If Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has the goal of toppling de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman over the Jamal Khashoggi scandal—and all the indications are that that is the case—then he already has some vocal backers in Washington.
Influential Republican senator Lindsey Graham said on NBC’s Meet the Press on the morning of Novmber 18: “If [MBS] is going to be the face and the voice of Saudi Arabia going forward, the kingdom will have a hard time on the world stage… when it comes to the crown prince, he’s irrational, he’s unhinged, and I think he’s done a lot of damage to the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia. And I have no intention of working with him ever again.”
CIA sources, meanwhile, briefed US media outlets that the intelligence agency had concluded that the crown prince, known as MbS, did indeed order the murder of journalist and Riyadh critic Khashoggi, killed by a hit squad after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2. The Saudis say the kill-team was “rogue” and that any decision they took to murder Khashoggi was not known to MbS.
Donald Trump on November 18 called the CIA's assessment that the crown prince had Khashoggi killed “very premature” and said the government would reveal who they thought was behind the murder on November 20.
November 18 also saw Fox News Sunday broadcast a pre-recorded interview with Donald Trump in which the US president said he had no intention of listening to an audio tape of the murder provided by Turkish intelligence.
The president tells the interviewer: “I don’t want to hear the tape, no reason for me to hear the tape… It’s a suffering tape. It’s a terrible tape. I’ve been fully briefed on it.”
Trump has relied on MbS as a key ally in driving up huge volumes of business between the US and Saudi Arabia, including hundreds of billions of dollars of arms sales, and also as a vital backer in his policy of throttling Iran’s economy to the point where Tehran would be compelled to renegotiate its role in Middle East affairs. The removal of MbS from the top of the Saudi power structure would thus be a big blow to his administration, but it would be celebrated in Tehran, which has entered into several wars of words with the 33-year-old crown prince and has long described him as not experienced enough to steer his country’s foreign policy.
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