tv Arab Center Discussion of Political Implications of Jamal Khashoggis Death CSPAN October 24, 2018 5:10am-6:45am EDT
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>> a look at the political implications of the death of washington post columnist jamal khashoggi. guests talk about relations between the u.s. and saudi arabia. this is one hour. >> good morning. i am executive director. i would like to welcome all of .ou to this briefing let me start by setting the , raising our panelists
a few questions and then we will proceed with the program. in terms of byit way of introduction that it is admittedly a somewhat difficult and ascetic task for me -- and sad task for me to hold in this briefing about our friend jamal khashoggi. i have known jamaal, the journalists, as a writer and media consultant and as a saudi civil servant for 30 years. i've dealt with him on many occasions here and in washington when he visited the states.
and in the kingdom of saudi arabia during my frequent visits into riyadh and other places in the kingdom. jamal was always a gentleman, a keen analyst on middle east and islamic affairs, articulate early interested in u.s.-saudi bilateral relations, which we discussed almost every time we met. and, equally important, if not more important, a consistent advocate for basic freedoms and human rights, not only in saudi arabia, but throughout the arab world. he spoke from this very podium on the 17th of november, 2017 when we hosted him after his arrival to this country, seeking refuge from threats back home. ironically, that briefing was held right next door in the room called first amendment room.
on october 2, as all of you know, jamal entered the saudi consulate building to collect personal legal documents in preparation for his upcoming wedding in turkey. as we all know, he went missing and never came out from the consulate alive. the words tweeted last friday by the former u.s. attorney for the southern district of new york resonated with readers worldwide, particularly with those who knew jamaal. he treated "the murder of jamal khashoggi is deeply important for what it says about power,
evil, truth, arrogance, morality, justice, and about freedom, especially freedom of speech." after a couple of weeks of denial, the kingdom of saudi arabia, the public prosecutor issued the following statement on october 19, 2018. i am quoting from that statement. "preliminary investigations carried out by the public prosecution into the disappearance case of the citizen jamal khashoggi reveal that the discussions that took place between him and persons who met him during his attendance in the kingdom's consulate led to a quarrel and a brawl." some versions say fistfight with the citizen, resulting in his death.
"the prosecutor confirms that its investigations into the case are continuing with the 18 individuals who are all saudi nationals in preparation for reaching all of the facts and declaring them and holding all of those involved in this case accountable and bringing them to justice." on october 20, this was followed by another statement by the foreign minister of saudi arabia, who had been silent about this issue. he said that the killing of journalist jamal khashoggi was a "tremendous mistake and part of a rogue operation."
the individuals who did this according to the foreign minister, did this outside of the scope of their authority. he told foxnews last sunday. "there was a tremendous mistake made. and what was compounded was the attempt to cover up." that is unacceptable in any government. the foreign minister said that saudi arabia was taking action to figure out how jamal khashoggi died. he said that they are determined to uncover every stone and determined to punish those who are responsible for this murder. the saudi government sacked a
well-known name, particularly for people who are familiar with twitter. he was the advisor to mohammad bin salman, in addition i think he was closer to mohammad bin salman's alter ego. he apparently is at the center of this investigation. the royal palace ordered his dismissal, as well as the dismissal of a general, and spokesman of the saudi led coalition in yemen. he is now deputy director of intelligence in saudi arabia. the dismissal included two or three others, high-level executives of the security apparatus and saudi arabia.
18 additional saudis were arrested for interrogation regarding the affair. some might say, where did the 18 come from? we thought there were 15? in his speech, erdogan made that distinction. the 18 include the three that the turkish could not account for. they were the ones who came for scouting before jamal came to the consulate. the total amount involved according to both the saudis and the investigation by turkey, the number is actually 18. however, despite these steps, many questions remain unanswered. we meet to try and tackle a different aspect of this crisis
known as the khashoggi affair. adam taylor of "the washington post" listed 9 questions that still need to be answered. a couple of them might have been answered this morning. frankly, most of them remain valid and unanswered and we probably need to address some of them today. let me repeat those questions. was khashoggi really considering a return to saudi arabia? if this was a discussion, why did 18 men travel to istanbul? why did the saudi group include a forensic expert and member of security forces? what happened inside the consulate? what happened to khashoggi's body? why did saudi arabia say that he
had left the consulate when he did not? how could the crown prince not have known about this operation? are the men detained by saudi arabia actually the same men that were identified by turkish authorities? why did it take 17 days to come up with this account by saudi arabia? today was expected and hyped in the media, supposedly to be an important day in the investigations pertaining to the affair, promising a few more answers to some of these questions. turkey's president revealed what he termed as "the naked truth" over jamal's killing.
the actual crime was committed within the borders of turkey. the only new elements in the erdogan remarks was the fact that he demanded, if saudi arabia agrees that these people should be extradited to turkey to stand trial in turkey. my criticism of the speech, it did not bring anything new that we did not know through the leaks thus far. other than the request for the guys to be adjudicated in istanbul. my preference would have been, and some of my colleagues with legal background and human rights background would probably agree with me, it would have been more preferable not to politicize this investigation and leave the issue to the turkish prosecutor to make this speech rather than for the president to deliver the speech
before a party gathering. what are erdogan's statements and the saudi reaction? there may be official speeches to respond to the turkish speech. whether that sheds more light on this crime or not, it is our belief at the arab center in washington, even though we are a research center and we do not take positions on political issues, it is our firm belief that an international investigation into the disappearance and murder of jamal khashoggi is warranted. we strongly endorse the investigation by major american and international human rights associations, some of whom are represented in this room.
