The crown prince of the Saudi Arabian throne, Mohamed bin Salmán -known as MBS-, the man empowered by his father King Salmán to handle the affairs of the kingdom, has proven to be inexperienced , clumsy and indolent of his mistakes.
But his ambition does not only have the economic strength of the world’s largest oil producer: US President Donald Trump has shown again that none of the excesses of the 33-year-old aristocrat seems too much to him, and on Wednesday 17, after endorsing in several ways to MBS after the last crime apparently committed under his orders, he insisted that his government will not “turn its back” on the Saudis because he needs them to “fight against terrorism” and because the kingdom has made “tremendous requests for 110 billion dollars “to US arms companies.
In the wake of the alleged murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Kashoggi, however, many entities on the planet are taking new steps that divorce the Saudi prince and further away from Trump, including some in sectors little prone to public displays of conflict.
Global business personalities, large multinational corporations, key financial institutions and even powerful lobbyists in Washington have announced their rejection of this crime, which is expressed in a distancing of mammoth financial projects and important contracts of the Saudi government.
This rare disposition not to put the money in front of elementary principles falls by surprise on the Saudi billionaires, accustomed to that nothing is beyond its capacity of purchase, and without a doubt it is more painful to them than the continuous denunciations of violations of human rights that are usually dedicated to civil organizations, international organizations and the European Union.
Death at the consulate
Saudi journalist Jamal Kashoggi – a critic of MBS – disappeared on October 2, after having entered the consulate of his country in Istanbul. He had been summoned at 1:00 PM to receive the certificate of marital status he needed to get married.
Kashoggi feared a deception and had asked his fiancee to give immediate notice if he did not report with her. According to the Turkish authorities, he was killed in the legation.
The indications that this occurred also reveal the operational neglect of those who are accustomed to the protection of full impunity. A special team of 15 Saudi secret agents arrived in Istanbul by air and went to the Consulate, without discretion and an hour before Kashoggi’s visit, at 12 noon; the non-Saudi staff was ordered to retire home; the security cameras recorded the victim’s entry but not his exit; the 15 men, on the other hand, were recorded when they left, three hours later.
And also, according to Turkish media, there is an audio recording in which torture is recorded – in which Kashoggi, among other things, cut off his fingers – that only lasted seven minutes before the subject was murdered by degüello. Then, following the leaks, they would have stripped his body to remove it from the place in pieces and make it disappear.
One version, offered by the official Turkish newspaper Sabah, is that the victim was carrying a watch connected to the Internet Apple Watch, which instantly transmitted what was being recorded to be stored in the cloud, where it could be found by local police despite that the Saudi agents discovered and cut this communication belatedly and tried to erase it.
The material has not been published, however, and it is speculated that the reason is that it did not originate in the Kashoggi clock but in hidden microphones, and that exhibiting it would compromise the Turkish secret services for spying on a foreign legation.
Against these accusations, Saudi Arabia assures that the journalist left the consulate in an unknown direction, but he has not provided the video recording that moment.
Although the Turkish police requested Saudi permission – indispensable for the diplomatic immunity – to enter the consular headquarters and the residence of the consul to investigate what happened, almost two weeks passed before it was granted and could only enter in the company of a Saudi team , on Monday, the 15th.
Excesses without punishment
In addition to the huge commercial, energy and strategic interests that the United States has in the Arab kingdom, for Donald Trump it is something personal: when he visited in May 2017, King Salmán and his son gave him the dream treatment of a monarch of the thousand and one nights, with lavish traditional ceremonies of robes and swords, in which he was the center of the show.
That movement won Trump’s sympathy for MBS and is perhaps his best move. Thanks to her, she has been able to overcome all the excesses committed since her old father ascended the throne and granted him the reins of power, in January 2015, despite the fact that the young man, then 29 years old, had never had diplomatic or administrative experience. .
