A Saudi 'Night of the Long Knives'? Prince Salman's crackdown


The Living Force
October 21, 2018 - Turkey's Erdogan says to speak on Khashoggi case on Tuesday
Turkey's Erdogan says to speak on Khashoggi case on Tuesday | Reuters

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said he would make all the necessary statements about the killing of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a meeting with members of his ruling AK Party in parliament on Tuesday.

“I will make my statement about this issue on Tuesday at the party group meeting,” Erdogan said in a speech in Istanbul on Sunday, a day after Saudi Arabia said for the first time that Khashoggi had been killed at its consulate in Istanbul on Oct.2.

October 21, 2018 - Foreigners sell net $1.1 Billion of Saudi Stocks as journalist disappearance rattles investors
Foreigners sell net $1.1 billion of Saudi stocks as journalist disappearance rattles investors | Reuters

Foreigners sold a net 4.01 billion riyals ($1.07 billion) in Saudi stocks in the week ending Oct. 18, exchange data showed on Sunday - one of the biggest selloffs since the market opened to direct foreign buying in mid-2015.

The selloff came during a week when investors were rattled by Saudi Arabia’s deteriorating relations with foreign governments following the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Riyadh said on Saturday that Khashoggi died in a fight inside its Istanbul consulate, its first acknowledgement of his death after denying for two weeks that it was involved in his disappearance.

A breakdown of the exchange data showed foreigners sold 5 billion riyals worth of stocks and bought 991.3 million worth.

“The market started to price in a fundamentally different relationship between Saudi Arabia and the U.S.,” said Jaap Meijer, head of equity research, at Arqaam Capital.

“We believe the U.S. will keep Saudi Arabia as its close ally given (amongst other things) the importance of the kingdom in the Middle East region and being the producer of 10 percent of the world oil supply.”

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Sunday that Saudi Arabia’s explanation of the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was a “good first step but not enough”, adding it was premature to discuss any sanctions against Riyadh over the incident.

The comments were the latest from the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump that appear aimed at censuring a killing that has sparked global outrage, while protecting relations with the world’s top oil exporter.

The stock exchange data also showed Saudi individual investors such as retail investors and high net worth individuals sold a net 3.4 billion riyals worth of stocks during the week, however Saudi institutions bought a net 7.8 billion riyals worth of stocks. Investors from other Gulf countries were also net sellers.

Market analysts told Reuters last week that state-linked funds appeared to have mounted an operation to support the stock market after heavy foreign selling.

The Saudi stock market is down about 4 percent since Khashoggi disappeared on Oct 2. The market had already started to weaken before the incident as foreign funds slowed their buying after MSCI’s announcement in June that the kingdom will be included in its global emerging market benchmark next year.

The Saudi index closed up 0.2 percent on Sunday after falling as much as 3.5 percent earlier in the session.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign debt has also been pressured, with yields rising across the the country’s dollar bond curve.

The yield on Saudi Arabia’s $5.5 billion bond due in 2026 and $6.5 billion note due in 2046 rose to record highs last week, according to Refinitiv data.

Saudi credit default swaps, which investors buy as protection against default, rose to 100 basis points late last week for the first time since June, data from IHS Markit showed.

October 21, 2018 - Saudi King and Crown Prince call Khashoggi's Son to express condolences: SPA
Saudi king and crown prince call Khashoggi's son to express condolences: SPA | Reuters

Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman called slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s son, Salah, to express their condolences, the Saudi Press Agency said late on Sunday.

Saudi Arabia has said that Khashoggi, a prominent journalist and critic of Saudi rulers, died in a fight inside its Istanbul consulate - after two weeks of denials that it had anything to do with his disappearance.

October 20, 2018 - Saudi Senior Scholars praise King's decisions on Khashoggi Death
Saudi senior scholars praise king's decisions on Khashoggi death | Reuters

Saudi Arabia’s highest religious body, the Council of Senior Scholars, on Saturday said the king’s decisions on the death of Jamal Khashoggi “achieve justice and equality in accordance with Islamic law”, according to a statement on state news agency SPA.

Saudi Arabia has admitted that Khashoggi, a prominent journalist, died in a fight inside its Istanbul consulate - after two weeks of denials that it had anything to do with his disappearance - and dismissed five officials over the incident.


The Living Force
Mon Oct 22, 2018 - Jamal Khashoggi Case: Turkish Police Finds Saudi Consulate's 'Abandoned Car' in Istanbul

Police have found an abandoned car in a private Istanbul parking lot, according to sources, who said the car has been used in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey.

Its diplomatic plates indicate it belongs to the Saudi consulate and match those of the car seen outside the building when Khashoggi disappeared, according to the sources.

The car was seen leaving the consulate the day the Saudi journalist disappeared after entering the building on October 2, acording to TRT.

It is another piece of evidence in the mysterious case of what happened to Khashoggi after he entered the kingdom consulate almost three weeks ago.

A senior Turkish official also told CNN on Monday, one member of the 15-man team suspected in the death of Khashoggi dressed up in his clothes and was captured on surveillance cameras around Istanbul on the day the journalist was killed in Turkey.

Surveillance footage show the man leaving the consulate by the back door, wearing Khashoggi's clothes, a fake beard, and glasses. He was seen in Khashoggi's clothing, according to the Turkish case, at the city's world-famous Blue Mosque just hours after the journalist was last seen alive entering the consulate on October 2.

In the apparent cover-up that followed Khashoggi's death, Madani, 57, who is of similar height, age and build to Khashoggi, 59, was used as a decoy for the journalist, according to the Turkish official.

A senior Turkish official told CNN that the video showed that Madani was brought to Istanbul to act as a body double.

"You don't need a body double for a rendition or an interrogation," the official said, adding that "our assessment has not changed since October 6. This was a premeditated murder and the body was moved out of the consulate".

Madani, a decade older than the other members of the 15-man team, exited the consulate building by the back door along with an alleged accomplice. Madani was wearing what the video appears to show to be Khashoggi's dark blazer, gray shirt opened at the collar and trousers. Four hours earlier Madani had entered the consulate by the front door, alongside an alleged accomplice.

The video appears to show Madani without a beard, wearing a blue and white checked shirt and dark blue trousers. When he exited the consulate dressed as Khashoggi, the video then appears to show him wearing the same dark pair of sneakers with white soles that he first arrived in prior to the journalist's death.

"Khashoggi's clothes were probably still warm when Madani put them on," the senior Turkish official told CNN.

Mon Oct 22, 2018 - Surveillance Footage Shows Saudi Operative in Khashoggi's Clothes After He Was Killed [+PHOTOS]

One member of the 15-man team suspected in the death of Jamal Khashoggi dressed up in his clothes and was captured on surveillance cameras around Istanbul on the day the journalist was killed in Turkey, a senior Turkish official told CNN.

CNN has obtained exclusive law enforcement surveillance footage, part of the Turkish government's investigation, that appears to show the man leaving the consulate by the back door, wearing Khashoggi's clothes, a fake beard, and glasses.

The same man was seen in Khashoggi's clothing, according to the Turkish case, at the city's world-famous Blue Mosque just hours after the journalist was last seen alive entering the consulate on October 2.

Riyadh has presented a shifting narrative of what happened to Khashoggi. After weeks of denying involvement in Khashoggi's disappearance, Saudi Arabia stated that he was killed in the Istanbul consulate, saying his death was the result of a "fistfight". But, a Saudi source close to the royal palace later told CNN that the Washington Post journalist died in a chokehold.

On Sunday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir went further, describing Khashoggi's death on Fox News as a "murder" and a "tremendous mistake", adding that "we are determined to uncover every stone. We are determined to find out all the facts. And we are determined to punish those who are responsible for this murder".

In the apparent cover-up that followed Khashoggi's death, Madani, 57, who is of similar height, age and build to Khashoggi, 59, was used as a decoy for the journalist, according to the Turkish official.

A senior Turkish official told CNN that the video showed that Madani was brought to Istanbul to act as a body double.

"You don't need a body double for a rendition or an interrogation," the official said, adding that "our assessment has not changed since October 6. This was a premeditated murder and the body was moved out of the consulate".

A Saudi source would not confirm or deny that Madani was sent to act as a body double, though he emphasized that the killing of Khashoggi was not intentional.


Madani, a decade older than the other members of the 15-man team, exited the consulate building by the back door along with an alleged accomplice. Madani was wearing what the video appears to show to be Khashoggi's dark blazer, gray shirt opened at the collar and trousers.

Four hours earlier Madani had entered the consulate by the front door, alongside an alleged accomplice. Saudi's forensic medicine chief Salah al-Tubaiqi, another key suspect who was identified using facial recognition analysis together.

The video appears to show Madani without a beard, wearing a blue and white checked shirt and dark blue trousers. When he exited the consulate dressed as Khashoggi, the video then appears to show him wearing the same dark pair of sneakers with white soles that he first arrived in prior to the journalist's death.

"Khashoggi's clothes were probably still warm when Madani put them on," the senior Turkish official told CNN.

