Khashoggi's Disapperance - Stuck between a Shiek and an Autocrat

Turkey and Saudi Arabia have been - and more or less still are - key allies of America in the tangled and torn world of Middle Eastern politics. But they have shifted in relative importance over the past year or so. Turkey’s relationship has steadily deteriorated under Erdogan who has been behaving like a more cautious Muslim version of Hugo Chavez, manipulating the (reasonably) democratic institutions of Turkey in order to assume an increasingly authoritarian control of his country. That has meant going against any sector he has deemed inconvenient.

Like Andrew Brunson, an American pastor who has reportedly lived for a number of years in the country and who was arrested last year on absurd charges and has been held as a pawn to be exchanged for exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gullen who resides in America and who is an opponent of Erdogan.

This is how a NATO ally should behave?

The problem is deeper, far deeper, than Erdogan's strongman ambitions. It has to do with Turkey's long and bloody history, including the much-lamented-by-Bin-Laden Ottoman Empire, the Armenian genocide, and Ataturk's remaking of the country on the ashes of the decrepit and collapsed sultanate, shortly after the end of WW I. That remaking provided a country that became a Western ally but often behaved more like a Latin American dictatorship that swayed between limited democratic rule and tanks once again rolling in streets. This was tolerated by America, just as in Latin America, because Turkey was anti-communist and geographically key to containing the communist advance in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Erdogan has essentially undercut the basis of America's relationship with Turkey. If it continued along the path it is taking it will become at best a neutral player. Unless it can rein in some of its ambitions for authoritarian rule, and more importantly, act as an ally with the Saudi's against Iranian hegemony in the region.

So, Brunson has been released and will be allowed to return back to America, but the charges against him - which are serious and could theoretically result in decades of prison time - will remain in place. What an act of generosity.

The Saudi's meanwhile find themselves in the middle of an international "scandale" with a journalist who happens to be related to a famous and notorious arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi who was definitely kidnapped and probably murdered by a Saudi team of agents who perhaps flubbed a rendition of Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul of all places.

As Matthew Continetti points out in the Washington Free Beacon while strong sanctions against the Saudis - perhaps even taking the rug out from under their armed forces which are useless without US and British management and maintenance as Senator Rand Paul has suggested - is more than understandable, a little transactional diplomacy may be in order.

No Saudis means more Iranian influence in the Middle East and likely more instability and chaos. And that takes closer to Israel deciding to defend itself.

By any means necessary. If you know what I mean.

Mohammed bin Salman (or MbS as he's known affectionately) has seized power and forged good relations with Trump. He's acting more like Erdogan however than a true reformer and we have to be cautious about allying with autocrats. However, a righteous round of tough sanctions risks turning Saudi Arabia into if not another Iraq, certainly a weak and divided state that is of little help in containing the Iranians.

This will take some skill from State and from Trump. Let's see how they do, and let's see how both Erdogan and MbS behave themselves. This will be a true affair international. And a rather dangerous one at that.

Posted by Keeley at October 12, 2018 4:25 PM
Comment #432820

Why is this even an article? You report a little news with few facts and no opinion, and add some right wing bull about things that have nothing to do with the issue at hand. This mess is occurring specifically because this administration is giving up on “diplomacy” in favor of transactional relations that benefit La Famiglia only.

Posted by: ohrealy at October 12, 2018 8:48 PM
Comment #432905

Top sources and amounts of U.S. petroleum imports (percent share of total), respective exports, and net imports, 2017 barrels per day:

  • Import sources ____ Gross imports _________________ Exports
  • Canada __________ 4.05 Million barrels/day (40%) ____ 0.87
  • Saudi Arabia ______ 0.96 Million barrels/day (9%) _____ less than 0.01
  • Mexico ___________ 0.68 Million barrels/day (7%) ____ 1.08

The top five destination countries of U.S. petroleum exports in 2017, export volume, and share of total petroleum exports:

  • Export-to-Nation ____ Export Volume __________ Percent of total petroleum exports
  • Mexico ____________ 1.08 Million barrels/day ___ 17%
  • Canada ____________ 0.87 Million barrels/day ___ 14%
  • China _____________ 0.45 Million barrels/day ___ 7%
  • Brazil _____________ 0.40 Million barrels/day ___ 6%
  • Japan _____________ 0.35 Million barrels/day ___ 5%


The U.S. is exporting 3.28 times more petroleum (in 2017) than it is imported from Saudi Arabia.
The U.S. is importing less than a tenth of the petroleum from Saudi Arabia than 10 years ago.
The U.S. can produce enough oil in the U.S., and/or import enough oil from other nations, to be self sufficient.
The U.S. was a net exporter of year 2011.
Therefore, the U.S. does not need Saudi Arabia’s oil.
Saudi Arabia can no longer have the U.S. over a barrel, despite Saudi Arabia threatening to raise prices on petroleum exports to the U.S., IF the U.S. places sanctions on Saudi Arabia for murdering Saudi Journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.

Posted by: d.a.n at October 15, 2018 8:59 AM
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