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Gresso • 6 months ago

What do you all think Erdogan's opening line of negotiation would be? Abandoning the Kurds in Syria? Or further, US support for destroying the YPG/J/PKK?

Pat Lang • 6 months ago

Oh, bullshit. The Saudis do not support the Kurds in Syria and the Americans are not sophisticated enough for such a deal.

David Habakkuk • 6 months ago


A very fine piece. I am waiting to see how this plays out, wit h a mixture of interest and fear.

The sheer stupidity of what MBS has done fascinates me. The inability to realise 1. that the MIT are rather good at ‘bugging’, 2. that Erdogan may calculate that his need for Saudi financial assistance is outweighed by his determination – which may also involve ‘need’ – to portray himself as the leader of the ‘Umma’, and 3. that people like Tom Friedman are happy to see Yemenis murdered on mass, but get a bit queasy when people like Khashoggi are.

This is a clear case of stupidity, but, as we have been learning, the ‘realist’ notion that one can interpret international politics in terms of reasonably ‘rational’ calculations of ‘national interest’ is complete BS: theories produced by intellectually lazy academics who want to avoid the messy business of attempting to understand how other societies, and indeed one’s own, actually work.

A further thought.

For very many years, the ‘ruling élites’ in Washington, as in London, have allowed themselves to be ‘played for suckers’, alike by the Saudis and the Israelis. Both have created situations in which there are very powerful concrete incentives for those who have gulled them to continue doing so.

A rather unsurprising result is that people like MBS and Netamyahu have got to used to thinking they can get away with anything.

A natural result has been massive ‘hubris.’

An equally unsurprising result is that this is in the process of leading to ‘nemesis.’

chris chuba • 6 months ago
"and 3. that people like Tom Friedman are happy to see Yemenis murdered on mass, but get a bit queasy when people like Khashoggi are."

This is so true. The sociopaths in the MSM only care when one of their own is put on the chopping block. I get ill watching these people smile as they interview 'experts' cheering on the Saudis on in Yemen. They are pleased by the more convoluted arguments because it makes them feel more intellectual.

I haven't seen Babbak post in ages, I hope he is doing okay.

Pat Lang • 6 months ago

I am puzzled by that as well. Babak, where are you?

Pat Lang • 6 months ago

As you know, the "nemesis" thing appeals to me.

FB Ali • 6 months ago

David Habakkuk's comment below illustrates the difficulty that Western observers have in understanding the thinking and actions of the Saudi rulers. They are essentially just glorified tribal chieftains, still stuck in their medieval ways. MbS wasn't "stupid" when he ordered the killing of Khashoggi, that is what a tribal chief does when a member of his tribe defies him. It was, for him, a 'normal' reaction. After all, he has been doing this kind of stuff in his kingdom for years (without any reaction from outside).

I'm quite sure he did realise that the consulate was bugged, and that it would be known that the Saudis had murdered Khashoggi. He just didn't care. Since he believed he had bought off Erdogan and the Western leaders, media, etc who mattered. While he was right in his expectation of the Western leaders' reactions, he misjudged Erdogan's reaction.

As DH has correctly surmised, Erdogan took advantage of this wonderful opportunity to turn on MbS, and cleverly ensured that Western leaders and media had to publicly react. I don't think Trump, Friedman, etc got "queasy" about the killing, they were pushed into having to take a stand.

The reason the ‘ruling élites’ in Washington, London etc have "allowed themselves to be ‘played for suckers’ by the Saudis" is because they've all been bought by the latter (Israel is a different case).

Col Lang is a very special case in that he resisted all their attempts to buy him, unlike all the other US military and political leaders he has mentioned in an earlier comment.

David Habakkuk • 6 months ago


Thanks for the explanation of how MBS and the Saudis think and act.

By trade I was a generalist current affairs/features producer, mainly in television but also – briefly but at a crucial time – in radio. As such, I acquired a deep belief in ‘local knowledge.’

So, I do not claim to have anything very deep in the way of an understanding of the Middle East, or Islamic societies in general, but think I can make reasonably accurate judgements as to who is, and is not, likely to have the kind of understanding which gives the more ignorant useful guidance.

As to one subject on which I have a large stock of ‘local knowledge’, it is the way that very many members of our current ‘élites’ in Britain can be successfully ‘taken for Charlies’ by people telling them what they want to hear.

Sometimes I call the trick ‘fool the stupid Sahib’, because I came across it in Kipling’s fictions, years before I had ample occasion to see it in action, both in the responses of colleagues to people from non-European societies, and also in their interactions with many in their own societies.