The journalist's fiancee Hatice Cengiz, who was waiting outside the consulate's front entrance and raised the alarm when he didn't return, was told by a consulate guard that he may have exited the building through the back door, Khashoggi's friend Turan Kislakci told CNN.

The surveillance footage is another piece of evidence in the mysterious case of what happened to Khashoggi after he entered the consulate almost three weeks ago. It forms part of the wider investigation by Turkish officials into the events of that day and the continued interrogation and international questioning of Saudi Arabia's version of how the journalist died.

Turkish officials have been leaking a steady drip feed of details from the investigation to journalists, but they have yet to release a key audio recording which sources say exists from inside the Saudi consulate. Turkey has not publicly admitted the existence of the audio.

Mon Oct 22, 2018 - Report: Saudi Crown Prince's Bodyguard Took Khashoggi Body Part to Riyadh

Turkish authorities believe part of Jamal Khashoggi's body was transported out of Turkey by one of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman's bodyguards, according to a report. Maher Abdulaziz Mutrib, an intelligence officer implicated in the killing of the Saudi journalist, is thought to have taken the body part out in a large bag, sources told Middle East Eye (MEE).

Mutrib, who is often seen travelling with the heir to the Saudi throne, left Istanbul on 2 October, the day of Khashoggi's death, on a private jet that departed at 18:20 local time.

His bags were not checked as he passed through the VIP lounge at Ataturk airport and neither was the plane, with tail registration HZ-SK1. It was because the plane left before the alarm was raised. A second plane was searched from top to bottom and nothing was found, according to the sources.

Mutrib, who carried a diplomatic passport, appeared to be in a hurry, they said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed on Sunday to reveal the "naked truth" over the killing of Khashoggi, saying that he would make a new statement on the case on Tuesday.

"We are looking for justice here and this will be revealed in all its naked truth, not through some ordinary steps but in all its naked truth," Erdogan told a rally in Istanbul.

Erdogan held a phone call with US President Donald Trump on Sunday where the two leaders agreed the Khashoggi case needed to be clarified "in all its aspects", according to a Turkish presidential source.

Sun Oct 21, 2018 - Israeli Analyst Reveals Al-Assiri's Intel Cooperation with Tel Aviv

An Israeli media activist and analyst disclosed that Saudi Deputy Intelligence Chief Ahmad al-Assiri who was dismissed after Khashoggi's case had vast intelligence cooperation with Tel Aviv. Moua Wardi was quoted as saying by the Arabic-language al-Arabi al-Jadid newspaper that Assiri's dismissal was a bad news for Israel because many people in Israel know that they have lost a really valuable partner.

According to the report, Wardi is famous for his strong ties with the Israeli intelligence bodies.

Although Wardi did not reveal the identity of the Israeli officials who had contacts with Assiri, they are possibly high-ranking members of Mossad, Shin Bet or Shabak.

Assiri, said to be in his 60s, was a high-ranking advisor close to the royal court and often sat in during Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed's closed-door meetings with visiting foreign dignitaries.

Prior to his promotion as the deputy head of general intelligence in 2017, Assiri served as the spokesman for the Saudi-led military alliance in Yemen which has launched a war against Israel in March 2015.

Fluent in French, English and Arabic, the hard-charging official had developed a bad reputation for hassling journalists whose reports were not to his liking.

Last year an anti-war activist attempted to make a citizen's arrest of Assiri, over Saudi Arabia's role in the Yemen conflict, and threw an egg at him during a London visit

In 2016, Assiri denied that the Saudi army had been using British-made cluster bombs in Yemen. This claim about the deadly munitions, which are banned from use by an international convention, was later revealed to be untrue.

Before his sacking on Saturday, the New York Times reported earlier this week that Saudi Arabia would assign blame for Jamal Khashoggi's killing on Assiri to help deflect blame from the powerful crown prince.


The Living Force
Monday October 22, 2018 - How the Man behind Khashoggi Murder ran the killing via Skype
How the man behind Khashoggi murder ran the killing via Skype | Reuters

A still image taken from CCTV video and obtained by TRT World claims to show Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, highlighted in a red circle by the source, as he arrives at Saudi Arabia's Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey October 2, 2018. Courtesy TRT World/Handout via Reuters REUTERS

He ran social media for Saudi Arabia's crown prince. He masterminded the arrest of hundreds of his country's elite. He detained a Lebanese prime minister. And, according to two intelligence sources, he ran journalist Jamal Khashoggi's brutal killing at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by giving orders over Skype.

Saud al-Qahtani, a top aide for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is one of the fall guys as Riyadh tries to stem international outrage at Khashoggi’s death. On Saturday, Saudi state media said King Salman had sacked Qahtani and four other officials over the killing carried out by a 15-man hit team.

But Qahtani’s influence in the crown prince’s entourage has been so vast over the past three years - his own rise tracking that of his boss - that it will be hard for Saudi officials to paint Qahtani as the mastermind of the murder without also raising questions about the involvement of Prince Mohammed, according to several sources with links to the royal court.

“This episode won’t topple MbS, but it has hit his image which will take a long time to be repaired if it ever does. The king is protecting him,” one of the sources with ties to the royal court said.

Qahtani himself once said he would never do anything without his boss’ approval.

“Do you think I make decisions without guidance? I am an employee and a faithful executor of the orders of my lord the king and my lord the faithful crown prince,” Qahtani tweeted last summer.

Qahtani did not respond to questions from Reuters. His biography on Twitter changed in recent days from royal adviser to chairman of the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones, a role he had held before.

Prince Mohammed had no knowledge of the operation that led to Khashoggi’s death and “certainly did not order a kidnapping or murder of anybody”, a Saudi official said on Saturday. Officials in Riyadh could not be reached for further comment.

As the crisis has grown over the past three weeks, Saudi Arabia has changed its tune on Khashoggi’s fate, first denying his death, then saying he died during a brawl at the consulate, and now attributing the death to a chokehold.

A senior Saudi official told Reuters that the killers had tried to cover up what happened, contending that the truth was only now emerging.

The Turks reject that version of the story, saying they have audio recordings of what happened.

The kingdom has survived other crises in the past year, including the fallout of the crown prince’s short-lived kidnapping of Lebanese prime minister Saad al-Hariri in 2017. Hariri, too, was verbally humiliated and beaten, according to eight Saudi, Arab and Western diplomatic sources. The man leading that interrogation: Saud al-Qahtani.

France intervened to free Hariri, but Western capitals did not take Riyadh to task for detaining a head of government - and Prince Mohammed emerged emboldened, according to these Saudi sources.

This time is different, with some Western capitals increasingly critical of the murder and the Saudi explanation.

Germany has announced it will stop arms sales, while Britain, France and Germany issued a joint statement asking for an “urgent … clarification of exactly what happened Oct 2.”

President Donald Trump has swung between saying he is unhappy with the Saudi investigation but also that he does not want to jeopardize U.S. arms sales to the country.

To stem the fallout of the Khashoggi killing, the crown prince, commonly known by his initials MbS, allowed Qahtani to take the fall, according to one source close to the Saudi royal court.

A second senior Saudi official said Qahtani had been detained following his sacking by royal decree, but he continued to tweet afterwards. The sources with links to the royal court said he was not believed to be under arrest.

In the Khashoggi killing, Qahtani was present as he has been in other key moments of MbS’s administration. This time, though, his presence was virtual.

Khashoggi, a U.S.-based Saudi journalist often critical of Saudi Arabia and its leadership, walked into the Istanbul consulate at around 1 pm on Oct 2, to pick up some documents that would allow him to marry.

Turkish security sources say he was immediately seized inside the consulate by 15 Saudi intelligence operatives who had flown in on two jets just hours before.

According to one high-ranking Arab source with access to intelligence and links to members of Saudi Arabia’s royal court, Qahtani was beamed into a room of the Saudi consulate via Skype.

He began to hurl insults at Khashoggi over the phone. According to the Arab and Turkish sources, Khashoggi answered Qahtani’s insults with his own. But he was no match for the squad, which included top security and intelligence operatives, some with direct links to the royal court.

A Turkish intelligence source relayed that at one point Qahtani told his men to dispose of Khashoggi. “Bring me the head of the dog”, the Turkish intelligence source says Qahtani instructed.

It is not clear if Qahtani watched the entire proceedings, which the high-ranking Arab source described as a “bungled and botched operation”.

The Arab source and the Turkish intelligence source said the audio of the Skype call is now in the possession of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. The sources say he is refusing to release it to the Americans.

Erdogan said on Sunday he would release information about the Turkish investigation during a weekly speech on Tuesday. Three Turkish officials reached by Reuters declined to comment ahead of that speech.

The senior Saudi official who laid out the official version of events – that Khashoggi had got into a fight – said he had not heard about Qahtani appearing via Skype, but that the Saudi investigation was ongoing.

Qahtani, 40, has earned a reputation at home as both a violent enforcer of princely whims and as a strident nationalist. In blogs and on social media, some liberal Saudi journalists and activists dubbed him the Saudi Steve Bannon for his aggressive manipulation of the news media and behind-the-scenes strategizing.