we owe our friends a credible and full explanation of what happened to him and demand that the suspects be held accountable for their crime. with us today participating in this panel are four people who have been following the details of this case from their different perspectives and based on their jobs. i am not going to spend more time introducing them. you have their bios on the sheet of paper given to you when you checked in. i will mention their names in terms and their affiliation. we will start with dohki fassihian. she will be followed by tom porteous, deputy director of human rights watch.
our colleagues from the center of research and analysis imad harb, and he will follow more on the implication of this crisis. we will conclude with andrew miller, our friend from the project on middle east democracy. each speaker will speak for 12 minutes, and we will spend the balance of our time, about 30 minutes on q&a's. there are cards on your seats, or on the seats in front of you if you are sitting on your card. if you could write questions or comments on that and pass it or raise your hand, staff will bring them to me to read later. please write legibly. at this point, i would like to invite dohki to the podium.
unless you want to speak seated. tv guys? is it ok to speak seated? ok. dokhi: thank you very much thank you khalil and the arab center. i am pleased to be here with everybody. let me start out by saying that freedom house has called for an international investigation into the crime that has taken place. we are also calling for swift sanctions against all of those that have any role in his killing. the murder of jamal khashoggi has shocked the world, but for those of us who have been
following saudi arabia's trajectory, it should not, as a huge surprise. under the crown prince, we have seen a crackdown at home, and we have seen him launch a brutal war in yemen. he has been bullying countries around the world. and extraterritorial hit against a perceived opponent is not something that seems completely unlikely. to be clear, before mbs rose through the ranks and saudi arabia, the country was no beacon of freedom. freedom house has been researching saudi arabia's record and it has been categorized as among the worst
of the worst countries in terms of political right and civil liberties. for nearly 30 years, it has received a seven, the lowest score possible. the only countries doing worse are north korea, syria and others. it is hard to see how the country could get worse. the absolute monarchy restricts almost all political rights and civil liberties. no officials at the national level are elected. appeals to sectarianism, public spending is supported by oil revenues. women and religious minorities face discrimination and law and practice. working conditions for the large expatriate labor force are exploitative. despite the rhetorical shift
that saudi arabia have been touting, saudi arabia has one of the most restrictive media environments in the entire world. they continue to shape the media coverage in the war in yemen by restricting media access. an incredibly active electronic army online has been targeting critics, and hacking various accounts of opponents and dissidents. in his final article published by "the washington post," jamal khashoggi stressed the lack of expression through the arab world and the need for people to be better informed. he argued, that in order to gain an accurate understanding of the state's political and cultural
climate, citizens need access to publications and media that are not completely owned by state run media. he rightly called on freedom of expression as the key to the advancement of arab societies. i think that is what made him such a target for a leader who is trying so hard to control the narrative of his country. as i said, it is hard to imagine a country which is an absolute monarchy getting worse in terms of the situation for citizens' rights. on many indicators, the situation was getting worse under mbs for many who were in business circles and in the power circles that have some role in governance. even for those who wanted to believe that saudi arabia was entering a period of limited
reform, the crown prince made it clear early on that he was the author of that reform and that nobody could critique him or challenges policies. let us look at the record. in 2018, the world press freedom index ranked saudi arabia 369 of 179 for freedom. no other country in the middle east ranks lower except for syria. 200 businessman and royals were held at the riyadh ritz-carlton. one person died in custody. there were reports of torture and signing over of assets. it was framed as an anticorruption drive, but it was clear the rule of law was not used.
in 2017, a wave of arrests of 30 clerics and activist, but no reason was given. it was clear that it was a signal to other activists that opposition or critique would not be tolerated. before the ban on driving for women was lifted, the government of saudi arabia arrested women's rights activists in may 2018. these are women and men who had advocated for the right to drive, vote and the end of the garnish of counsel. activists continue to remain in prison. the shia minority are unfairly punished, and that has gotten worse. we know in january 2016, a
prominent leader was executed. we have 5 human rights activists on death row, and many are seeking the death penalty. one is a female shia activist, who has been arrested and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. her court case is coming up next week. if she is convicted, she will be the first female that would be sentenced to death. finally, saudi arabia's updated counterterrorism law is extremely broad and can be used broadly to crack down and convict writers, bloggers, journalists, and human rights defenders. what reform are we talking about? the crown prince was attempting to sell a new social contract to
his citizens, particularly the youth and the world that i will provide some limited social openings, but there will be no expansion of political freedoms. that contrasts with many of his predecessors and many of saudi arabia's past kings who have promised some political freedom. the signs were never good to begin with. in saudi arabia, they have been demanding more fundamental freedoms in the country. also, i think it is important to note that history provides ample evidence that this kind of mandated reform does not work well. you need better governance to have successful reforms. you need civil society to be a barometer of citizen need,
demand, and civil society helps guide the government. it plays a critical role in readying a country for change, so cracking down on civil society and fundamental freedoms, but trying to usher in reforms is not a very good way or sustainable way of going about it. the crown prince could have taken those rights back whenever he wanted. unless saudi citizens, their potential is unleashed and they are set free, reform is just a mirage. i think the united states has a lot of soul-searching to do. we have let a lot of impunity for saudi arabia that we have not allowed for any other country.
it is critical that the united states look inside and realize that advocacy for improved freedoms for saudi citizens should be part of our relationship with saudi arabia moving forward. now i want to turn my attention to the horrific crime against jamal khashoggi. obviously, this is a test of u.s. leadership and global leadership on human rights. it is a test of saudi power. every authoritarian government today is paying attention. i was at another embassy this week and i asked about the khashoggi affair. and a diplomat said, we are waiting to see what secretary pompeo says. i said we are waiting to see what secretary pompeo says too. we are all waiting to see what president trump and secretary pompeo say. they are paying attention.
