We were unable to load Disqus. If you are a moderator please see our troubleshooting guide.

Gresso • 3 years 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 • 3 years 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 • 3 years 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 • 3 years 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 • 3 years ago

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

PRC90 • 2 years ago

He only posted on SST, and his last one was three months ago.
I hope he is doing well, wherever he is in the world.

Kooshy • 3 years ago

Chris- in case you didn’t see this, a well done job on Tom Friedman by Hamid Dabashi, in Al Jazeera

An American and an Arab Journalist Walk Into a Saudi Consulate

Varg • 3 years ago

wonderfully cynical, thanks Kooshy.
Miss Babak too. But good to see you are still around.

Kooshy • 3 years ago

Yes Babak’ knoweldge and his historical fact based analysis is greatly missed here.

Pat Lang • 3 years ago

By me as well.

Pat Lang • 3 years ago

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

TomWonacott • 3 years 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 • 3 years 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 • 3 years ago


Pat Lang • 3 years ago

Putin is not delusional. Erdogan is.

Ishmael Zechariah • 3 years 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.

ISL • 2 years ago


Look at a map of Russia. Russia has more wealth in Siberia than most of the rest of the world and a well buffered neighbor with the world's dominant economy (in ten years China will be double the US economy) eastwards.

It wants some kind of a buffer zone (treaty is cheaper than militarily) between it and the Germans. What benefit would it get out of Lithuania or the ever fearful poles? A lot of troublesome locals.

Russia today is not the Soviet Union. Its not the 1980s. Duran Duran is no longer popular.

Barbara Ann • 3 years 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 • 3 years ago

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

fanto • 3 years 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 • 3 years ago

I prefer "the electric bone saw."

Barbara Ann • 3 years 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 • 3 years 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 • 3 years 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 • 3 years 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 • 3 years 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 • 3 years ago

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

Barbara Ann • 2 years ago

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


Stena Impero • 3 years 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 • 2 years 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.

Guest • 3 years ago
Pat Lang • 3 years ago

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

leibniz09 • 3 years ago

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


Mac Nayeri • 3 years 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 • 3 years ago

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

Guest • 3 years ago
David Habakkuk • 3 years 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 • 3 years 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.

Mark Logan • 3 years ago

David, I'll attempt to answer one of your questions.

IMO the main reason for the gullibility of the US public is the nature of most of our elementary schools. It may be impossible to impart the banality of them to one who hasn't experienced it adequately.

Somewhere in the 80's, roughly, they became little more than glorified day-care facilities for every student who decided to take advantage of a practice of never failing a student...and do nothing but show up. I believe the rationalization was that holding kids back "harms" them emotionally. I suspect the driving force was laziness though. Avoidance of conflict with parents. I deem avoidance of conflict to be laziness in some cases, so that is the word I have chosen to describe it.

This affected all, even the good students. Classes became tedious for the curious, as teachers compensated by slowing the teaching down to what they perceived as the assumption speed of the slowest kids in the classes...and those kids just plain didn't give a s#&t. This bored the smart ones to similar distraction. Our family was up-rooted frequently, so my experience isn't anecdotal.

I suspect the current over-emphasis of college as an essential for anyone hoping to get anywhere in life is another result. Only at that level one's thinking begins to be seriously challenged instead of mollycoddled. In most businesses what is needed can easily be imparted in 12 years. How much formal education did many great men, and great thinkers, in history have? Much less than that.

It's no mystery to me that so many here strongly believe that which they choose to believe. They have been subtly encouraged to be intellectually lazy.

Pat Lang • 3 years ago

I thank you brother.

VietnamVet • 3 years 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 • 3 years 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 • 3 years 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."

VietnamVet • 3 years ago


New York Times


Interesting times. Things are really spinning apart.

Pat Lang • 3 years ago

Thanks. This is a typical crude Saudi ploy.

Jack • 3 years ago
Pat Lang • 3 years 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 • 3 years 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 • 3 years ago

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

Vicky SD • 3 years 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.