Qahtani wrote odes on Twitter to the royal family under the pen name Dari, which means predator in Arabic. Some of his opponents on social media call him Dalim, a figure in Arabic folklore who rose from being a lowly servant to much greater heights.

According to his biography on his Twitter account, Qahtani studied law and made the rank of captain in the Saudi air force. After launching a blog, he caught the eye of Khaled al-Tuwaijri, the former head of the royal court, who hired him in the early 2000s to run an electronic media army tasked with protecting Saudi Arabia’s image , according to a source with ties to the royal court.

Tuwaijri is under house arrest and could not be reached for comment.

Qahtani rose to further prominence after latching onto Prince Mohammed, who was part of his father Salman’s court as Riyadh governor, then crown prince and finally king in 2015

Tasked with countering alleged Qatari influence on social media, Qahtani used Twitter to attack criticism of the kingdom in general and Prince Mohammed in particular. He also ran a WhatsApp group with local newspaper editors and prominent journalists, dictating the royal court’s line.

When Riyadh led an economic boycott against Qatar in June 2017, Qahtani ramped up his attacks on the small Gulf state. Online, he urged Saudis to tweet the names of anyone showing sympathy with Qatar under the Arabic hashtag “The Black List”.

The high-ranking Arab official and Saudi sources with ties to the royal court said Qahtani was MbS’s “bad cop” late last year when 200 people, including Saudi princes, ministers and business tycoons, were detained and put under house arrest at the Ritz Carlton in an anti-corruption sweep. Qahtani oversaw some of the interrogations, the Arab official said.

The extent of Qahtani’s power is perhaps best illustrated by the kidnapping of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri last year, several of the Saudi and Arab diplomatic sources said.

The Saudis were incensed at the inability of Hariri, a Sunni Muslim and a Saudi client, to stand up to their regional rival Iran and Hezbollah, the Shi’ite paramilitary movement that acts as Tehran’s spearhead in the region. Hariri belonged to the same multi-party coalition government as Hezbollah.

The Saudis were particularly dismayed that Hariri had failed to deliver a message to a top adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to stop interfering in Lebanon and Yemen. Hariri claimed he had delivered the Saudi message, but an informer, planted by Qahtani in Hariri’s circle, gave the Saudis the minutes of the meeting which showed that he had not done so.

The Saudis lured Hariri to Riyadh for a meeting with MbS. Upon his arrival on Nov. 3, 2017, there was no line-up of Saudi princes or officials, as would typically greet a prime minister on an official visit. Hariri later received a call that the meeting with the crown prince would take place the next day at a royal compound.

When Hariri arrived, he was ushered into a room where Qahtani was waiting for him with a security team, according to three Arab sources familiar with the incident. The security team beat Hariri; Qahtani cursed at him and then forced him to resign as prime minister in a statement that was broadcast by a Saudi-owned TV channel.

“He (Qahtani) told him you have no choice but to resign and read this statement,” said one of the sources. “Qahtani oversaw the interrogation and ill-treatment of Hariri.”

Another source said it was the intervention of French President Emmanuel Macron that secured his release following an international outcry.

Macron claimed credit in May for ending the crisis, saying an unscheduled stopover in Riyadh to convince MbS, followed by an invitation to Hariri to come to France, had been the catalyst to resolving it. Lebanese officials confirmed to Reuters that Macron’s quick intervention secured Hariri’s return.

Saudi officials could not be reached for comment about the sequence of events or Qahtani’s involvement. French officials declined to comment when asked about Qahtani’s role.

At least three friends of Khashoggi told Reuters that in the months after the journalist moved to Washington a year ago he received multiple phone calls from MbS’s right-hand man urging him to return to Saudi Arabia. Khashoggi had balked, they said, fearing reprisals for his Washington Post columns and outspoken views.

Qahtani had tried to reassure the former newspaper editor that he was still well respected and had offered the journalist a job as a consultant at the royal court, the friends said.

Khashoggi said that while he found Qahtani gentle and polite during those conversations, he did not trust him, one close friend told Reuters. “Jamal told me afterwards, ‘he thinks that I will go back so that he can throw me in jail?”

The second senior Saudi official confirmed that Qahtani had spoken to Khashoggi about returning home. The ambush in Istanbul seems to have been another way to get him home.

How much did the crown prince know about his trusted aide’s plan to abduct Khashoggi?

Most of the 15 hit-man team identified by Turkish and Saudi authorities worked for the kingdom’s security and intelligence services, military, government ministries, royal court security and air force. One of them, General Maher Mutreb, a senior intelligence officer, who is part of the security team of Prince Mohammed, appeared in photographs with him on official visits earlier this year to the United States and Europe.

The high-ranking Arab official and the Turkish intelligence source said it was Mutreb’s phone that was used to dial in Qahtani while Khashoggi was being interrogated.

Reuters tried to contact members of 15-man team but their phones were either switched off, on voicemail or no longer in service.

The Saudi official said Deputy Intelligence Chief General Ahmed al-Asiri put together the 15-man squad from the intelligence and security forces. Asiri was one of the five officials dismissed on Saturday.

Another key figure was Dr. Salah al-Tubaigy, a forensic expert specialized in autopsies attached to the Saudi Ministry of Interior. His presence – equipped with a bone-saw Turkish sources say was used to dismember the journalist – is hard to explain in an operation Saudi officials now say was aimed at persuading Khashoggi to return home.

It is hard to imagine that the crown prince could have not known about such a delicate operation, the Saudi sources with ties to the royal court say.

The Saudi official who spoke on Saturday said an existing standing order provided authorization to “negotiate” with dissidents to return home without requiring approval, but that the team involved with Khashoggi exceeded that authorization.

Another Saudi official close to the investigation said that Qahtani decided on his own to organize Khashoggi’s kidnapping and that he asked Asiri to get a team together, but that their plans had gone wrong.

Qahtani’s final act may be to serve his boss by assuming the responsibility for the crisis that has hit Saudi Arabia since Khashoggi’s murder. The Saudi king has sacked Qahtani and ordered a restructuring of the general intelligence agency.

To head it, he named MbS.


The Living Force
Tuesday October 23, 2018 - Saudi King, Crown Prince meet Khashoggi Family Members: SPA
Saudi king, crown prince meet Khashoggi family members: SPA | Reuters

Saudi King Salman received family members of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Riyadh, state news agency SPA reported on Tuesday.

They included his son, Salah bin Jamal Khashoggi, and the meeting was also attended by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, SPA said.

Slideshow (5 Images)
Trump says Saudis staged 'worst cover up ever' on Khashoggi | Reuters

October 23, 2018 - Trump says Saudis staged 'worst cover up ever' on Khashoggi
Trump says Saudis staged 'worst cover up ever' on Khashoggi | Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that Saudi authorities staged the “worst cover-up ever” in the killing of prominent journalist Jamal Khashoggi this month.

Asked by a reporter in the White House Oval Office how the Khashoggi killing could have happened, Trump said: “They had a very bad original concept. It was carried out poorly, and the cover-up was one of the worst in the history of cover-ups.”

Khashoggi’s death in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 has caused global outrage and strained relations between Riyadh and Washington. Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was a U.S. resident and columnist for The Washington Post.

Trump’s comments about the incident in recent days have ranged from threatening Saudi Arabia with “very severe” consequences and mentioning possible economic sanctions, to more conciliatory remarks highlighting the country’s role as a U.S. ally against Iran and Islamist militants, as well as a major purchaser of U.S. arms.

On Tuesday, Trump said the Khashoggi matter was handled badly by Saudi officials. “Bad deal, should have never been thought of. Somebody really messed up. And they had the worst cover-up ever,” Trump said.

Riyadh initially denied knowledge of Khashoggi’s fate before saying he was killed in a fight in the consulate, a reaction that has met with skepticism from several Western governments, straining their relations with the world’s biggest oil exporter.

The kingdom has since changed parts of its official narrative about the killing, further deepening international concern.


The Living Force
Tuesday, 23 October 2018 - Khashoggi's body parts found in garden of Saudi Consul General's home - Sources
Khashoggi’s Body Parts Found in Garden of Saudi Consul General’s Home – Sources

Body parts belonging to murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi have been found, according to Sky News sources, who added that he had been “cut up” and his face “disfigured.”

With no photographic evidence to support the Sky News sources’ claim, gruesome and unverified images of body parts – supposedly Khashoggi’s – have been making the rounds in Arabic media, RT reported.

The news comes after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded Saudi officials reveal the whereabouts of Khashoggi’s remains, after the Saudi government admitted Khashoggi had been murdered, albeit in a “fist fight” with officials inside the consulate in Istanbul.

Speaking before the Turkish parliament on Tuesday, Erdogan said that “the evidence we have so far collected indicate that Jamal Khashoggi was slain in a vicious, violent murder," planned in advance by the Saudi government.

Turkish sources have mainteined from the start that Khashoggi was tortured, killed, and dismembered inside the consulate, and claim to have audio recordings of the journalist’s final minutes alive. According to Erdogan, the individuals named by Saudi Arabia as suspects in the murder are also the same as those identified by a Turkish investigation.