En el plano exterior, MBS emprendió una política agresiva para ganar influencia regional: sus tropas invadieron Yemen, que sus aviones siguen bombardeando intensamente, provocando lo que la ONU describe como la mayor crisis humanitaria del momento, sin que haga retroceder a los rebeldes houthies; secuestró al primer ministro de Líbano Rafik Hariri y lo obligó a presentar su renuncia, aunque después tuvo que dejarlo ir y aceptar su regreso al puesto; ordenó la imposición de un bloqueo por tierra, mar y aire –que ya lleva un año- contra Catar, con el fin de forzarlo a someterse a sus dictados, abriendo un crisis diplomática que sostiene aunque representa un fracaso; ha abandonado la causa palestina para aliarse con Israel en contra de Irán; y los grupos armados fundamentalistas que patrocina han cometido grandes crímenes en Siria e Irak, y están siendo derrotados.
Internally, MBS has expanded its power and imposed its decisions through a broad spectrum of repressive measures, which have similarly been directed against traditional targets – feminists, human rights defenders, members of the Shia minority – against others totally unexpected, members of the privileged castes: princes and businessmen that could hinder their projects.
In spite of everything, with the support of Trump, London and Paris, it has not been difficult to ignore the denunciations of human rights violations that have presented agencies of the UN, the European Union and organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Save The Children, because nobody dares to accompany them with sanctions or any measure with material impact.
Davos of the desert
The murder of a dissident journalist in foreign territory, taking advantage of diplomatic immunity, is generating a response that he did not expect, and where he will resent it.
MBS has proposed to invest the oil wealth to prevent the times when it runs out, making the kingdom a great financial and technological power, following in the footsteps of Dubai but with greater resources and potential.
After years of designing its program, Saudi Arabia is going to carry out from Tuesday 23 to Thursday 25 in its capital, Riyadh, its great Future Investment Initiative conference, which its publicists describe with the label “Davos del Desierto” , in reference to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, which every year brings together all the figures that matter in global capitalism.
Now they have a huge problem: several of them, some key ones, have been hanging over their suspicions or conviction that the murder of Kashoggi is a state crime. The holders of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have already said that they will not attend the event, as well as the presidents of digital industry giants such as Google and Uber, banks and financiers, such as JPMorgan, BlackRock, MasterCard, Societé Generale, BNP Paribas and BlackStone, in addition to the Ford Motor body, the Virgin Group and reference media in the business world such as The Economist, The New York Times and Financial Times.
Hemorrhage of lobbyists
In Washington, DC, a city where people and companies charge fortunes to foreign countries to represent their interests before legislators and US officials, one of the most coveted clients is Saudi Arabia, with an annual investment of 6 million dollars in lobbying. This ensures that the big decision makers listen and take it into account.
But it has become toxic and several firms have begun to sever relations with the MBS realm. According to Bryant Harris, a specialist in lobbying groups in the Middle East, three of the eight offices working for the Royal House and the Saudi Foreign Ministry have announced the termination of their contracts with the Saudi monarchy: Glover Park Group (received 1 million 800 thousand dollars each year), BGR Government Affairs and Harbor Group (960 thousand dollars each).
The biggest beneficiary of the Saudi generosity, Qorvis (3 million 360 thousand dollars a year) transmitted to the specialized news agency Ad Age his concern about the absence of Kashoggi and assured that he was “following the events very closely”. “It remains to be seen” if Qorvis and other firms “determine that the inflow of cash is enough to offset the cost that keeping Riyadh as a customer can have on its public image,” Harris said.
In his analysis for the Middle East news portal Al-Monitor, this expert describes the events as “a hemorrhaging of Washington lobbyists” that “illustrates how toxic Saudi Arabia has become, even for an industry that has always been accustomed to represent to foreign dictators. ”
The aspiration of Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman is to make his kingdom a power with enormous influence, but this will have direct consequences in the opposite direction: “As investors continue to leave Saudi Arabia as a result of the Kashoggi scandal,” warns Harris “The defections of experienced lobbyists will make it more and more difficult to counteract the repercussions on their public and political image in the United States.”
Furthermore, to the greater dismay of MBS, while their instruments are weakening, there is an increase in the presence of their Qatari enemies in the most exclusive American political and economic circles, which as part of their efforts to combat the Saudi blockade, have raised their investment in lobbying up to 18.5 million dollars per year, three times more than Riad.
The small emirate of the Persian Gulf hired Stuart Jolly in early October, who has direct access to Donald Trump because he was the national field director of his presidential campaign in 2016. “The reaction against Saudi Arabia could become a bonus for Qatar” , concludes Harris.
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