we have had threats in egyptian state run media against human rights defenders, calling for defenders to be forcibly exiled to come back and body bags. we do not want to see this repeated by any other government. the time to set a precedent is now. everybody who has an interest in human rights and freedoms has an interest that the united states take a stand. the pressure seems to be working. the saudi government has admitted that khashoggi is dead. the turkish president has come out and said that it was a premeditated murder. these are all the right steps. as i mentioned, we are calling for an international investigation into this murder. we are calling for sanctions on all those responsible and for the united states to include democracy and human rights in
its relationship with saudi arabia moving forward. khalil: thank you, i appreciate that. since this is a briefing, we are getting news briefs from colleagues in the audience and outside. turkish tv would like to report that the item that you see probably on twitter saying that khashoggi's body has been found is not true. investigators say that they are still looking for the body. joyce said that the king and crown prince of saudi arabia received khashoggi's family for the first time. they met with his son and brother.
now we move to our next speaker. tom: thank you very much for inviting me this morning, and i am sorry for your loss. i did not know jamal khashoggi, but i know many people who did know him. he was, by all accounts, a brave and remarkable journalist. it is at times like this that i sometimes turn to hannah and my much thumbed copy on what is going on in the world. on the train from baltimore and came across this line, which i thought was pertinent and hopeful. "truth, although powerless and always defeated in a head-on clash with the powers that be, possesses a strength of its own. whatever those in power may contrive, they are unable to invent a viable substitute for
it. persuasion and violence can destroy truth, but they cannot replace it." the killing of jamal khashoggi is a very important moments in the political evolution of the middle east in general, and in the deterioration of respect for human rights, political liberty, and freedom of expression since the arab uprisings of 2011. it is worth reflecting on how we got to this point. since 2011, repression and authoritarianism has been on the rise throughout the region, with a few exceptions. saudi arabia has been in the lead in the efforts to snuff out liberty and freedom of expression, not only at home, but also in the region.
domestically, saudi arabia reacted to the arab uprisings with fierce repression of all dissenting voices. this has only intensified since the political maneuvering of the crown prince has taken control of almost all levers of power. parallel with his popular or populist social and economic reforms, mbs has cracked down on all opposition and dissent as dohki has explained. women's rights activists, bloggers, political opponents, rival princes have been targeted, imprisoned or placed under house arrest. a few sentenced to death. the saudi authorities have used an arbitrary justice system, which humans rights watch has been criticizing for years.
some have been arbitrarily detained, smeared in media, threatened on social media by government-sponsored troll armies. you don't have to look too closely to see that the driving motivation is a determination to silence criticism and neutralize political opponents. even before jamal khashoggi's brutal murder, saudi arabia has not been content with seeking to silence critics and opponents
within the boundaries of the kingdom. it has also sought to silence exiled dissidents by various means, threats against family members, kidnapping, blackmail, physical violence and khashoggi's murder seems to be an extension of this. saudi arabia has also sought to snuff out the yearning for freedom and liberty, freedom of expression and liberty in the region that triggered the arab uprisings of 2011. it intervened in bahrain to help the government deal with its own uprising and protest. it failed out the repressive and murderous military dictatorship in egypt after the 2013 coup, which ousted the first democratic government. saudi arabia has been enabled by the u.s. government and other western governments in full knowledge of its regime and its role as a champion of repression.
i do not need to go into the history or the rationale behind this partnership. it is enough to say that the u.s., u.k., france, and others have turned a blind eye to saudi abuses in the name of attaining that strategic relationship, which consists of arms sales and the counterweight to iranian influence. in yemen, they have actively supported saudi arabia, the uae and others as they continued a war that consists of indiscriminate bombing raids and a blockade that has led to a humanitarian catastrophe. in the past few months, the complicity of the u.s. and saudi arabia's abuses have become starker.
this signals washington in the face of mounting saudi repression have been you can do whatever you please as long as you align with our interests in business, iran and israel. it is no idle speculation to suggest that the saudis may have thought they could get away with the killing of jamal khashoggi was because of the signals of unconditional support coming from the trump white house and the rest of the u.s. elite. if the u.s. government turned a blind eye when mbs' henchmen of abductd a prominent women's rights activist and threw her in prison, if washington, paris and london continued to sell arms, and if the pentagon continues to
refuel saudi jets in midair, enabling the war in yemen, in which the saudi coalition has killed thousands of civilians, why on earth would they worry about the disappearance of a single journalist? it brings me to the fate of khashoggi himself. on one level, we do not know precisely what happened on that day in istanbul. that is why humans rights watch and others have called for a u.n. investigation. it should determine the circumstances surrounding saudi arabia's role in the disappearance and the extrajudicial killing. it should aim to identify everyone responsible connected with the case. on another level, we know enough about what happened from various sources, including from the
bizarre statements from the saudi government itself to know that the saudi government has been lying about khashoggi's death since the start of the affair. first, they said he left the consulate after doing his business. then they threatened mighty retaliation against all of those who contradicted this assertion. then in the face of credible reports from turkish sources over many days that he had been murdered and his body dismembered, the saudis said that he had been killed in a fist fight. we were told that the officials had been arrested. two officials had been relieved of their post. the whole thing was the work of rogue agents according to the prime minister.