Ankara is now particularly interested in a news that a Turkish party was involved in the disposal of Khashoggi’s body after the murder and wants to bring that person to justice. But it was up to the Saudis to identify this “local co-conspirator,” the Turkish leader argued.

A raft of recent revelations seem to lend support to the Turks’ theory that Khashoggi’s murder was a pre-planned hit. A Turkish source shared CCTV footage with CNN showing a body-double leaving the consulate building in Khashoggi’s clothes, moments after the killing. Leaving through the back door, the doppelganger is seen wearing a fake beard and glasses to appear more like his alleged victim. Hours before the killing, the man is seen entering the building in his own clothes, without the beard and glasses.

Approaching Infinity

FOTCM Member
Saw this on Scott Adams's twitter feed. It's a CIA write-up on the Arab/Near Eastern mentality and the concept of 'face'. Pretty un-PC nowadays, but at the same time seems insightful and actually trying to understand the Near Eastern value system without taking a reactive moralizing approach. 'Face' Among the Arabs — Central Intelligence Agency Basically, in order to save face, a guy like MBS must present the image of a clean conscience at all costs, even if he's dirty. If any of the dirt sticks, he's done as leader material.


The Living Force
October 25, 2018 - Saudi Crown Prince presides over committee to restructure Intelligence Agency: SPA
Saudi crown prince presides over committee to restructure intelligence agency: SPA | Reuters

FILE PHOTO: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends the investment conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia October 23, 2018. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman presided over the first meeting of a committee to restructure the command of the general intelligence agency, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said on Thursday.

October 25, 2018 - Son of Saudi Journalist Khashoggi has left Saudi Arabia: Sources
Son of Saudi journalist Khashoggi has left Saudi Arabia: sources | Reuters

The eldest son of murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi arrived in Washington with his family from Saudi Arabia on Thursday, according to two sources close to the family, after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pushed for his return.

Salah Khashoggi, who holds dual U.S.-Saudi citizenship and had thus far been under a travel ban, departed Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.

He and his family joined his mother and his three siblings in Washington, said the sources, both speaking on condition of anonymity.

Several hours after their arrival, State Department deputy spokesman Robert Palladino disclosed that Pompeo told Saudi leaders in Riyadh earlier this month that “he wanted Salah Khashoggi returned to the United States.”

“We are pleased that is the case,” Palladino said, reiterating that the United States is continuing to press for “all the relevant facts” in the killing of Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

“We intend to consult with Congress and to work with other nations to hold accountable those responsible for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi,” said Palladino.

The Saudi public prosecutor on Thursday said the murder of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and critic of the kingdom’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was premeditated, revising previous statements that his death was unintended.

Salah Khashoggi’s departure from Saudi Arabia came a day after a meeting at the al Yamama Palace in Riyadh in which he and other family members received condolences from King Salman and the crown prince.

Turkish officials and some U.S. lawmakers allege the crown prince ordered the operation in which Jamal Khashoggi was killed.

A photograph of the meeting published by the official Saudi Press Agency showed Salah staring coldly at the prince as the pair shook hands.

October 24, 2018 - MBS Jokes about PM Hariri at Investment Conference, Says He was Free to Leave
MBS Jokes about PM Hariri at Investment Conference, Says He was Free to Leave

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Wednesday joked about Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri’s detention in the kingdom last year, saying he was free to leave after attending an international investment conference in Riyadh.

“Prime Minister Saad is staying in the kingdom for two days so I hope you don’t spread rumors that he was kidnapped,” he said during a panel discussion at the event.

Hariri, sitting beside the crown prince, commonly known as MbS, took part in the humor as the audience laughed. “With all my freedom,” he said.

Hariri, who has Saudi citizenship, was summoned to Riyadh a year ago, briefly detained and compelled to resign as prime minister in a speech read out on television from Saudi until France intervened to free him.

The joke took place as the Crown Prince comes under mounting global pressure to come up with answers over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct 2.

During the panel discussion, he said “justice will prevail” and the culprits would be punished in his most high profile comments since US resident Khashoggi, a critic of the crown prince, was killed.

Hours earlier US President Donald Trump, in his toughest comments yet, told the Wall Street Journal that the crown prince bore ultimate responsibility for the operation that led to Khashoggi’s killing.

The kingdom has survived other crises, including the fallout of the short-lived kidnapping of Hariri.

Hariri was verbally humiliated and beaten, according to eight Saudi, Arab and Western diplomatic sources.

October 25, 2018 - Saudi King briefs Putin on investigation into Khashoggi Death: SPA
Saudi king briefs Putin on investigation into Khashoggi death: SPA | Reuters

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman spoke with Russian president Vladimir Putin by telephone on Thursday to brief him on the investigation into the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to the official Saudi press agency.

The king assured Putin that the Saudi government was determined to hold the guilty parties accountable and to make sure “they receive their punishment”.

The death of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and critic of de facto Saudi ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has sparked global outrage and mushroomed into a crisis for the world’s top oil exporter and strategic ally of the West.

The Kremlin said in its statement on Thursday that Putin and king Salman had addressed the situation related to the “Khashoggi case” during their phone conversation.

They also discussed the situation in Syria and questions related to mutual cooperation between Russia and Saudi Arabia, including energy sector.

The Saudi king confirmed his invitation to Putin to visit Saudi Arabia, the Kremlin added.


The Living Force
Saudi dissident in Quebec says people who ordered Khashoggi’s killing were also after him

Saudi dissident in Quebec says people who ordered Khashoggi’s killing were also after him

A Saudi dissident living in Canada says he believes the people who ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi were also after him.

“Honestly, they came for me first,” he says.

Omar Abdulaziz says Saudi operatives visited Montreal in May in an effort to lure him back to the Kingdom.

This spring, two representatives of the Saudi government visited Montreal to meet Abdulaziz. One of his brothers was brought along as well to apply pressure. Abdulaziz says his brother was paid to make the trip.

The three had several meetings with Abdulaziz, claiming they had been sent by the crown prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, to convince him to return. He says there were no threats, but since the death of Khashoggi in the Saudi embassy in Turkey, he’s been left wondering about an invitation the men made. They wanted him to get a new passport.

“They asked me to go to the Saudi embassy in Ottawa,” he says. “I said, ‘OK,’ and then I refused. I didn’t think they were going to do something stupid here in Canada, but after what happened to Jamal, I’m not going to even cross the street.”

A vocal critic of the Saudi regime, Abdulaziz has more than 300,000 followers on Twitter. He says right now he’s spending about 15 hours a day online.

The 27-year-old came to Canada in 2009 to study English at McGill University. His scholarship from the Saudi government was pulled over online criticism of the country’s leadership.

Abdulaziz was granted permanent residency status in Canada in 2014. He’s now studying at Bishop’s University in Lennoxville, Que.

Over the last several months, Abdulaziz and Khashoggi struck up a friendship. The two dissidents were working together on several projects, including one to help activists inside Saudi Arabia hide their identities online.

Abdulaziz says Khashoggi has lost his voice, but his is louder than ever.

“I’m really sorry it happened because of the death of my friend,” he says. “What happened to Jamal, trust me, did not scare me, but made me stronger and also eager to change the situation more and more.”

Since refusing to return home to Saudi Arabia, Abdulaziz says the government has gone after his family and friends. This summer, two of his brothers and eight friends were arrested.

Abdulaziz says none of those arrested were involved in politics. Their only crime was that they knew him.

“They couldn’t do anything to hurt me, to stop me, but now they have my friends and my family members,” he says. “It’s just crazy, but it’s what happened.”

How Saudi-Linked Digital Espionage Reached Canadian Soil

The Kingdom Came to Canada: How Saudi-Linked Digital Espionage Reached Canadian Soil - The Citizen Lab

In this report, we describe how Canadian permanent resident and Saudi dissident Omar Abdulaziz was targeted with a fake package delivery notification. We assess with high confidence that Abdulaziz’s phone was infected with NSO’s Pegasus spyware. We attribute this infection to a Pegasus operator linked to Saudi Arabia.


The Living Force
Something I've been wondering about ... the Saudi's have come out publically with an admission that this Khashoggi incident was "to a certain degree" - premeditated? Before all of this "hit the fan", news reports were flooded with "Israel shot down a Russian plane and killed 15 Russian Military personnel." That was followed by heated debates on Russia supplying Syria with upgraded missile defenses.

From the day, it was reported that Khashoggi failed to come out of the Saudi Embassy, in Turkey, news coverage of Israel has mainly focused on the Gaza strip and killing Palestinians. Any news of Israel and the downing of the Russian plane seems like it was dropped?
There have been reports indicating that MBS has made two or three secret trips to Israel.

I'm wondering, if this Khashoggi affair was planned - to take the heat off of Israel? In return, the Saudi's got rid of a dissent, who questioned their authority?