As a result, however, I also have an absorbing interest in moments when, as it were, those who have allowed themselves to be gulled wake up. (At that point, they not uncommonly blame those who they have allowed to delude them for their own stupidity in allowing themselves to be deluded.)

Also – quite inadvertently – I have become involved in studying both the ways in which assassination is used as a political instrument, and also the ways in which claims about assassinations are used as an ‘information operations’ instrument.

This has taught me interesting lessons about how far credulity can go.

And, here again, I have some relevant ‘local knowledge.’

Throughout my life, I have had some dealings with people like Christopher Steele, and can fill in the picture with what I have learnt from people close to me who have also had such dealings.

As I know a lot of the background rather well, I find it difficult to understand how Americans can be taken in by someone who is, quite patently, the worst kind of superannuated ‘Oxbridge’ student politician – all the more so, as I think that there is evidence suggesting that we cannot completely discount the possibility that, as an undergraduate, Steele was a ‘stool pigeon.’

Anyone who seriously believes that, if someone like Litvinenko is poisoned with polonium in London, the natural explanation is that Putin chose a particularly nasty form of assassination weapon, in my view has to be either a fool or a knave, or some combination of both.

Likewise, anyone who believes that the Russians had a covert programme to develop supertoxic ‘Novichoks’, and when they tried to use them, did not even manage to kill Sergei and Yulia Skripal, would not have been hired as a junior researcher, if I had had anything to do with it.

Having however – not through any enthusiasm for the subject – acquired some interest in assassinations, I find it difficult to understand by why MBS could not have worked out a way of getting rid of Khashoggi, without making it so gratuitously and disgustingly and brutal, and so obviously traceable to him.

I also think that an intelligent tribal leader, whose whole position depends upon being able to manipulate societies which are, to some extent, ‘post-tribal’, can be regarded as stupid, unless he has taken the trouble to acquire some understanding of the societies he is trying to manipulate.

This is a problem I encountered with Netanyahu, whom my ‘local knowledge’ better prepared me to understand, long before I found myself trying to make sense of MBS.

In relation to the former, while I am not stupid enough to think I can predict the future, I think it likely that the courses of action he and his ‘fellow travellers’ in Britain and also the United States have chosen are a total disaster for Israel, and for Jews worldwide, precisely in large measure because the implicit assumption is that the ‘goyim’ are fools whose gullibility can be exploited.

Part of the gullibility of people like Tom Friedman has related to a simple and very unpleasant fact that it is intolerable for them to face (for reasons I find it not so difficult to understand.)

A basic reality has always been that, whatever it did, the prospects for the long-term survival of a Jewish settler state in the contemporary Middle East would have to be questionable.

However, what Babak Makkinejad rightly calls the ‘secular cult of the Shoah’ has meant that Zionists have been able to exercise an enormous influence – if not indeed often control – over the massive power of the United States. And this has also been the case in Britain. As it happens, while our power is now very limited, the ability of corrupted British élites to collude with and further the interests of their fellows in the United States is not to be underestimated.

It is very difficult for many Zionists to comprehend that the kinds of power they have are acquired are not equipped to achieve what they want to achieve with them.

And the fact that the 'snake oil' which MBS was selling to people like Friedman appeared to hold out the prospect of a Sunni Islamic world which would both collaborate against Israel's enemies, and accept its existence, is I think crucial to understanding his gullibility. Whether others will remain as gullible I somewhat doubt.

I have gone on quite long enough, but I think that the emerging evidence is demonstrating that what appears to be a clear assumption by MBS that the way he has been ‘fawned upon’ by the likes of Tony Blair means that he can ‘saw up’ a columnist for the Washington Post with impunity is a very major error of judgement.

Others have noted the disappearance of Babak Makkinejad from these exchanges. Like you, I am one of the few ‘old lags’ remaining here from the opening days of SST. Also like you, I have often disagreed – sometimes violently – with him. But, I had got used to him as a ‘sparring partner’, and hope that his absence does not result from any misfortune having befallen him.

Kooshy • 6 months ago

“I find it difficult to understand by why MBS could not have worked out a way of getting rid of Khashoggi, without making it so gratuitously and disgustingly and brutal, and so obviously traceable to him.”

