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Behind Donald Trump's Saudi stand



ANALYSIS / OPINION:

President Trump does not seem to be thinking of what to do about the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, the day-to-day ruler of the fabulously rich and in some ways fabulously backward oil empire [19659003] Lord. Trump seems to be waiting for the Saudi King Salman to release his son Crown Prince Mohammed in favor of another, perhaps wiser son or grandson (girls do not have to apply).

Or Mr. Trump could expect the Crown Prince to fall on his own sword, take responsibility for the assassination of the Saudi royal family advisor on October 2, and Washington Post's correspondent Jamal Khashoggi

. Khashoggi was a troublesome critic of the authoritarian nature of Crown Prince Mohammed.

Critics of the Crown Prince and Saudis Royals suspected of threatening the prince's total power have disappeared or burst under house arrest and have suddenly robbed some of the billions of dollars they once held for their own

. Khashoggi was less easy to decipher than Crown Prince Mohammed. Mr. Khashoggi, who was of both Turkish and Saudi descent, spent most of his life as a journalist ̵

1; reporter and often burned editor of Arabic and English language newspapers in the Gulf and surrounding area. He was an Islamist and yet a reformer (in many ways). He had sympathy for the Muslim Brotherhood and was possibly a member. He may have been an intelligence agent for Saudi Arabia and the US – these things are not always clear for obvious reasons. He was an Islamist. Whatever he was, it was 21 days since his disappearance at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and Mr. Trump was in close all the time.

The kingdom was useful to the US in important ways, just as the US helped Riyadh, who probably needed the US more than Washington Riyadh. But there is the risk, small or big, that Mr. Trump is wrestling with. How much and what kind of punishment will be spent on the Saudis will lose billions of dollars in defense and other Kingdom contracts and undermine the regional intelligence provided by the Saudi spy network.

U.S. Intelligence knew almost from the beginning what the Saudis admitted only in the last few days – that a 15-man Saudi baton murdered Mr. Khashoggi. The Saudis still claim it was an exercise that went wrong or went as planned, but without the knowledge or approval of the Crown Prince or his father, the king (who is sick and may not even be there).

It consisted of government officials and security personnel and included quite clearly Salah Muhammed al-Tubaigy, a Saudi lieutenant colonel in the forensic department of the State Security. The Turks said he had brought a bone-chopping hacksaw to the consulate in Istanbul to dismember Mr. Khashoggi's body.

All of this would not be the business of Mr. Trump and the United States, where Mr. Khashoggi would not be a permanent US resident and contribute to a major US newspaper in the country's capital.

The Saudi loafers blamed this ugly affair on an American president who, from the moment he took the oath of office, was extremely kind to the Royals of Riyadh. Unfortunately, for all involved, their last repetition – King Salman's predecessor died in 2015 – is not at all like what the Royals were. Too smart, that is, to draw a Khashoggi-like disaster and a disjointed cover-up.

His patience was almost exhausted, and on Tuesday Mr. Trump abused the absurd reports of the Saudi President about the fate of Khashoggi as a "total fiasco."

"The coverup was one of the worst in the history of the cover-ups," Mr. Trump said. "It's very easy."

The Crown Prince Mohammed is closest to the King's son, but also to a personal friend of Mr. Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is himself a White House advisor

If that is not enough to make Crown Prince Muhammad untouchable he is also the self-described architect of economic diversification and modernization of the kingdom – a man who rides his chest with pride over the privilege that women in the

But Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has even more to offer ("bin" means "son "for those who came late).

The Crown Prince is the Minister of Defense of the Kingdom. He is also the chairman of every council in the kingdom that matters. He is in charge of everything, including the security forces and the police.

The inescapable conclusion for all but Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his father, the king, is that the Crown Prince must have planned or approved the Khashoggi murder. To think otherwise means to say that he is not who he says he is and that he does not have the power he says and that everyone else in the kingdom who appreciates his own life agrees with him. As of Tuesday, the Trump administration says it will sanction the previously mentioned members of the 15-man murder squad and a few other unappetizing Saudis with sanctions, visa rejection and other handshakes.

If that is – if that's all – it will. That is, Mr. Trump has given a murder pass to Crown Prince Mohammed, the supreme leader of the kingdom. Or it may mean that Mr. Trump has solid evidence that the 15-member force did not have the permission of the Crown Prince or the King to kill Mr. Khashoggi. Only that will take Crown Prince Mohammed off the hook, if that's really possible.

This will be the kind of evidence that the American people can see, smell, cross over and accept as honest and genuine. This will continue to be evidence that will withstand the control of an observing world that, in some cases reluctantly, respects the United States because it is entirely committed to the rule of law and the ultimate value of the individual.

That's Right The dissolution of Saudi Arabian chaos should not be seen as confirmation that the US has revived its impossible role as a police officer in the world.

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