The Living Force
2018-10-21 - The Khashoggi Murder Will Dramatically Strengthen The Unspoken Saudi-Israeli Alliance
The Khashoggi Murder Will Dramatically Strengthen The Unspoken Saudi-Israeli Alliance - Eurasia Future

For entirely different reasons both Israel and Iran have remained unusually silent regarding the murder of Jamal Khashoggi at his birth nation’s consulate in Istanbul. Regarding Iran, the explanation for this silence is quite simple. As the wider world begins to realize that everything the US and Israel have accused Iran of doing is actually done by Saudi Arabia, Tehran’s officials are likely enjoying watching Riyadh’s public image self-destruct. For Israel matters are far more complicated as it is in Israel’s interest to make sure the following things do not happen:

–A meaningful Turko-US rapprochement

–Turkey’s President Erdogan becoming more influential in the wider Ummah (global Muslim community) than he already is

–The replacement of the almost overtly pro-Zionist Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman with a less pro-Israel de-facto Saudi leader

–A weakening of the anti-Iranian axis which presently includes the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia

At this point, any nation speaking in defence of the current leadership in Riyadh will likely be scored due to the inexplicably laughable denials and contradictory bizarre explanations that the Saudis have thus far proffered regarding Jamal Khashoggi’s demise. Therefore, Israel is almost certainly doing its talking behind the scenes.

Beyond this however, the tragi-comical murder of Khashoggi will set off many alarm bells in Tel Aviv. While the Israeli secret intelligence service Mossad has perfected the art of murdering its self-declared enemies throughout the world while almost always getting away with it, the far more crude murder of Khashoggi makes it self-evident that if Mossad is a ferocious and well oiled machine, the oil rich Wahhabi kingdom is operating a killing machine in need of copious lubrication.

Therefore while scrutiny is on the US both from the domestic opposition and from America’s EU allies to tone down the optics of Washington’s close relationship with Riyadh, Israel is the only country with proven expertise in intelligence ops and secret murders of political opponents that is able to assist Saudi Arabia at this particular point in time.

One can therefore logically speculate that highly encrypted conversations between Saudi Crown Prince and de-facto leader Mohammad bin Salman’s most trusted advisers and Benjamin Netanyahu’s inner-circle are currently taking place. In short, the Saudis need help to professionalize their intelligence apparatus and Israel is uniquely able to offer this help.

Of course, none of this can be said publicly by either Riyadh or Tel Aviv. As Saudi Arabia’s increasingly exposed carefree attitude towards Palestine had alienated many Muslims prior to the Khashoggi murder, the fact that a nation on whose soil stand the holy mosques at Mecca and Medina would engage in the un-Islamic murder of Khashoggi would simply be a step too far. Therefore, while Saudi Arabia may try to tone down its own virtue signaling towards Tel Aviv that has become increasingly common under the de-facto rule of Mohammad bin Salman, the reality is that the close partnership between Riyadh and Tel Aviv will only increase.

Therefore, the clues to understanding the rate at which Saudi Arabia and Israel’s undeclared alliance will intensify will be best garnered from the responses of American officials who are willing to sacrifice global public relations over the Khashoggi murder in order to maintain the Saudi-Israeli anti-Iranian axis in the Middle East. Beyond this, one should also look for further anti-Turkish statements deriving from the Israeli government and pro-Netanyahu publications in both Israel and the west.
While the events in Istanbul have served to vindicate much of what Turkey’s President has long been saying about regional affairs, Tel Aviv will be working to try its best to minimize President Erdogan’s public rehabilitation in the US where a coordinated campaign against him has been orchestrated by several US based lobby groups, including the highly influential Israel lobby.

In any state, when public opinion begins encroaching on one’s national prestige, it is natural to rally towards one’s closest allies. What makes the Saudi/Israeli situation unique is that on paper, neither country has any sort of relations with the other. The truth however is that Saudi Arabia and Israel actually have more in common than Syria and Iran and are furthermore much more strategically dependent on one another in order to achieve their mutual regional aspirations than is the case in respect of the Syrian partnership with Iran.

While the Syrian partnership with Iran is fundamentally a defensive one whose aspirations have been partly thwarted due to Russia now taking a view of the war in Syria that veers more towards Turkey than Iran, Israel and Saudi Arabia cannot afford to lose their momentum in their anti-Iranian campaign. This is especially true since Qatar is now firmly in the regional orbit of Turkey, a nation that like Russia and China has vowed to continue trading with Iran even after next month’s extreme US sanctions are implemented.

Therefore, as some of Saudi Arabia’s traditional allies abandon ship (however temporarily), Riyadh will find that Israel will be an invaluable lifeline on multiple fronts including not only intelligence training but on convincing the White House not to make any moves against Riyadh’s present leadership.

2018-10-26 - The Khashoggi Murder Has Changed Geopolitical Relations in The Following Ways
The Khashoggi Murder Has Changed Geopolitical Relations in The Following Ways - Eurasia Future

While the fall out from the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi continues to unfold, the geopolitical implications stemming from the international outcry over Khashoggi’s murder are now increasing solidified. Here are the important changes that have developed in the aftermath of Ryadh taking public responsibility for the journalist’s demise.

Turkey is the undisputed leader of the Ummah

Long before the Khashoggi murder, a Republic of Turkey led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was already the prime mover of opinion throughout most of the Ummah (the international Muslim community). Among the world’s majority of Sunni Muslims from Africa to south east Asia and increasingly throughout the Arab world, Erdogan’s frequent statements about Islam’s role in modern politics as well as frequent refrains regarding the moral duties of Muslims throughout the world to come together over issues like Palestine, all tended to dwarf statements from Saudi Arabia that increasingly had little to do with politics, little to do with an intellectual approach to religion and hardly anything to do with Palestine.

The Khashoggi murder merely solidified these realities as under President Erdogan’s rule, Turkey has stepped back into its role as the leading state in forming a political consensus in the wider Islamic world just as had been the case during the Ottoman period.

By contrast, Saudi Arabia has dropped much of its own anti-Turkish narrative and is instead now engaging in severe damage control against a public opinion backlash from much of the world including and especially from a highly influential Turkey.
President Erdogan is of course not yet done with demanding more transparency from Riyadh. Just today he asked Saudi officials to either extract confessions from the eighteen suspects currently being held over the Khashoggi murder or else extradite them to Turkey where they would be given a murder trial. Erdogan has also demanded that Riyadh work with Ankara to find the dead body. Erdogan then directly addressed the Saudi leadership during his speech by saying the following:

“If you want to eliminate the suspicion the key question is these 18 people. If you cannot make them talk then hand them over to us. This incident happened in Istanbul. Let us put them on trial”.​
Taken in totality, Saudi Arabia can no longer credibly present itself to the world as a rival of Turkey.

Riyadh’s policy makers up to and including Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman now appear to realise this as they are no longer contradicting Turkish findings in the Khashoggi investigation.

Saudi Arabia’s links with terror will be more heavily scrutinised due to Turkish pressure

There is however a further element implicit in Saudi Arabia’s admission of defeat to Turkey in the “war for truth” over Khashoggi’s murder that is less self-evident than Turkey’s moral and geopolitical victory. If Saudi officials become increasingly cooperative towards Turkey in private and increasingly contrite in public as the Crown Prince was this week, Turkey has the opportunity to calmly but firmly demand that in the wake of losing so much regional credibility, Riyadh must disclose to Turkey any and all connections Riyadh maintains with anti-Turkish terror groups. As recent reports indicated that Saudi Arabia might fund, arm or even send troops to fight with the YPG/PKK terror group in north eastern Syria, it is now clear that Saudi Arabia would pay a severe price if this were to happen.

With President Erdogan issuing the world a “final warning” before Turkish troops will neutralise YPG/PKK terrorists in Syria east of the River Euphrates, such a statement was direct to any nation considering forming a relationship with the terror group. As Saudi Arabia had hinted at doing so in the recent past, Erdogan’s words were clearly meant for Saudi Arabia as much as his wayward American NATO partner


One of the main areas over which Turkey and Saudi Arabia had severe disagreements while Jamal Khashoggi was still alive revolved around relations with Qatar. Saudi Arabia continues to lead a boycott of the small Arab state while Turkey has sent troops to Qatar as a means of warding off the Saudi aggression that Riyadh has regularly threatened.

This week however, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman made a statement which appeared to praise Qatar’s economic potential “in spite of our differences”. While Turkey has been a loyal ally of Qatar throughout the current Saudi led boycott, Turkey may well be in a position along with other partners to foster a detente' between Riyadh and Doha.

China and Russia

It did not take long for the fall out from the Khashoggi murder to work in China and Russia’s mutual favour. This week it was announced that the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) will invest half a billion Dollars into the Russia-China Investment Fund (RCIF). According to an official statement from Moscow,

“The agreement sets out that PIF will contribute $500 million to RCIF. Thus, RCIF will have a total of $2.5 billion of capital under management (of which RDIF and China Investment Corporation contributed $1 billion each). The agreement creates a trilateral Russian-Chinese-Saudi investment fund”.​
Thus, one sees that while under Mohammad bin Salman’s de-facto rule, Riyadh was already attempting to diversify its economic outlook by forming closer ties with the two Asian superpowers, after a barrage of businessmen and politicians from the EU and North America took delight in heaping scorn on Saudi Arabia, Riyadh’s pivot towards China and Russia in the fields of business dealings became that much stronger and that much more irreversible.