David- in Arab/Middle Eastern High elite mentality if a ruler is not overt and macho and brutal he is not manly and scary to make a sinking lessen. I believe MBS knew fully well what he was doing and how he wanted it to be done, as well as were he wanted it to be done, without fear if he became exposed ( he thought Americans and Israelites will protect him, which they are doing). He wanted this to be bold and an overt lessen to whomever is willing to challenge his authority now and, in the future, ( like overtly jailing his cousin princess in RC or kidnaping and forcing to resign a sovereign leader of third country, which he got away with both this incidents without any major setback to his status and power). In his mind, this wasn’t any bigger than capturing a prime minster of a third country and forcing him to resign, or jailing and beating Saudi royal officials in front of whole world, he is right this wasn’t any bigger than his past atrocities. But, unfortunate and stupid enough, he did this one a month too early, just before our highly divided election. Mr. Crown prince chop chop has made himself a tool to beat Mr. Trump and the crown prince Zizi Kushner. I guarantee no one in here, really gives a damn to what happened to Mr. Ghashoghchi, unfortunately this is not about him, or his human rights, this is all about our internal elections. Aside from that Mr. Erdo got lucky and received Mana from heavens, he is taking it all to the bank, milking the Americans and Saudis for every Dollar Dinnar he can get. frankly I think he deserves it. OTOH, Iranians, Russians and Chinese with bags of popcorn are ROFLMAOing. And the EU is stunned don't know what to say or do.

Pat Lang • 6 months ago

I thank you brother.

TomWonacott • 6 months ago
"........This situation is absolute gold for Erdogan’s dreams of a renewed Ottoman Empire......."

If that is his dream, it is as realistic as Putin reviving the Soviet empire. Turkey is gaining regional influence; however, Erdogan certainly has no plans to share that with Iran if the Saudis falter.

O rly • 6 months ago

Putin has no intention of restoring the soviet empire, he has every intention of protecting the interest of Russians who were stranded outside the Russian state when the soviet union dissolved

Pat Lang • 6 months ago


Pat Lang • 6 months ago

Putin is not delusional. Erdogan is.

Ishmael Zechariah • 6 months ago

Col. Lang,
tayyip is truly delusional along many dimensions. However, he is probably cognizant of the economic difficulties his policies have caused in Turkey. He and his coterie are desperately trying to find a way to pay the piper.

Barbara Ann • 6 months ago

A development: The transatlantic Borg have today wheeled out ex MI6 head Sir John Sawers (no pun intended) who is all over the British MSM laying blame squarely at MbS' feet. In a BBC interview he concludes with "I don't think he [MbS] would have done this if he hadn't thought he had license from the US administration to frankly behave as he wishes to do so". Channel 4 News used a less subtle approach. At the end of his interview* (starts around 5:00) there the presenter asked Sawers “Do you think that if they did act on his [MbS] orders that he would have done so without thinking that Washington was OK with that, that they would have given him impunity.”.

If Trump continues to stand by his man I think we should expect this to continue, cross the Atlantic and escalate before the midterms. Trump needs to wise up to this threat fast.


Ael • 6 months ago

Colbert was calling MbS - "Mr. Bone Saw". I think the nickname will stick.

fanto • 6 months ago

A propos 'bone saw' - there are different kinds of it, manual and electric; manual one to open human skull is called "Gigli saw", another one is used to cut long bones, with the handle made of steel, variant of simple straight carpenters saw; an electric one which is used to cut open skulls at autopsies is also used to cut open plaster casts on broken limbs. Yet another electric saw is used for opening the sternum to get access to the heart and other chest organs. I imagine the saw the MBS team was using was probably the reciprocal action used in autopsies to open skull. I can be used also to cut long bones.

Pat Lang • 6 months ago

I prefer "the electric bone saw."

Barbara Ann • 6 months ago

Gold indeed. Right now the drip drip of salacious details in the Turkish press is focused on the audio recordings, they haven't even started on the claimed video evidence yet. It seems MbS is to undergo prolonged torture by media. And the fear and loathing in The Kingdom is now being given a nice helping hand by claims that one of the 15 dismemberers has been traffic accidented in Riyadh. The report on this starts with the words "Claims are circulating" - outstanding. Turkish media has a huge audience among the 'Umma these days and combined with Al Jazeera this is a potent weapon.

You are right to ask what price Erdogan may be willing to accept to make this go away, his wish list will be long. But if he calculates that the prize may be MbS himself plus irreparable damage to the reputation of the custodians of Islam's two holiest sites, I am not at all sure Pompeo will be able to offer anything to beat that. My SWAG is MbS is removed before it these negotiations are concluded.

fanto • 6 months ago

Barbara Ann, I agree with your assessment that prince Mohamed Salman will be removed, and also that at least some of the 15 people who took part in Istanbul will be eliminated, and blamed for ´going rogue´. In time I see this murder will be a historic turning point, with unpredictable and long lasting consequences.