it appears that the saudi government was trying to construct a narrative to obscure the fact that mounting evidence did not point to rogue agents, but to a rogue crown prince. to add insult to lies, it was announced that the crown prince had undertaken a restructuring of the intelligence apparatus. really? the saudi monarchy's efforts to eliminate the damage through lies and distortions are exhibit a in the case to why freedom of expression is so important a commodity, and why autocratic leaders seek to stifle it. freedom of expression is an essential check on power. without it, power is absolute, arbitrary and corrupting. there can be no political
liberty, no rule of law, no human rights. the powerful can literally get away with murder in the absence of freedom of expression. i started by saying that jamal khashoggi's killing was an important moment in the political evolution of the middle east. here is why. his killing has captured world headlines for weeks. the brazen disregard for basic norms and standards has been on full display for the world to see. there is an opportunity, if ever there was one, now for saudi arabia's international partners to demand a proper investigation and accountability. such a move could stem the rising tide of authoritarianism and sectarianism in the region. on the other hand, saudi arabia's international partners
may decide to tough it out and wait until it subsides and wait until it subsides and then sleeping under the carpet. they may decide that their alliance is too important. trump and his allies have said that this is what they want to do. they have even gone so far to say that khashoggi was a terrorist. if no credible investigation is forthcoming and the authors of the murder are not held to account, and do not suffer some consequence or their actions, this will send a clear message, not only to saudi arabia, but to the region and the rest of the world that freedom and expression, press freedom and, the bedrock liberty have been
discounted. the consequences will be more repression and more violence. the aspirations of the people for the middle east for a fairer society will take another step backwards. and autocrats around the world will sleep better. thank you. khalil: our next speaker is our colleague, who will talk about the khashoggi affair, with regards to its political effects in the region. imad: we do know that everything so far that has been leaked, whether it is true or not, increases to the fluidity of this situation. we do not know exactly what happened, although we know the severity and the tremendous
impact that it is going to have on the future on saudi arabia and the region. nobody ever thought the killing of one person would result in all of this condemnation of this atmosphere of rejection of what has really transpired. there has been a lot of talk about a lot of things that are happening in the middle east, and apparently this is almost like the fort sumter on the middle east side of things to come. i hope his killing has not come in vain and will not be forgotten before this affair is really investigated, and i do
believe that the international investigation is probably the best thing that will happen. this killing comes when saudi arabia is undergoing a lot of change, especially a lot of change domestically. this is a society where the ruling bargain between the ruling and the ruled is depending on the services and largesse in exchange for loyalty. sometimes we wonder if this loyalty is going to be always forthcoming. the social contract of saudi arabia, we do know it is under tremendous pressure, but will the social contract survive
further the more repression and intimidation of any opposition, however mild it is? as far as i'm concerned, yes it is a sad incident, and a sad affair. at the same time, the political scientist in me tells me that this can be looked at in the form of what is the future of the social contract for saudi arabia. are saudi arabians going to remain the subject of a state that supposedly provides everything to them for their loyalty to the royal family? this is an important question that the region will be dealing with for a period of time. the big elephant in the room is
how does the khashoggi killing, as an example of the repression going on, how does it reflect on the issue of economic and social reforms that saudi arabia is undergoing? is vision 2030 any better than it was on october 1? i do not think it is. the issue of 2030 had depended on diversification and diversifying the economy away from the dependence on hydrocarbons and to attract foreign investment. his foreign investment going to come after an event of this nature? i doubt it. indications have shown, even
before the killing, foreign direct investment has receded in saudi arabia, and what ever funds there are for work in the new economic vision plan is actually escaping the country. this is a very serious matter from a saudi economic point of view. besides it being a matter of rights and the sidelining of critics and the killing of people who really have not supported the way that saudi 2030 is going to be executed, including jamal khashoggi. this is, as far as i'm concerned, we are talking about probably a new era of how the saudi rulers look at the ruled, and how the ruled believe they
want the loyalty to be used in the social system. it is very hard and today's world, no matter how much track down and limitation on freedoms, or access to information, no matter how successful they are, people will get the information. people will have a different way of looking at this event. today we are all doubting that mohammad bin salman would -- the truth will come out and there will be a reckoning. as far as i'm concerned, the reckoning should come now rather than later. this is a serious matter. because this is a very, very serious matter.
the original issue, saudi arabia is obviously very involved in a whole bunch of , i don'tissues but think jamal khashoggi was really -- but he really believed that saudi arabia was originally conducting its affairs in a proper way. unfortunately, saudi arabia is surrounded by a whole bunch of that did not necessarily see the elimination of jamal khashoggi as something -- the responsibility for which to be laid on the steps of the saudi regime. people, a lot of arab countries have actually basically support, supporting statements of saudi arabia at this time.
unfortunately for them, this will not hold up much if people are going to really know what happened to jamal khashoggi and who was responsible for it. only time will tell on this. the other issue is the issue of the ongoing crisis within saudi arabia, uae, bahrain and others. it is doubtful that mohammad bin salman will be able, or the saudi regime will be able to convince its people and the region that this is a crisis that should continue, specifically, we did hear that it was the muslim brotherhood who killed jamal khashoggi. apparently, qatar is going to
be -- an issue that will is going to remain an issue for saudi arabia for a long time. the problem is, how does saudi arabia conduct this business regarding the gcc crisis. can it continue to convince the world that it is right in the way that it is standing on the gcc crisis, considering the truth coming out that accuse the saudi government of being responsible for the killing of jamal khashoggi. another issue is the issue of yemen. it is very, very difficult to really see how the yemen affair will be dealt with.
is mohammad bin salman capable to continue the war, considering saudi arabia is coming under, considering what happened in the halls of international power? one is washington, another is berlin, and there are other places in europe. if saudi arabia is not exonerated from this crime, will , for instance, the american finally change its mind on supplying weapons to saudi arabia in the yemen war? this is going to be very crucial for what happens to the war in yemen. on the other hand, what set of cards, considering the
international outcry about this act, what set of cards can saudi arabia bring to the virtual negotiating table for the resolution of the yemeni crisis? will saudi arabia be influential or effective in trying to , fornce the houthis instance, or there are lies in yemeni society that the on certainolution terms that would be good for saudi arabia is possible? i think the saudi hand in yemen has gotten a little too weak. i think if mbs started the war in yemen to protect saudi arabia from the repercussions of the war, then he probably has miscalculated killing jamal khashoggi, because his hand got weak.