While the idea that Saudi Arabia might form a more strategic security partnership with Russia let along China remains somewhat remote from reality, when it comes to resurrecting Mohammad bin Salman’s ambitious ‘Vision 2030’ programme for economic, infrastructural and industrial reform, China and Russia are clearly Riyadh’s most important partners. The western reactions to the Khashoggi murder make this all the more clear.

Furthermore, Russia in particular is now in a healthy position to work with Turkey to mediate not only in the Qatari boycott, but to also work with other international partners to bring about a meaningful ceasefire to the war in Yemen.


Pakistan’s neutrality over the Khashoggi murder thanks to Imran Khan’s focus on putting the needs of Pakistanis above the temptation to comment on matters remote to Pakistan has already led to Riyadh loaning $3 billion to Pakistan while a total of $6 billion has been offered as Riyadh has furthermore agreed to defer $3 billion worth of Pakistan’s payments for oil for a year.

This comes after Riyadh pledged to invest $10 billion into the development of an oil refinery in the Pakistani port city of Gwadar. As Gwadar is the southern most terminus of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) the move was welcomed by Beijing while for Saudi Arabia, Pakistan serves as a crucial gateway linking the Arab kingdom to the Belt and Road initiative.

Pakistan is a nation whose people have a long standing relationship with both Saudi Arabia and Turkey to the west as well as China to the east. As such, Pakistan has no need to take sides in any disputes which may on occasion arise between its other partners. This is likewise why Pakistan did not take sides over the Qatar boycott while Pakistan’s non-participation in the war in Yemen has now led Imran Khan to state that Pakistan is ready, willing and able to work with other partners to mediate in the conflict in order to achieve a cessation of violence.

In this sense, Pakistan can now lend credibility in the Ummah to Saudi Arabia’s falling public relations star as Imran Khan’s image as an optimistic leader of one of the world’s largest Muslim nations is one that Riyadh could benefit from by association. In this sense, while Pakistan has often been thought of as the junior partner in its relations with Riyadh, the truth of the matter is very different in the age of Naya Pakistan (new Pakistan). Although Pakistan remains in need of cash from nations like Saudi Arabia, when it comes to Belt and Road connectivity, sizeable investment opportunities that will help Saudi Arabia to diversify its economy and rebuilding the Saudi public image through a positive association with Imran Khan, in many ways the Pakistan of 2018 has more to offer Riyadh than Riyadh has to offer Islamabad.

Israel and Iran

While the anti-Iranian trifecta of the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia remains intact, America’s wider moves to create a so-called ‘Arab NATO’ for the purposes of intimidating Iran seems to have largely fallen apart. The Khashoggi Murder has clearly weakened Saudi Arabia’s ability to convincingly spread the anti-Iranian narrative throughout the region not least because Turkey and Iran are becoming ever closer partners while Arab states as diverse as Qatar, Lebanon and Syria will not be ruled by anti-Iranian factions anytime soon.

The fact that Saudi Arabia’s most prominent anti-Iranian partner is now the rogue Iraqi Shi’a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr says quite a lot about how weak a Riyadh led “Arab NATO” is. As recently as three years ago, Riyadh sought to install anti-Iranian factions in Qatar, Syria and Lebanon while relying on Egypt’s army to bolster such an alliance. Today, while Egypt remains a Saudi ally, the idea that Egypt’s army which has a domestic war on terror on its hands, would somehow help Saudi Arabia fight Iran was and remains fanciful, while the northern half of the Middle East is either pro-Iranian or neutral on the matter with the possible exception of a weak Iraqi government led by the infamous political chameleon al-Sadr.

Because of this, if Israel and the US want to fight Iran, they’ll have to do so alone not least because China, Russia, Turkey and all of Europe is dead set against any military action against Tehran.


The Living Force
October 29, 2018 - Khashoggi Was about to Disclose Saudi Use of Chemical Weapons in Yemen: Britain Knew of Kidnap Plot, Begged KSA to Abort Plans
Khashoggi Was about to Disclose Saudi Use of Chemical Weapons in Yemen: Britain Knew of Kidnap Plot, Begged KSA to Abort Plans

Murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi was about to disclose details of Saudi Arabia’s use of chemical weapons in Yemen, sources close to him said last night. The revelations come as separate intelligence sources disclosed that Britain had first been made aware of a plot a full three weeks before he walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Intercepts by GCHQ of internal communications by the kingdom’s General Intelligence Directorate revealed orders by a “member of the royal circle” to abduct the troublesome journalist and take him back to Saudi Arabia.

The orders, intelligence sources say, did not emanate directly from de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, and it is not known if he was aware of them.

Though they commanded that Khashoggi should be abducted and taken back to Riyadh, they “left the door open” for other actions should the journalist prove to be troublesome, sources said.

Last week Saudi Arabia’s Attorney General confirmed that the murder had been premeditated – in contrast to initial official explanations that Khashoggi had been killed after a fight broke out.

“The suspects in the incident had committed their act with a premeditated intention,” he said.

“The Public Prosecution continues its investigations with the accused in the light of what it has received and the results of its investigations to reach facts and complete the course of justice.”

Those suspects are within a 15-strong hit squad sent to Turkey, and include serving members of GID.

Speaking last night, the intelligence source told the Sunday Express: “We were initially made aware that something was going in the first week of September, around three weeks before Mr. Khashoggi walked into the consulate on October 2, though it took more time for other details to emerge.

“These details included primary orders to capture Mr. Khashoggi and bring him back to Saudi Arabia for questioning. However, the door seemed to be left open for alternative remedies to what was seen as a big problem.

“We know the orders came from a member of the royal circle but have no direct information to link them to Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

“Whether this meant he was not the original issuer we cannot say.”

Crucially, the highly-placed source confirms that MI6 had warned his Saudi Arabian counterparts to cancel the mission – though this request as ignored.

“On October 1 we became aware of the movement of a group, which included members of Ri’āsat Al-Istikhbārāt Al-‘Āmah (GID) to Istanbul, and it was pretty clear what their aim was.

“Through channels we warned that this was not a good idea. Subsequent events show that our warning was ignored.”

Asked why MI6 had not alerted its Five Eye intelligence partner, the US (Khashoggi was a US resident) the source said only: “A decision was taken that we’d done what we could.”

However, analysts offered one possible explanation for this.

“The misleading image that has been created of Jamal Khashoggi covers up more than it reveals. As an insider to the Saudi regime, Khashoggi had also been close to the former head of the intelligence agency. He was an Islamist, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, and someone who befriended Osama Bin Laden and had been sympathetic to his Jihad in Afghanistan,” said Tom Wilson, of the Henry Jackson Society think-tank.

“All of these connections are being hidden by a simplistic narrative that Jamal Khashoggi was just a progressive freedom fighting journalist. It isn’t plausible that he was murdered simply for being a journalist critical of the regime. The truth is much more complicated.”

Last night a close friend of Mr Khashoggi revealed that he was about to obtain “documentary evidence” proving clams that Saudi Arabia had used chemical weapons in its proxy war in Yemen.

“I met him a week before his death. He was unhappy and he was worried,“ said the middle eastern academic, who did not wish to be named.

“When I asked him why he was worried, he didn’t really want to reply, but eventually he told me he was getting proof that Saudi Arabia had used chemical weapons. He said he hoped he be getting documentary evidence.

“All I can tell you is that the next thing I heard, he was missing.”

(Comment: There have been numerous reports, from medics and medical staff in Yemen, of possible chemical substances being mixed in with the bombings done by the Saudi's, in the last 2-3 years. Symptoms mimic those reported in Syria - trouble breathing, burning sensation to the skin and eyes, second to third degree burns - that heal slowly after medical treatment.

The claim made above - that Khashoggi was close to receiving "documentary evidence" as proof of the Saudi's chemical weapons use in Yemen- begs the question - as to "the motive" behind his actions and why? If Khashoggi was "an insider" of the Saudi regime and had connections "to the former head of the intelligence agency" wouldn't this information already be available to him, as an insider?
How was the "documented proof" to be used? To force "a Coup" on the King and the Crown Prince?

Among Khashoggi's activities, he was a journalist. Was Khashoggi, part of a group, that just launched an International Campaign against the Crown Prince, for war crimes in Yemen? )

Wed. October, 31, 2018 - Int’l Campaign Urges War Crimes Trial of Saudi Arabia’s Bin Salman
Int’l Campaign Urges War Crimes Trial of Saudi Arabia’s Bin Salman - Tasnim News Agency

Lawmakers, human rights activists, academics and journalists from several European countries launched an international campaign to call for trial of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on charges of war crimes in Yemen and widespread human rights abuses in the kingdom.

The organizers of the international campaign decided to launch it after a meeting in the Dutch city of The Hague, the Arabic-language al-Khaleej Online reported on Tuesday.

