The last anyone saw Jamal Khashoggi alive was when he entered the Saudi consulate in Turkey on October 2nd, 10 days ago. Leaks from the Turkish officials suggest that he was detained and killed shortly after entering the consulate.
The BBC reports that Turkish officials claim to have audio and video evidence proving that orders to kill Khashoggi came from the highest levels in Saudi Arabia. They are yet to release any evidence.
The Washington Post, the paper Jamal Khashoggi wrote for, reported Wednesday that US intelligence agencies had intercepted communications between Saudi officials. These intercepts suggested that Saudis wanted to bring Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia to detain him.
Leading up to the Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance, Trump had taken a tough line on Saudi Arabia. Amid rising oil prices, Trump accused Saudis of having a monopoly over oil prices.
On numerous occasions, he has asked OPEC countries to lower the oil prices. Even though, he said ‘OPEC countries’, the target of his ire was Saudi Arabia due to their sway over OPEC. But OPEC didn’t listen to him. The oil prices still rose.
As part of his negotiating tactic, he began talking about the role the United States plays to protect the oil supplies. In a tweet he sent out last month, he said that if not for the US military, the Middle-East would not be safe for long.
Then during his speech in Mississippi, talking about Saudi Arabia, he said that King Salman wouldn’t be in power if not for the support he receives from the United States. Saudi officials including the Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman said that Saudi Arabia wasn’t receiving any aid and that they were paying for the arms bought from the United States.
Saudis, of course, missed the point here. Trump did not mean that US soldiers were protecting the Royal Palace in Riyadh. He meant that without logistical support and intelligence sharing from the United States, the Saudi monarchy would not survive.
No one can deny the importance of American intelligence sharing to Saudi Arabia. After all, it was Jared Kushner who handed Muhammad bin Salman the sheet of paper with the names of his rivals, who MBS later purged during his alleged drive against overspending and corruption.
The intercepted communication between the Saudi officials planning to detain Jamal Khashoggi was diplomatically too important to be kept from the President. Plus, the fact that the report of this intercept was shared between different levels of the intelligence agencies shows that it wasn’t just archived but sent to relevant departments.
All that makes it unlikely that the President was uninformed on the plot by Saudis.
Still, he chose not to act. It follows that agencies did not contact Khashoggi about the threat he faced, perhaps because they were ordered not to. As wicked as it sounds, Trump might have let the Saudis carry out the plan only later to get them to agree his demands on the oil prices.
If Trump knew of the plot, then Jared Kushner knew it as well and the only reason Kushner would have kept his knowledge from his close friend Muhammad bin Salman is if there was something to be gained.
There is not only a financial side to oil prices, but there is also a political side as well. Trump plans to lift the federal ban on the use of ethanol blends of gasoline during the summertime to woo farmers ahead of the midterms. If he can get the oil prices down, it will benefit the farmers already hurting from low corn and soybean prices. It might provide them with temporary relief until Trump and China agree to a new deal.
This doesn’t have to be about oil prices.
After Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, King Salman refused to support any peace plan he put forth to resolve the Israel–Palestine dispute. Trump could use the Khashoggi incident to pressure Saudi Arabia into endorsing his peace plan for the region.
I am not saying that this is exactly what happened but there is little doubt that Trump knew about the Saudi plot to ‘detain‘ Khashoggi yet he chose not to derail it.