BEIRUT, Lebanon — This summer, Saudi Arabia promised the Trump administration $100 million for American efforts to stabilize areas in Syria liberated from the Islamic State.
That money landed in American accounts on Tuesday, the same day that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo landed in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, for discussions with the kingdom’s leaders about the fate of a missing Saudi dissident.
Securing the funding is a win for President Trump, who has complained about how much the United States spends abroad and has tried to get allies to foot more of the bill. But the timing of the money’s arrival raised eyebrows even among some of the bureaucrats whose programs will benefit from the influx of cash.
“The timing of this is no coincidence,” said an American official involved in Syria policy who spoke on condition of anonymity because this person was not authorized to speak to journalists. The official confirmed that the money arrived on Tuesday.
From the Middle East Eye
Middle East Eye publishes first details of audio tape acquired by Turkish investigators probing what happened to Saudi journalist
It took seven minutes for Jamal Khashoggi to die, a Turkish source who has listened in full to an audio recording of the Saudi journalist’s last moments told Middle East Eye.
Khashoggi was dragged from the consul-general’s office at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and onto the table of his study next door, the Turkish source said.
Horrendous screams were then heard by a witness downstairs, the source said.
READ MORE ►
“The consul himself was taken out of the room. There was no attempt to interrogate him. They had come to kill him,” the source told MEE.
The screaming stopped when Khashoggi – who was last seen entering the Saudi consulate on 2 October – was injected with an as yet unknown substance.
Salah Muhammad al-Tubaigy, who has been identified as the head of forensic evidence in the Saudi general security department, was one of the 15-member squad who arrived in Ankara earlier that day on a private jet.
Tubaigy began to cut Khashoggi’s body up on a table in the study while he was still alive, the Turkish source said.
The killing took seven minutes, the source said.
As he started to dismember the body, Tubaigy put on earphones and listened to music. He advised other members of the squad to do the same.
“When I do this job, I listen to music. You should do [that] too,” Tubaigy was recorded as saying, the source told MEE.
A three-minute version of the audio tape has been given to Turkish newspaper Sabah, but they have yet to release it.
A Turkish source told the New York Times that Tubaigy was equipped with a bone saw. He is listed as the president of the Saudi Fellowship of Forensic Pathology and a member of the Saudi Association for Forensic Pathology.
In 2014, London-based Saudi newspaper Asharaq al-Awsat interviewed Tubaigy about a mobile clinic that allows coroners to perform autopsies in seven minutes to determine the cause of death of Hajj pilgrims.
The newspaper reported that the mobile clinic was partly designed by Tubaigy and could be used in “security cases that requires pathologist intervention to perform an autopsy or examine a body at the place of a crime”.
These are the first details to emerge of the Saudi journalist’s killing. Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October to retrieve paperwork.
To date, Saudi officials have strongly denied any involvement in his disappearance and say that he left the consulate soon after arriving. However, they have not presented any evidence to corroborate their claim and say that video cameras at the consulate were not recording at the time.
Calls for credible investigation grow louder
On Tuesday, both US President Donald Trump and Mike Pompeo, his secretary of state, came out in support of Saudi officials’s denials they know anything about what happened to Khashoggi.
Trump tweeted that he spoke to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who “totally denied any knowledge of what took place” in Istanbul. Trump said MBS told him “that he has already started, and will rapidly expand, a full and complete investigation into this matter”.
On Monday, CNN reported that Saudi Arabia was preparing to release a report that would blame Khashoggi’s death on a botched interrogation.
That would be a sharp reversal of earlier statements in which Saudi officials said they had nothing to do with the journalist’s disappearance and said he left the Saudi consulate minutes after he first arrived on 2 October.
Khashoggi, a prominent journalist and columnist for the Washington Post, had been living in self-imposed exile in the US capital when he disappeared.
On Tuesday, Washington Post publisher and CEO Fred Ryan called for a “full and honest explanation” of Khashoggi’s disappearance.
“The Saudi government can no longer remain silent, and it is essential that our own government and others push harder for the truth,” Ryan said in a statement. “Until we have a full account and full accountability, it cannot be business as usual with the Saudi government.”