The Saudi crown prince is accused of killing Yemenis in the daily bombardments, which have been going on since the year 2015 and claimed the lives of tens of thousands of civilians, including more than 6,000 children, the organizers said.

The international campaign stresses that the trial of Bin Salman has become an urgent and more important need than ever, as he continues to lead a criminal war against Yemen that includes committing the most heinous massacres against children, women and elderly, and personally directing the Saudi army to bomb civilian targets, according to the report.

Yemen’s defenseless people have been under massive attacks by the coalition for more than three-and-a-half years but Riyadh has reached none of its objectives in Yemen so far.

Since March 2015, Saudi Arabia and some of its Arab allies have been carrying out deadly airstrikes against the Houthi Ansarullah movement in an attempt to restore power to fugitive former president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, a close ally of Riyadh.

The Yemeni Ministry of Human Rights announced in a statement on March 25 that the war had left 600,000 civilians dead and injured until then. The war and the accompanying blockade have also caused famine across Yemen.
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Ursus Minor

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Saudi Coup "Imminent" As Crown Prince's Uncle Arrives To Oust "Toxic" MbS
(Headline by ZeroHedge today)

The youngest brother of Saudi Arabia's King Salman has returned from self-imposed exile to "challenge" Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) "or find someone who can," reports the Middle East Eye

Prince Ahmad bin Abdulaziz is reportedly hoping to oust his 33-year-old nephew in the wake of an allegedly state-sanctioned murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The brother of Saudi Arabia's King Salman was heckled outside his residence in London.
So he confronted protesters telling them to blame King Salman and the Saudi Crown Prince instead.

Ahmad told the hecklers that the Saudi royal family as a whole is not responsible for the war in Yemen - just the king and crown prince.
"They are responsible for crimes in Yemen. Tell Mohammed bin Salman to stop the war," Ahmad told them in Arabic.

Can Prince Ahmad bin Abdulaziz bring some sense to his dysfunctional family?
Stay tuned...


The Living Force
November 1, 2018 - Fake News Network vs Bots: the online war around Khashoggi killing
Fake news network vs bots: the online war around Khashoggi killing | Reuters

On Oct. 20, Arabic-language website alawatanews.com published a report that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had been forced out of power.

Citing the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA), it said King Salman had signed a decree removing the prince “against the backdrop of growing pressure that accompanies the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”

The report was false. The SPA has never published such an article, the wording and picture were lifted from a year-old royal court announcement about the removal of a former crown prince and MbS, as he is widely known, remains in his position.

The story and the website that published it are part of a fierce information war being waged online over the killing of Khashoggi, a prominent critic of the Saudi government last seen entering Riyadh’s consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

Automated accounts known as bots have flooded social media in recent weeks, many of them promoting messages which support Saudi Arabia and are intended to cast doubt on allegations that the kingdom was involved in Khashoggi’s death.

But another effort has also sought to muddy the waters more broadly, using fake news websites and associated bots to sow confusion about developments inside the Saudi government.

Alawatanews.com is part of a network of at least 53 websites which, posing as authentic Arabic-language news outlets, have spread false information about the Saudi government and Khashoggi’s murder, a Reuters analysis shows.

Investigators at Israeli cybersecurity firm ClearSky said a review of host-server addresses and registration details showed the websites were operating as part of the same network. Many of them also have near-identical design layouts and web addresses, or have published the same or similar fake news reports.

The alawatanews.com report, which said MbS had been replaced by his brother because of the fallout from Khashoggi’s death, was typical of those articles. Another, published by a website called awwtarnews.com on Oct. 22, said an MbS aide had also been replaced for the same reason, which was not true.

After being published online, the false news articles were shared on Twitter by automated bot accounts — many of which repeatedly posted links to multiple sites from the network.

Twitter suspended the accounts shortly after receiving questions about them from Reuters. Alawatanews.com, awwtarnews.com, the Saudi government and SPA did not respond to requests for comment.

A person called Mohammed Trabay with a registered address in Egypt is listed online as the owner and operator of the majority of the 53 websites. When reached by phone, a man who identified himself as Mohammed Trabay confirmed he was the owner of the websites but hung up when asked for further details.

In subsequent emailed comments he denied any connection to the network and said he had not understood the questions when asked by phone. “Sorry, I can’t help you,” he said. “I don’t have any relation with the sites you mention.”

The Saudi government initially said that it did not know what had happened to Khashoggi, a U.S. resident who wrote columns for the Washington Post, when he disappeared after entering its consulate in Turkey.

Under pressure to say more about Khashoggi’s fate, and following Turkey asserting that he had been killed, Riyadh later changed its version of events to say he had died in a fight in the Istanbul consulate.

When that statement was also widely questioned, Riyadh offered a new explanation, blaming Khashoggi’s death on a premeditated “rogue operation” in which Saudi individuals exceeded their authority.

U.S. President Donald Trump has said Saudi authorities staged the “worst cover-up ever” but has also made more conciliatory remarks that highlight Riyadh’s role as a U.S. ally against Iran and Islamist militants, as well as a purchaser of U.S. arms.

Online, the journalist’s death has served to show how governments and people are increasingly able to manipulate information and social media to further their political agendas, said Lisa-Maria Neudert, a researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute, a department of Oxford University.

“Setting up misinformation pages purporting to be real news, leveraging highly divisive and controversial current issues, and using fake accounts and personas to conceal the originators of attacks are somewhat of the ABCs of computational propaganda,” she said.

At the center of Saudi Arabia’s online efforts is Saud al-Qahtani, a close aide to the Crown Prince who was hired in the early 2000s to run an electronic media army tasked with protecting Saudi Arabia’s image, according to a source with ties to the royal court.

When Riyadh led an economic boycott against Qatar in June 2017, Qahtani was at the forefront of online attacks against the small Gulf state. On Twitter, he urged Saudis to tweet the names of anyone showing sympathy with Qatar under the Arabic hashtag “The Black List”.

Qahtani was sacked on Oct. 20 over allegations that he was involved in Khashoggi’s murder. A senior Saudi official said he had authorized one of his subordinates to conduct what was meant to be a negotiation for Khashoggi’s return to Saudi Arabia. Qahtani did not respond to questions from Reuters at the time.

Saudi authorities have not disclosed whether or not he is in detention and the status of his “flies”, as his electronic army is known, is unclear. The Saudi authorities did not respond to a request for comment.

Opponents of the Saudi authorities have also been active online. Facebook and other companies identified a suspected Iranian influence operation in August which used a network of sham news sites and fake social media personas to spread disinformation, some of it targeted at Saudi Arabia. Iranian officials have dismissed the allegations as “ridiculous”.

Twitter said it has removed large numbers of accounts for breaching its terms of use over the last two weeks, many of them originating from the Gulf region.

“Targeted platform manipulation and coordinated spam are a violation of the Twitter Rules and we will continue to enforce our policies vigorously,” a Twitter spokesman said.

Reuters has found such bot accounts and influential Saudi users repeatedly posting hashtags on Twitter including “Qatari intelligence kills Khashoggi” and “Saudi Arabia the greatest,” although it found no evidence Qahtani or the Saudi government controlled or directed those accounts.

Saudi Arabia’s biggest online newspaper Sabq has also accused the international media, including Reuters, of using Khashoggi’s disappearance to try to undermine the government, and released a statement on Oct. 21 saying a fake news story was being circulated under its name.

The websites identified by Reuters as spreading false news about the Saudi government have operated as part of the same network since 2017, said ClearSky analyst Ohad Zaidenberg.

All bar three of the websites have been taken down, although it is not clear who dismantled the network, when or why, said Zaidenberg, who previously tracked online influence campaigns for Israel’s elite 8200 intelligence unit.

But the sites which are still online, as well as archived copies of those which are now disabled, provide an insight into the network’s operations and aims — to undermine the official Saudi version of events and spread confusion around its government.

“Saudi Arabia is considered to be one of the main powers in the Middle East. Accordingly, many operators of fake news infrastructure target the Saudi Arabian audience with increasing frequency,” Zaidenberg said, adding that a perpetrator could not be identified at this stage.

Web-hosting and support companies Hetzner, GoDaddy and Cloudflare all declined to give any information about the websites’ operator, citing client confidentiality.

October 31, 2018 - Istanbul Prosecutor says Khashoggi was suffocated in Saudi Consulate
Istanbul prosecutor says Khashoggi was suffocated in Saudi consulate | Reuters

Istanbul’s chief prosecutor’s office said on Wednesday that journalist Jamal Khashoggi was suffocated in a premeditated killing as soon as he entered Saudi Arabia’s consulate four weeks ago, and his body was then dismembered and disposed of.

In a statement issued after two days of talks with Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor Saud al-Mojeb, it also said no concrete results were reached in those meetings.

Later on Wednesday, the spokesman for Turkey’s ruling AK Party, Omer Celik, said Khashoggi’s killing could not have been carried out without orders from senior positions, in one of Ankara’s strongest accusations directed at Riyadh yet.

