interests. Among other things, containing Iran in the Middle East and protecting Israel from the Middle East are on top of that list. Of course, one cannot proceed without mentioning the interest in oil.

Saudi Arabia can twist the Palestinian arm especially once Trump announces his "Palestine Plan" that will allegedly bring peace and settle the conflict. But again, as the Turks say "our stomach is full" for such wishful thinking.

Terminating or varying the arms agreement between the largest exporter of weapons and largest importer of weapons undoubtedly has economic ramifications. More importantly, strategy-wise, if the arms agreement were terminated "Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries." As always, the military might underscores great power relations and human rights issues are relegated to a less important position.

The cultivation of amicable relations between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, is a primary example of America's pro-Israel diplomacy. All in all, America's foreign interests and agenda are guiding the White House's action, or lack thereof, on the Khashoggi murder.

However, not all of America's consciousness has vanished from the political spectrum: American senators have expressed their concerns over Trump's reaction and vocalized their determination on blocking arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Even if Saudi Arabia does not get the arms they want, they know for sure that Trump is there on stage, and will take their side in any international conflict. That will make the Saudis happy! Thus, a monarchy marred with thousands of human rights violations will survive thanks to the will and the support of Western democracies.

What is perhaps more likely to happen is the replacement of MBS. King Salman's favorite son may be shown the door. The damage to reputation is not only suffered by MBS, but by Saudi Arabia. This supports Turkish aspiration to take the Saudi throne as the leader of the Islamic world as well.

It is also remarkable that the CIA blames MBS for the Khashoggi murder but Trump maintains his on-the-fence stance. Gina Haspel, the head of the CIA, would have debriefed Trump on the evidence gathered by the Turks. Yet, Trump's comment: "maybe he did and maybe he didn't!" is just too convenient. The benefit of doubt is graciously offered to MBS.

This was hardly the case when months ago, the U.K. concluded that the Russian government poisoned a former spy, Sergei Skripal. The Americans took their British counterpart's word and expelled 60 Russian diplomats and shutdown the Russian Consulate in Seattle. Mind you, Skripal (and his daughter) survived. The Trump administration condemned the action and placed an embargo on Russia. Then it was not "America First!"

The anticipated CIA report will hopefully conclude this debate of who is responsible (note: not the actus reus) for the brutal murder of Khashoggi. However, it is already a game of "he said, she said."

The Foreign Ministry of Saudi Arabia continues to strongly deny any involvement in the Khashoggi murder, especially by MBS. The Foreign Ministry also denied allegations that the House of Saud will depose the crown prince.

Albeit, Saudi Arabia is committed to bringing the perpetrators to justice, or rather, sentence them to the death penalty via an efficient trial and silence this "hit squad" forever.

If anything, the credibility of the Americans as well as the Saudis has been tarnished.

Yes, Mr. Trump, it is a "vicious world."

* Bachelor of Laws (Honors) and International Relations from La Trobe University, she is currently a practicing commercial litigation lawyer in Australia

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