another issue is the issue of palestine. this is something that has not been talked about too much. there have been some people who talked about, will the trump administration look at mbs as too weakened to pass the deal of century, about which we still don't know anything? on the other hand, if the american administration thought of mohammad bin salman as being it was to assist, will he truly be able to assist? was he ever able to really pressure the palestinians to accept something that was unacceptable, or will he continue to try to pressure them ?n a certain direction
in other words, i think the trump administration may have just lost another set of cards regarding pressure on the palestinians through saudi arabia. another one, obviously, is iran. as far as i'm concerned, iran has won this battle. i do not think that saudi arabia, the media war, the reputation war, any of these things that have been fought with iran for a long, long time were actually served in this incident. iran and the people that iran s are actually rather happy today that the saudi reputation is suffering the way it is. finally, we come to the turkish issue. turkey and saudi arabia are,
arguably, almost together on certain issues, and in competition in others. we have heard speculation that the turks will try to milk this affair to try and get a nice deal from saudi arabia. then, again, there are also domestic issues. turkey cannot really let that pass without doing something about what happened to jamal khashoggi. these two countries are in a precarious situation. apparently the speech that was delivered today by president erdogan did not necessarily resolve any issue, or add any new facts that would influence how these things develop in the future. but as far as i am concerned,
and i heard from other people and read it on twitter, the turks are maybe a little bit too apprehensive about letting this go, because once king andan passes from the scene mohammad bin salman continues on, he is young, saudi arabia and turkey would be at loggerheads for a long time to come. thank you. khalil: thank you. let us conclude this panel with andrew miller. andrew: thank you khalil and thank you, arab center, for hosting this panel and having me participate. i do join with a heavy heart. my organization hosted j amal in march in an event with saudi arabia to coincide the crown prince's visit to
washington. there were other folks in my organization that new jamal much longer. the personal toll is very much felt within my organization. i am going to try to put this issue in a broader context for the u.s. and saudi arabia, and u.s. policy toward saudi arabia in particular. i will briefly describe the reaction to date in the united states, discuss some of the ramifications and layout -- the implications for saudi-u.s. support and the recommendations for what the united states could do moving forward. the u.s. reaction has been extraordinary, particularly in congress. there is near unanimity in both the senate and the house. the most significant response in congress today was a letter signed by 22 senators to the president asking for an
investigation under the global magnitsky act which could entail the imposition of sanctions on saudis who were responsible for khashoggi's death. this was signed by the chairman of the senate foreign relations committee, bob corker, who had previously had been a booster for saudi arabia, and the leading democrat on the the chair as well as and ranking member of the senate appropriations committee on foreign operations, the ones who control the foreign affairs budget. that is a particularly significant reaction. the chairman and the ranking member of the house foreign affairs committee also sent a letter to president trump essentially expressing their support for opening in magnitsky investigation. saw thatbly senator graham has been quite valuable in reacting to this, threatening severe consequences. senator leahy from vermont has issued the most bluntly critical
statements on a u.s. ally that i can remember, essentially likening saudi arabia and the royal family to a criminal enterprise. so that begins to describe the level of anger shared across the aisle within congress, and a desire for a very strong reaction to whole saudi arabia accountable for what has taken place. on the other hand, the administration has been far less clear. in fact, their responses have been wildly inconsistent. when saudi arabia finally acknowledged that jamal had died, president trump originally called the story credible. in the last couple of days, he has referred to deception and lies to characterize the saudi position. it seems the only two recurring themes in the administration 's reaction is that one, president trump does not want to suspend arms sales to saudi arabia, which he uses as an important source of jobs in the
american economy, and two, there doesn't appear to be any real desire to hold mohammad bin salman accountable for the actions, even if evidence emerges that he directed this operation. you saw last week that secretary pompeo, secretary of state, visited riyadh and met with mohammad bin salman, gladhanding, smiling in what could have been described as poor optics, and even yesterday, secretary of the treasury mnuchin was in riyadh. while his body language was more restrained but nevertheless, he also met with mohammad bin salman. the signal that the trump administration continues to view him as an important partner in and they are seeking to insulate him from any repercussions from what has taken place. what this means is, what moves forward, what we are going to see, is really a question on congress remains in unified in demanding a strong response and what of it are prepared to force the administration's hand.
because i believe if the administration is given the room , they will find a way to avoid a decisive response to what has happened. so what we need to watch for is what congress will do and whether this unique moment of bipartisanship is fleeting, or whether it is an enduring phenomenon that least important changes. moving on to the implications, and this is where i think you see the difference between the trump administration and between congress. congress is not convinced that the implications of a strong response to saudi arabia would be unmanageable for the u.s. however, the trump administration seems to have concerns that in response to u.s. sanctions, or to other measures the u.s. could take, the saudi's may scale back with cooperation with the u.s. one of the things that the trump administration cares about. so let us look at those things and try to get a sense of whether these would be endangered, should the united states respond aggressively to what has happened. the first area the trump
administration values is regional cooperation, in particular, on middle east peace, the u.s.-iran policy and syria. and on middle east peace, i think jared kushner is going to hope that saudi arabia will pressure the palestinians to accept less than what they have been seeking for decades. mbs himselfis that seems to be 40 with the possibility of endorsing the u.s. position, but in august, king salman came out and said that a two state solution should result in a fair and just equitable resolution to the refugee issue. so i doesn't seem like saudi arabia will be there when the administration needs it, to bless and endorse their peace plan. even if they did, i have doubts as to whether the palestinians would buckle under saudi pressure, given this is an existential issue for the palestinians.