Kooshy • 6 months ago

IMO, for sure Saudi intelligence as well as MBS knew that their diplomatic missions like everybody else’s is bogged, everybody knows airports and foreign missions are closely monitored by the host country. With that in mind, what still inspired MBS without any fear of getting exposed and still order the journalists’ execution, was his believe of his indispensability and the protection from Trump and the Israelites. I think he very well thought if Erdo and the world can and will find out they wouldn’t be able to do a damn thing about him. Unfortunately, with Trump’ behavior in last few days he might be right. The one good thing about Trump’ admin. is, that they don’t care to bore us with the usual hypocritical AMERICAN moral high ground and shining hill BS, they know the world in now full of it. That same goes for our good mannered and morally proper Europeans the Germans, French and jolly good Brits. Not a word about this is coming out of Europeans, they are waiting for the coin to drop and see which side is proper for business to side with.
An important second point in this IMO, is that the American foreign policy establishment, can not and will not trust Erdo and Turks to climbs to the leadership of the Sunni Muslims, that has been the case ever since the Iranian Islamic revolution, specially as is been seen by behavior of this last three US Administrations. US wants and will accept a SOB for the job, as long as he is their SOB. Erdo knows who was behin the cope a few years back, this was a mana from the heavens for him, he is enjoying this torturing MBS and US inch by inch.

James Thomas • 6 months ago

Why the western news media has suddenly developed all this concern for Saudi human rights has been very puzzling to me. I read somewhere that it is to be used as leverage in order to get Saudi Arabia to cancel their S-400 order. This is the most plausible explanation that I have heard so far - the Borg really doesn't like S-400 exports.

John Waddell • 6 months ago

As far as I can find out there is currently no Saudi S-400 order placed, only discussions taking place at a slow pace. Previous such discussions have always faded away as the Russians are well aware of the Saudi's technical (in)abilities and really don't want western contractors operating their systems and giving all kinds of others the opportunity to practice against it. Also I would expect the US to warn that the deal could attract sanctions under the
Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) law.

Pat Lang • 6 months ago

So you think the media are helping Trump? My god but you are ignorant.

Barbara Ann • 6 months ago

Looks like Mr Bone Saw gonna be getting medieval on his web security team's ass too:


SurfaceBook • 6 months ago

“If I had my family stationed in the Kingdom, I’d get them out right now and have my go bag within arm’s reach at all times.”

TTG. do you think MbS will act against non-military western expatriate in saudi ? like holding them hostage or inviting them to the Ritz for “donation drive” ?

TTG • 6 months ago

I doubt MbS would directly take Westerners hostages, but I wouldn't bet my family's lives on that. There could be "spontaneous" mob activity or a rash of traffic accidents. There could even be a rash of terrorist attacks. But this is only if the west directly and decisively confronts the Kingdom. The political and economic powers that be are desperately seeking a way to make this all go away.

FB Ali • 6 months ago

David Habakkuk

Thank you for your reply to my comment. I would suggest that MbS's ordering the killing of Khashoggi cannot be compared to the other assassinations you mention. MbS had no interest in concealing his connection to the killing; in fact, he wanted it known (to teach others a lesson). Also, I don't think he was worried about the reaction in other countries; as I said, he believes he has 'bought' all those who matter (which has proven to be true as far as Trump & Co are concerned). I doubt if he cares a whit about the Washington Post or a 'bad press' in the West.

I, too, am puzzled by Babak's disappearance. Like you, I hope he is OK.

Barbara Ann

While the British press may have decided to take MbS on, the situation is much different in the US. I see that Trump and his administration have gone full bore in maligning Khashoggi, while keeping MbS out of it completely. It wouldn't surprise me very much if this plays out in the US. The average person there seems not at all interested in the outside world; in fact, if they can elect a person like Trump to be their President, they'll believe anything they're spoonfed.

Pat Lang • 6 months ago

Yes, the best yet is an ass on Fox saying is that JK was against MBS’s reforms. ‼️

FB Ali • 6 months ago

It seems the Saudis are going to try and bribe the US into not joining the outcry against this brutal killing (besides letting them create a more palatable narrative).

( https://foreignpolicy.com/2...

leibniz09 • 6 months ago

Blaming MBS when indeed one should look to none other than Mrs Murder...Hillary!


Mac Nayeri • 6 months ago

I am very interested in how you described the Sultan's motive for all of this. In other posts as well, you have described it in a way that I had not previously heard and it resonated as making sense. Could you talk more on how the Saudis came to be in the position they are in and how the Turks are moved to undo that position. I want to be able to explain this crucial point to others.
Thank you Sir....