READ MORE ►
The United Nations human rights chief also called for diplomatic immunity to be lifted for officials who might be involved in Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Due to the seriousness of the case, the immunity generally accorded to diplomats “should be waived immediately”, Michelle Bachelet said.
This article is available on Middle East Eye French edition.
A Post Script
The latest investigative reporting by David D. Kirkpatrick, Malachy Browne, Ben Hubbard and David Botti of The New York Times finds, Suspects in Khashoggi Case Had Ties to Saudi Crown Prince. Tweets Mark Mazzetti, “The Times gathered more information about the suspects using facial recognition software, publicly available records, social media profiles, a database of Saudi cellphone numbers, Saudi news reports, leaked Saudi government documents.” As a result, “The alibi weakens further: The Saudi crown prince denies knowing anything about what happened to the missing journalist, but NYT reporters discovered that some of the team sent to deal with the journalist know the crown prince very well,” tweets Matt Purdy. Bellingcat says this is “A really important piece of open source investigation by the New York Times on the Jamal Khashoggi, showing the rogue assassins theory doesn’t stand up.”
And now, tweets Browne, “More details from WaPo linking suspects in #JamalKhashoggi disappearance to the crown prince. One of them – Alarifi – matches info Times received that he in MBS’s security detail.” The Washington Post team of Shane Harris, Erin Cunningham, Aaron C. Davis and Tamer El-Ghobashy report that suspects identified by Turkey are linked to Saudi security services. Tweets Aaron C. Davis, “Saudi Arabia’s ‘rogue killers’ include at least two men identified as working for Crown Prince MBS and one who traveled to the US for every Royal family visit since ‘15. Yet, Trump and Pompeo say they trust the Prince will conduct an honest investigation.”
And “This is really something. ‘(Turkish officials) also noted apparent Saudi attempts to scrub the scene by bringing in cleaning crews and repainting areas of the consulate. ‘People who have nothing to hide,’ one official said, ‘don’t behave like this.’” Anuj Chopra links to the story by Souad Mekhennet and Kareem Fahimat The Post, Turkey releases passport scans of men it says were involved in journalist’s killing.
Jessica Donati and Margherita Stancati of The Wall Street Journal report a similar finding in their coverage as Pompeo Seeks Answers Amid Crisis Over Missing Saudi Journalist. David Gauthier-Villars highlights, “Complicating investigators’s search inside the Saudi consulate: fresh coats of paint, Erdogan says.”
In an exclusive, David Hearst of the Middle East Eye reports that a Turkish source tells MEE, Jamal Khashoggi’s killing took seven minutes. “Horrific details on Khashoggi by @MiddleEastEye, much of which appears to be confirmed by @WSJ report,” tweets Sharon Weinberger. And be warned: As Ruairi Caseynotes, “The details in this are grotesque.”
Meanwhile, on the day Pompeo landed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia Delivers $100 Million Pledged to U.S., report Ben Hubbard, Anjali SinghviSuspects and Anjali Singhviof The New York Times. “Coincidence?” asks Michael Slackman. “Subtle,” as Mick Kreversays.
Speaking of Saudi money, it flows into Silicon Valley—and with it qualms, write Eliot Brown and Greg Bensinger of The Wall Street Journal, who point out, “The kingdom is now the largest single investor for U.S. startups, an unsettling fact for Silicon Valley.”
And lastly, some scoop from Theodoric Meyer at POLITICO: The Washington Post told Ed Rogers, a prominent Republican lobbyist, he’d lose his gig as a contributing opinion writer unless he stopped lobbying for Saudi Arabia.
Hijackers in the September 11 attacks. The hijackers in the September 11 attacks were 19 men affiliated with al-Qaeda. 15 of the 19 were citizens of Saudi Arabia, and the others were from the United Arab Emirates (2), Egypt, and Lebanon.
Let’s all Help Drain the Swamp
Every time we encounter political “Road Kill,” we stack it up, sort through it looking for the smoking guns and report the findings to our followers. In order to maintain and upgrade the Buzzard’s Blog, we are encouraging regular donations beginning with any amount. This is a labor of love. No money ends up in anyone’s pocket.