on syria, the administration seems to want the saudis to deploy military forces to syria to relieve the pressure on the u.s. and to contribute financially. to date, saudi arabia has only committed $300 million, $100 million of which has actually gone into u.s. accounts, a what saudimpared to arabia could offer to stabilize syria. there are real questions that even if saudi arabia did agree to deploy to syria, its forces have the capabilities to serve and a -- serve in aa stabilizing role. it seems the trump administration is asking from saudi arabia seems that they are incapable of delivering. and then finally, on iran, there was this extraordinary response, and an editor suggested, if the u.s. did impose sanctions, saudi arabia would reconcile with iran.
i think that is frankly preposterous. iran is the chief external enemy to the saudi's. -- chief external enemy to the saudis. that is been the case for decades now. it is due to no small part of saudi lobbying of the trump administration. the trump administration has taken such an aggressive posture, vis-a-vis iran. saudisidea that the would somehow reconcile and reversed their position seems quite ludicrous. the second is arms sales and economic transactions, where saudi arabia has invested in the u.s. as many others have are about, the 100 $10 billion deal is less than meets the eye. wishof that money is a list for things that are unlikely ever to come to pass. historically, saudi arabia has only finalized about 16% of the contracts that they originally signed with the united states. the impact on jobs is likely to be fairly scant, it will not be a game changer for the u.s.
economy, it is not tied to hundreds of thousands of jobs as president trump has suggested and it would not be that easy for saudi arabia is simply to seek chinese or russian equipment. partly because, for those of you who remember when there were macs and pcs, these systems need to be able to communicate with each other, and russian and chinese equipment does not communicate within each other. which means that saudi arabia would have to completely revamp inir arsenal, or invest idiosyncratic fixes to these in idiosyncratic fixes to these problems, which would be incredibly expensive. so the threat that the saudi leaders would perhaps seats come for in the russians or the chinese is probably more apparent than real. in terms of the economic investment, and it is significant, particularly in silicon valley, what is important to remember is that the saudi's are investing into the u.s. because they need to make money and they need to pop up their economy and they believe rightly or wrongly, that
they will get the best returns in the united states. this is not a geopolitical decision, it is an economic decision. saudi future investment decisions are likely to be driven by their analysis of what u.s. stocks are going to do, not by the state of the relationship between the u.s. and saudi arabia. another issue is ct corporation. saudi arabia has not been enough -- there is concern the saudis would scale back, in that regard. saudi arabia has not been enough to address its own role in promoting extremism within the kingdom and internationally. and even if the saudis are cooperating with the cia and other intelligence agencies, that may be drowned out by the effect they are having internationally in promoting radicalization. it is difficult to assess that corporation because it is clandestine, but at the very least, it is undercut regarding funding for mosques around the -- it is undercut by saudi practices regarding its religious curriculum or regarding funding for mosques around the world. and finally, there is oil. there is a concern that the
saudi's would spike the price of oil in response to some type of u.s. retaliation for the episode -- the khashoggi affair. since would note that, trump became president, the oil price has actually increased from $50 a barrel to $80 a barrel, so it doesn't appear that the saudis are responding to trump's desire to keep the price of oil down. saudi arabia's control of the oil market is not what it was in 1973. it is true that in the short term the other one country excess capacity that can cause a with spike in prices, but other producers, including in canada and the u.s., are likely to blunt the impact of any saudi moves.
at the worst, it is a short-term discomfort, not a long-term discomfort, and if saudi arabia was going to do this, that end result would be worse for them because they would lose market share. it would be encouraging other producers to come online, and when the price reverts to its precrisis level, the percentage of oil that the saudi's are selling would have declined, so saudis would lose revenue. where does this leave us? i think our recommendations should be informed by two considerations. one is that justice for jamal is important. it is important in itself and also important for the message that it sends to other dissidents and exiles around the region. if we don't hold the saudis accountable it could have a chilling effect on the ability for civil society to operate within their own countries and also around the world. the second consideration is that the u.s.-saudi relationship is badly in need of updating. this has been the case for a while, but there has been some hesitance because the short-term plan could be somewhat
significant, but not by any means unmanageable. the basic problem is that the central bargain underlines the relationship that has been security for oral, is no longer as compelling for either side and no longer adequate for u.s. interests as we become more interested in saudi regional behavior, saudi human rights, and saudi role in human extremism. -- the saudi role in promoting extremism. in order to suggest recalibrate the u.s.-saudi relationship while at the same time, ensuring that saudi arabia is held responsible for khashoggi's murder would be four things. first, our bilateral relationship needs to expand the conversation. it can't just be about security and economics. human rights and extremism need to be a core part of the discussion we are having, otherwise the composition does not coincide with the full gamut of u.s. interests involved. second, we need to disentangle from the war in yemen. there was growing concern about in funding and supporting this war and now is
the opportunity we can step back, either through restricting arms sales or other support, including aerial refueling and intelligence. third, i think we need to avoid the temptation to expand what has been an external security guarantees, i.e. external , we would protect saudi arabia to anxternal threats, internal security guarantee. the u.s. has no interest in protecting saudi arabia from internal threats to its regime in the country. the saudis want that for reasons theeaching security, but u.s. should avoid that at all costs. finally, we need to reassert control over the bilateral relationship. what that means is even after we get past the khashoggi affair hopefully having justice for the perpetrators, we need to have clear boundaries and expectations for what we are going to do with the saudi's or how we are going to support them. that should inform our diplomatic support for saudi arabia and our material support for saudi arabia. there should be clear guidelines
for what types of activities the saudis can do with u.s. weapons. there should be clear guidelines for when the u.s. is going to support the saudis diplomatically. not in a war in yemen, not a crisis, not an interviewer , but forth the qatar things that coincide in support u.s. interests. unfortunately end of the trump administration, everything has been focused on the saudi interests. if anything comes out of this that is positive, we need to seize that opportunity to put things on a stable footing that actually represents the real u.s. interests at play. thank you. >> thank you, andrew, and thank thank you to all four panelists for your great contributions. one question that has not been covered a lot since the beginning of this crisis, and he itl probably did not give
justice today either, is a question that people keep sometimes asking, but never really answering. what killed jamal? did he have any specific views? what made him a target, if you will? i don't have the answer personally, but what i would like to do is invite you to go to our website arabcenterwashington.org. interview,k at the jamalesentation that khashoggi made, because he really address that. he summarized his political views and platform with regards to that, it was on november 17, 2017. he spoke to a group like some of there, justbably next door here, and dealt with this issue. let's go ahead and respond to your questions that you have submitted.
