Gwynne Dyer. Trail Times file

Gwynne Dyer. Trail Times file

Khashoggi and the gang who couldn’t shoot straight

If Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, were a burglar, he wouldn’t be George Clooney in “Ocean’s Eleven.” He’d be a cartoon burglar in a carnival mask and a top with black-and-white horizontal stripes, carrying a sack labelled “SWAG.”

He’s not a burglar, of course. He’s a murderer, and “MBS,” as he is universally known, was back in the news last Friday when the US government released a declassified assessment by US intelligence agencies confirming his responsibility for the murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

Donald Trump sat on the intelligence report, defended MBS, and said his own intelligence experts were wrong. But Khashoggi was working for the Washington Post when he was killed, and Joe Biden takes a dim view of foreign leaders murdering American journalists even if they aren’t citizens.

Biden didn’t just publish the report on Khashoggi’s murder. He ended US support for MBS’s foolish, futile war in Yemen, put US arms sales on hold, and refused to speak to the Crown Prince. (Biden finally called Saudi Arabia, but would only talk to MBS’s 85-year-old father, King Salman.)

So what should Biden do next about the Mad Killer of Riyadh? Nothing at all. Just give him enough rope, and he’ll hang himself. He’s wicked and ruthless, but he is also ignorant about how the rest of the world works, very arrogant, and quite stupid.

MBS sent a team of fifteen men – fifteen! – to Turkey on a private plane, bringing the tools to kill and dismember Khashoggi with them. Then they lured Khashoggi to the Saudi consulate to pick up some papers so he could marry his Turkish fiancée.

Wait a minute. MBS thought it would be a cool idea to kill Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in a country that is hostile to the Saudi regime? He sent seven members of his own personal security force as part of the team? And they didn’t even sweep the consulate for Turkish bugs in the room where they killed and dismembered Khashoggi?

It was amateur night for slow learners. The Turks had the whole story in 24 hours, with the Saudi regime retreating from one lie to another before blaming it on “rogue operators” three weeks later.

By then you’d think MBS would have seen the error of his ways. Next time he wants to kill a self-exiled Saudi critic of the regime, just get one of the intelligence attaches at the Saudi embassy there to hire a local hit-man.

But not our boy. Only two weeks later, while the Saudi regime is still denying the Khashoggi murder, MBS sends another Saudi hit team, perhaps including some of the same men, to Canada to kill another self-exiled critic of the regime, Dr. Saad al-Jabri.

Amateur night again. The novice assassins deny knowing one another, and are refused entry to Canada by immigration officials at the airport who find photos showing them together.

This attempted hit has never been officially confirmed, but a document published by Public Safety Canada on 7 August last year comes very close indeed. The fact that Prime Minister Trudeau was the first national leader who received the Turkish recordings of the Khashoggi murder to go public with them adds weight to the allegation.

MBS is frightening, but he’s really not very bright. And a Saudi leader that the US president won’t even talk to does not have a brilliant future.