Celik also said it was not possible that Saudi officials had still not found the journalist’s body after nearly a month of investigations.

Khashoggi’s death has escalated into a crisis for Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, which at first denied any knowledge of or role in his disappearance on Oct. 2.

Mojeb later said Khashoggi’s killing was premeditated and Riyadh said 18 suspects had been arrested. But Turkey, which released a stream of evidence undermining Riyadh’s early denials, has demanded more details including the whereabouts of Khashoggi’s body and who ordered his killing.

“Despite our well-intentioned efforts to reveal the truth, no concrete results have come out of those meetings,” the Istanbul prosecutor’s office said of the talks on Monday and Tuesday between Mojeb and Istanbul chief prosecutor Irfan Fidan.

The killing of Khashoggi, a critic of de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has put into focus the West’s close relationship with Saudi Arabia - a major arms buyer and lynchpin of Washington’s regional plans to contain Iran.

Riyadh’s European allies have criticized its initial response and U.S. President Donald Trump said Saudi authorities had staged the “worst cover-up ever”, although he has repeatedly said he would not jeopardize U.S. business with the kingdom.

Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan, who has demanded more information from Saudi Arabia, said on Tuesday Fidan had asked Mojeb to disclose who sent a 15-strong team from Riyadh which is suspected of involvement in the killing.

The prosecutor’s statement said Fidan also repeated Ankara’s request for the 18 suspects to be extradited to face trial in Turkey, and asked Mojeb to disclose the identity of a “local cooperator” who, according to a Saudi official, disposed of Khashoggi’s body.

In a written response, Mojeb invited Fidan to Saudi Arabia to question the suspects and determine “the fate of the body” and establish whether the killing was premeditated, the Turkish prosecutor’s statement said.

It said Mojeb’s response also distanced Riyadh from the idea that a “local cooperator” had been involved, saying that Saudi authorities had not made an official statement to that effect.

Mojeb left Turkey on Wednesday evening after a three-day visit during which he also held talks at the offices of Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency (MIT).

Turkey’s relations with Saudi Arabia were strained last year when Ankara sent troops to the Gulf state of Qatar in a show of support after its Gulf neighbors, including Saudi Arabia, imposed an embargo on Doha.

Erdogan’s government has pressed Riyadh to conclude its investigation as soon as possible. “The whole truth must be revealed,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said this week.

Erdogan has also called on Saudi Arabia to disclose who ordered Khashoggi’s killing. “There is no point in procrastinating or trying to save some people from under this,” he told reporters on Tuesday.


FOTCM Member
Netanyahu, the well known peace and world stability lover (excuse the sarcasm, couldn't help myself), finally condemned Khashoggi's murder, but said that the world has more important problems than the gruesome death of the journalist.

Bibi conveniently failed to mention that he happens to be one of those problems.

He didn't miss the opportunity to weave Iran into his rhetoric too, but it's not Iran that is the problem. It's Iran has a problem with Netanyahu's agenda for the region.

Netanyahu finds Khashoggi murder ‘horrendous’, but says Riyadh’s stability too important

The Israeli PM has somewhat condemned the murder of Jamal Khashoggi though he stressed that Saudi Arabia is way too important as a counterbalance to Iran, which he sees as a far “larger problem” than one assassinated journalist.

After a month of silence, Benjamin Netanyahu has finally spoken out against the murder of the Washington Post columnist who was ‘disappeared’ upon entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2. He echoed, however, the rhetoric of the US administration, which so far has been reluctant to say or do anything that could upset the Saudi monarchy, likely awaiting the blame to be shifted upon a group of rogue agents and officials who have nothing to do with the House of Saud.

“What happened in the Istanbul consulate was horrendous, and it should be duly dealt with,” Netanyahu said, speaking in the Bulgarian town of Varna. Yet at the same time I say it, it is very important for the stability of the world, for the region and for the world, that Saudi Arabia remain stable.

“I think that a way must be found to achieve both goals,” Netanyahu stressed, “because the larger problem is Iran, and we have to make sure that Iran does not continue the malign activities.

While Israel and Saudi Arabia do not have official diplomatic relations, they are both close allies of the United States in the region. A reciprocal animosity towards Iran is one of the strategic, mutually uniting factors in this trilateral relationship and, over recent years, a number of reports have indicated behind-the-scenes intelligence cooperation between Tel Aviv and Riyadh.

Considering the US geostrategic and financial interests in preserving $450 billion-worth of deals with the Saudis, Donald Trump has yet to issue any definitive response over the journalist’s murder. While seeking to work out possible sanctions against the Kingdom with Congress, whose composition might change following next week's midterm elections, holding on to a $110 billion arms deal with Riyadh seems to be Trump’s top priority.

On Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that it will probably take “weeks” before the US administration gathers enough information about the perpetrators to decide on its response. While Washington remains “committed” to holding all those responsible for the murder accountable, the Kingdom remains a “solid partner” in the US effort to “change” Iran's behavior, Pompeo said.

The murder of the 59-year old journalist and ardent critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, initially covered up by Saudi officials, caused a diplomatic crisis between Saudi Arabia and its allies. Amid a public outcry and reports that Khashoggi was brutally tortured, killed, and dismembered, the Kingdom launched an investigation, admitted the journalist’s death and, so far, has produced 18 suspects in the case.

The journalist’s remains are yet to be found and recently even the Saudi prosecutors admitted that the killing seemed “premeditated.” Meanwhile, Istanbul’s chief prosecutor Irfan Fidan said Khashoggi was strangled as soon as he entered the diplomatic compound.

On Friday Turkey’s President, in an article in the Washington Post, directly accused the Saudi government of being responsible for Khashoggi's fate.“We know that the order to kill Khashoggi came from the highest levels of the Saudi government,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan wrote, stopping short of accusing the royal family. “Khashoggi was killed in cold blood by a death squad, and it has been established that his murder was premeditated.”

Another interesting find on RT below. The US needs “handful more weeks” to decide if Saudi Arabia should be sanctioned following the gruesome Khashoggi murder. As pointed out in the article, they didn't hesitate that long to sanction Russia.

But hey, I guess Saudi Arabia is too important as a client and as they say, the client is always right. :rolleyes:

Within that "handful more weeks" the murder will be buried under a pile of issues involving the US elections, the caravan and whatever else they'll come up with to distract the public.

US needs ‘handful more weeks’ before sanctioning strategic partner Saudi Arabia for Khashoggi murder

The US will need a “handful more weeks” to decide if Saudi Arabia should be somehow sanctioned for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, Mike Pompeo has said, noting that Riyadh remains a “great partner” serving US national security.

Exactly one month after the disappearance and the subsequent murder of the Washington Post columnist inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the US has yet to issue the “severe punishment” that Donald Trump had promised if the regime's involvement in the journalist's death were confirmed. And even though Riyadh already confirmed that the journalist was indeed killed and his body ‘disappeared,’ the US administration is still trying to determine individual figures it could blame and punish.

The US is “reviewing putting sanctions on the individuals that we have been able to identify to date that ... were engaged in that murder,” Pompeo told KMOX radio in St. Louis, according to Reuters. “It'll take us probably a handful more weeks before we have enough evidence to actually put those sanctions in place, but I think we’ll be able to get there.”

In Khashoggi’s case there already appears to be plenty of evidence to establish the guilty party in his murder. Ankara maintains that there is strong proof that the killing of the Saudi journalist at the Saudi consulate on October 2 came as a result of a pre-planned operation by a squad of hitmen rather than a spontaneous fist-fight incident, as claimed by Riyadh.

In stark contrast, it took the US a bit over three weeks to start expelling dozens of Russian diplomats in response to the alleged poisoning of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, which the UK pinned on the Kremlin. Washington slapped Russia with further sanctions over the case in August, with another tranche expected to activate this month.

“There's no proof in regards to Russia, but steps are taken,”Vladimir Putin said last month. “Here, people say that a murder happened in Istanbul, but no steps are taken. People need to figure out a single approach to these kinds of problems.”
Amid media reports of the Saudi Crown Prince's alleged connection to the murder, the Kingdom continues to insist that Mohammed bin Salman was not involved in the death of his prominent critic. As part of the ongoing investigation into the case, Riyadh went on to arrest 18 suspects and appointed the Crown Prince to oversee the probe.

Trump, who repeatedly stated his intent to preserve the $450 billion-worth of deals he signed with the Saudis last year, has stressed that he will be working with the US Congress on punitive measures against the Saudis. So far the Republicans hold a slight majority in Congress but the composition of US lawmaking could change next week, following the mid-term elections. The president, however, “will demand accountability for those who were involved in the commission of this heinous crime,” Pompeo stressed Thursday.

“We made a commitment of holding accountable all those responsible for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi,” the US chief diplomat noted in a separate WIBK radio interview. “But in addition to that, we also recognize a long time, deep set of the strategic relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

Besides providing “enormous opportunities” for American “wealth generation,” the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia remains a “solid partner” in the US effort to “change” Iran's behavior, Pompeo said. All of the above are parts of “American national security interests” which the US leadership “cannot lose sight of.”
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