the first one is addressed to both dokhi and tom, asking, what do you think will happen or be the future of women's entrepreneurship and government careers in saudi arabia, in light of reforms that might be continuing? dokhi: um, i hope that the reforms that have been support more women's entrepreneurship in saudi arabia. i admit, i am not following that issue very carefully, but i , womenhat historically in saudi arabia for love had the in saudi-- women arabia who have had the freedoms to start their own businesses, have been connected primarily to
to families and under the auspices of their fathers and other family members, so i hope that there will be more independence for women to enter the business sector and more women will be able to do it. but i admit, i am not following it as closely. tom: um, i would just say, i have no reason to doubt mohammad bin salman is sincere about his economic and social reforms. there is certainly a populist edge to them, but they are popular, by all accounts. is, you know, how profound can those reforms really go as long as saudi arabia remains politically repressive?
because, as it is well known from other countries, as long as there is no freedom of expression, no press freedom, other kinds of social and economic reforms can all they go so far. >> if i might add a little footnote to that, i would probably guess that economic reforms would be easier for him to continue. where women are going to run into some issues, are the legal and political. i would like to resist naming names, but we have a few female colleagues right now jail , in jail in saudi arabia for asking for those types of rights, and they have not been tolerated thus far, so i assumed that they will not be in the future. yeah? sure. dokhi: i alluded to this, but i think for women to become
economically independent, i think the male guardianship system needs to end. and many women have been calling for that. those women, as i mentioned who do have opportunities in saudi arabia, are among families who are generally more open and wish their daughters and sisters have opportunities, but even with the driving ben, the way i understand it, -- the driving , the way i understand it, those women who don't have the support of males in the family still can't drive. so the key is to end the guardianship system. >> with all of the coverage, i mean the coverage with regards to this practice we are -- this crisis we are discussing today's worthwhile. of saudiher coverage arabia, i haven't seen any reports since mohammad bin salman gave women the right to drive, how many women got their
licenses? i hear it is minimal, very, very minimal from saudi sources. so it would be worthwhile for our media to a kind of focus on this issue. our next question is from stanley. i would like to direct it, because both of you kind of answered it partially, in case you wanted to add more to it imad and andrew, how would the , murder of khashoggi and the crime to cover up the impact or effect u.s. policy to anti-iran coalition in the region? imad: well, i do not think that saudi arabia was ever ready to be in a confrontation with iran and the united states, before or after the khashoggi murder.
i think the trump administration may be wishing the saudi arabia can really be the stalwart iran, but iing think saudi arabia, before khashoggi's murder, was way too occupied, even militarily-occupied to be able to, you know, be a partner in facing iran. i do not think that that necessarily was -- as far as the saudi's are concerned, i don't think they really believed they could be a good front against iran, but yet at the same time, they had a fear of iran, so they were trying to touch at the extremities -- human, lebanon a
, but ibit with hezbollah really don't see the current 'stuation of jamal khashoggi affair as something boosting saudi-american cooperation facing iran. andrew: i would just add that even prior to khashoggi's s were, the saudi arguably, a liability in u.s., anti-iran campaign, and were obviously involved in instigating this dispute, which divided the arab world. a united arab front would be essential for a regional counterbalancing against iran. it drove the qataris closer to iran, it embedded the turks to play a bigger role and they had it historically more complicated relationship and ambivalent relationship with iranians. and the continued saudi role in yemen is a real loser.