PeterVE • 6 months ago

"...And maybe an end to the needless dying and suffering in Yemen." from your fingers to G*d's eyes.

VietnamVet • 6 months ago


Thanks. Even in the States it is good idea to have a bag packed. Albany GA has been hit three times in the last two years.

During Mike Pompeo’s visit, it was reported that the Saudis gave him the 100 million dollars for the American occupation of Eastern Syria. That sum is something that Donald Trump is unlikely to walk away from nor Israel's desire to cut the Shiite Crescent. Erdogan’s new Ottoman Empire and eliminating Turkey’s Kurd problem requires the Americans to leave. This cauldron will keep boiling until it explodes into a world war. The only way out is Russia convincing the Kurds to rejoin a Syria Federation; liberating Idlib Province and pounding out a peace treaty where everyone respects each other’s borders and stands down.

Pat Lang • 6 months ago

It was "reported" by what or whom? You know better than that. If you say such a thing on SST you must support the statement. You want to believe that all people are corrupt? You must prove it here.

TTG • 6 months ago

It was in the NYT and WaPo. The money was pledged by al Jubier back in August. This is from Yahoo Finance:

"U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to discuss the disappearance and presumed murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. That same day, the U.S. government received a $100 million payment from the oil-rich kingdom, The New York Times and Washington Post reported — an amount that had earlier been promised to the Trump administration to support its stabilization efforts in Syria."

Jack • 6 months ago
Pat Lang • 6 months ago

Yes. They knew exactly what they were doing, but Trump did not. I said at the time that the Islamic World interpreted his performance in Riyadh as submission. At last!

Michael Regan • 6 months ago

I ask myself, why in God's name do what they did in Istanbul? Why not present Khashoggi with an arrest warrant for whatever trumped up charge MbS might prefer, detain him, and then manage the diplomatic issues with the Turks? They could then return to KSA and deal with him there as they see fit within their own boundaries and rules. What was the urgency and why do it in such dumb way?
If MbS is so puerile, 'astrategic' and hot-headed, then any opponent has a massive advantage over him. Slight provocations can provoke irrational and self-sabotaging actions. This represents an extreme risk for the mid and long-term stability of the KSA/ruling clan. The King and his faction are facing some very hard decisions. Principally, some of them must realize that internally they don't have the people capable of thinking/leading them out of this, and that externally they do not have reliable partners. KSA is on the precipice.
Funny detail, there were rumors/assertions that Saudi air force members were lodging in the Four Seasons part of the MGM LV at the time of the massacre, why would MbS rely on Saudi AF operatives for the Turkish Chop Shop? None of this makes any sense. It's all too dumb.

Pat Lang • 6 months ago

No, you are ignorant of the nature of Saudi society.

Vicky SD • 6 months ago

Agreed. This is going to be a tricky transition, which is typical when the successors dare not raise their hand before it's crystal clear their head chopping predecessor no longer poses a threat.

A.Trophimovsky • 6 months ago

But, according to Bloomberg...Big Money is going...although, allegedly, not its "heads"...But since when it is public the air traffic of private jets.....


If great banks are going ( their is that unique opportunity of the public offering by Aramco ), I very doubt Trump is going to lose this opportunity to make "deals"......

I mantain that all this noise is focussed on the midterms, so as to whitewash US support related to Yemen war....After that, everything will go business as usual.....

Pat Lang • 6 months ago

"Go medieval" I like it. The idea of getting your family out before they become hostages is a good one. The State Department will, of course, evacuate their dependents to Switzerland or some such place while trying to persuade or "demand" that the military not evaacuate families. Ii have "been there" several times.

TTG • 6 months ago

There was a time in the late 90s that it felt like we were coordinating a non-combatant evacuation operation (NEO) some place in Africa every other week. At least my car pool buddy and I missed the rush hour traffic on the ride back home on those days.

Artemesia • 6 months ago

Blame Mossad. MbS is off the hook, the weapons sales can go forward, the Davos party can proceed, no one needs to be punished because Mossad is never, ever culpable; Adelson quiescent & Bibi happy to have spotlight off his indicted spouse; wins all around.
Blame Iran: MbS is not only off the hook, he gets refreshed motivation for his vendetta, weapons sales not only go forward but are even more necessary; Davos proceeds with renewed vigor; punish Iran some more-- they're used to being the punching bag; Adelson and Bibi are very happy, making US legislators very happy in campaign season.
Wins all around.

State Department propaganda writers must be on strike to have let these opportunities to create narratives cede to Erdogan.

Pat Lang • 6 months ago

No, blame Israel and its government and friends. Mossad does the government's will, not the other way around.