in that the saudi's are spending $50 billion a year to which this campaign and the iranians are investing a small fraction of that to keep the saudi's tied down. that is a strategic weakness and a strategic trap for the saudis, and their inability to recognize the liability that it is and the unwillingness of the u.s. to try to reach some type of diplomatic settlement that would extricate the saudi's and allow them to focus on iran elsewhere in the region, i think serves to the detriment of any campaign to push back against iran. , yes, it was a distraction, there was already a distraction from it. this is not a game changer. it simply confirms that trend saudi arabia was not going to be this pillar in the anti-iran alliance with the trump administration would like. >> apparently, i made a boo-boo
a while ago by giving the email address for the arab center -- i should know better than that. me in threat,nt don't come to the office unless you correct that. it is it is arabcenterdc.org, not arabcenter washington.org. arabcenterdc.org. and for those viewing this on c-span, we welcome you on our website. this question is addressed to dokhi. can you shed some light on your assessment of the turkish government handling of this affair? um, it has been extremely interesting. i was really happy to see this morning, that erdogan came out and took a strong stand that this was a premeditated murder. it made me believe that they are
in this really for the truth to come out and for there to be accountability. before that, i really was not sure, but turkey has to be careful, obviously, it has its own role in a relationship with the saudis in the united states and the situation to take into consideration. our view is that we would like to have an international investigation and we would like the turks to bring in international investigators to work with them, so that there is a full accounting and there is confidence around the world that we know everything that happened. but it has been very interesting, the way it initially started, the leaks in the media and -- but i think at this stage, i think we are in a better place. the turkish government is in fact in it from the long haul, i hope. -- in this for the long haul, i hope. >> i think it is worth bearing in mind that turkey is the
journalistser of around the road. secondly, it's judiciary has recently been viciously purged of all president erdogan in the critics of aftermath of the coup attempt. record ons independent investigations is not great, its record on freedom of expression and press freedom is terrible. however, it speaks to the heinousness of this crime that turkey is really looking good compared to saudi arabia. but, the reason why human rights watch and others have called for an international u.n.-led independent investigation is precisely because, as we have seen, turkey, although it has been leaking a lot of interesting information, cannot be relied upon to conduct a non-politicized investigation.
and that is why it is essential that there is an international independent investigation at this point. >> the next question is addressed to the whole panel, so if you want to take a jab at it. this one is regarding the muslim brotherhood. he indicated the muslim brotherhood is visible and quite active publi politically in different countries in the arab world. and there has been some reaction recently, regionally, and internationally, and even here domestically in the united states with attempts in congress to kind of outlaw, if you will, be brotherhood in this country, or calls to put it on a terrorist list, and so on. are tr international players that are
pushing this policy? >> sure. i mean, khashoggi's death has played into this cold war within the arab world regarding the role of the muslim brotherhood. on the one side you have the qataris and other countries who have a muslim brotherhood presidents in their parliaments in kuwait, jordan, and morocco, and on the other side, you have the saudi's, is shins and emma and -- the saudis emiratis who are the he mentally anti-muslim -- who are vehemently anti-muslim brotherhood.
and i think we have seen news reports suggesting that this was a muslim brotherhood plot, and of see this intersection actors, to discredit the information and suggested is a muslim brotherhood plot. it does have some traction within certain circles and the in the united states. within a certain part of the republican party that is very suspicious of islamists, and including within the trump administration. but having served in the u.s. government, the challenge for the obstacle to designate a the muslim brotherhood was that the lawyers cannot make the case. there wasn't sufficient evidentiary basis. this is the united states and the rule of law applies, and in order to take action there needs to be sufficient evidence in order to support it in the courts. that is not to say the trump administration still couldn't go ahead. they could buy fiat impose sanctions on muslim brotherhood. but that would open the in absence ofat
evidence it could be overturned in a court, subsequently. so you see the intersection of international players advocating on one side of the debate for their on narrow and selfish reasons, and then you also have it reverberating within the united states, a rule of law that jealously guards the truth and evidence. fortunately it still exists as a think the right position is for an american audience to simply follow the preceptso honor those because if this process becomes politicized, where you have groups being designated because you don't like them, not because there is clear evidence of terrorism or violence, that opens up the way to pernicious abuses that could be destabilizing for u.s. society. >> just a little addition here. i agree with everything andrew said. there is pressure from some regimes in the middle east on the united states to consider
the muslim brotherhood to be a terrorist organization. because if it did, then that is one less venue for whoever is associated with the brotherhood. to live or be active. >> ok, we are approaching the , unfortunately, but i do have a lot of questions left. i would ask for maybe one liners or short answers. what are the prospects for a coup in riyadh? to demand the ouster of mbs? which one of you doesn't have any business interests traveling to the region soon? [laughter] any takers? dokhi: i thought there was an attempt several months ago, but you know, with some gunfire and shootings that we heard in riyadh.
but i think there could be an effort. >> there are rumors on the internet mostly, from saudi opposition sources about some movement, both within the opposition and some even within the royal family complaining about the situation. princesg some senior that are currently "on vacation in europe," and they have been raising this issue. the next question is from nick albano about the ineffectiveness of the saudi drone business, the forms online, especially since has been dismissed from his position. how important is that factor, or is it significant at all?
anybody? >> we have seen the role of disinformation on social media play out in other contexts. khattani was a unique leader of this movement and there could be something lost if he indeed is sidelined. i think there are questions to the degree of whether he is sidelined. i think some of his social media cause still suggest that he is affiliated with the royal court in some other way. we have seen many other people who were able to do this, and these actions will continue to take place, and it is very difficult for social media providers, platforms, to contradict. it will continue to be a challenge for any type of discourse in a democracy or in any other political context because it is so easy to fabricate information and cast doubt on truth and hard facts,
when the information is opened at and what people thought would be a democratic fashion but has sortlly been used to democracy. >> let me conclude with this question from my former employer, and i don't want to be accused of discriminating in dealing with this question. what makes the khashoggi murder different from the persecution of other journalists by the saudi regime? it is not different at all. the only distinction is the fact that jamal is a well-known person, worldwide, and has established extensive network over the years and in different capacities where he worked, and people appreciated and liked his personality, and the fact that he was also writing for "the washington
post." and i think his colleagues at "the washington post," and his colleagues in general, journalists are not going to let this go. i think that is reflected in the nature and the volume of their reaction. >> can i just add, people are transfixed by the horror of the story and the way it has been dripped outcome of the information from the turkish intelligence sources. i think it is a very important part of it, keeping the story alive. it is an absolutely horrific story. >> please join me in thanking the panel for the great presentation. [applause] and thank you all very much for your attendance today, and we hope to see you at future events. thank you. good day. [indistinct chatter]
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