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20 Oct, 2018 05:09

'Some heads will roll, maybe literally': Saudi version of Khashoggi's last 'fight' casts doubts

The Saudi tale of journalist Jamal Khashoggi's accidental death in a 'fistfight' resembles a poorly hatched Plan B to salvage the record arms deals with the US, while shifting the blame on underlings, political analysts told RT.

"It does not add up! I mean who did they have at the consulate – Mike Tyson?" Richard Becker from the anti-war ANSWER Coalition noted, after Saudi Arabia admitted that Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post, was accidentally killed after a fight erupted at its consulate in Istanbul.

"The idea that he was killed in a fistfight and then his body was disappeared ... makes no sense. The idea that the order did not come from the top makes no sense either," Becker added.

The admission of a Khashoggi murder somewhat contradicts the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's initial account; he told Bloomberg that the journalist highly likely left shortly after arriving the consulate on October 2. Numerous reports in the meantime were claiming Khashoggi was tortured, killed and dismembered by assassins sent by the monarchy.

Former US diplomat Jim Jatras believes that Riyadh changed their narrative after Donald Trump provided the Kingdom with the loophole to save the $110 billion defense deal amid calls from the Congress to impose sanctions on the monarchy.

"I think President Trump opened the door to this kind of thing when he used that it could be a 'rogue operation' remark," Jatras told RT. "The Saudis were not willing to walk through that a few days ago, but now I think they are getting desperate that the noose is tightening around Mohammed bin Salman."

"The story is a story meant, I think, for Donald Trump, so he can say, 'Okay, there is an explanation, and now we can go on with our money grabbing relationship with Saudi Arabia," Becker added.

Trump, who already said the current explanation sounds credible in the absence of the pending "full" investigation report, made it clear that if the multi-billion-dollar trade deals with Riyadh are canceled, Americans will suffer the brunt of the consequences.

"A lot of the weapons purchases they [Saudis] make are for the purposes of buying influence. They don't really need some of these weapons. There're reports that they simply store some of them in warehouses because they don't know what to do with them," Jatras explained. "They are a form of bribe money in essence. And there are a lot of people in suburbs here [Washington DC] that do want that gravy train to come to an end."

Therefore, experts believe, Riyadh is trying to find scapegoats and shift any potential blame from the Crown Prince, who was appointed on Saturday to head a committee tasked with overhauling the General Intelligence Agency. Earlier media reports have indicated that the Royal family might pin the blame on Ahmed al-Assiri, a high-ranking adviser to the Crown Prince. 

READ MORE: Saudi prince MBS put in charge of intel purge following Khashoggi death

As might be scripted, Major General Assiri was sacked as deputy intelligence chief on Saturday the same day the Crown Prince was charged with making the spy agency more "transparent." Other sacking orders followed the Kingdom's announcement that it detained 18 suspects in the ongoing investigation. 

"The King, instead of disciplining Mohammed bin Salman in any way, has appointed him to be the head of the investigation," Becker noted.

"Now they [Saudis] are going with plan B which is, 'let's blame this on some underlings, let's pick some fall guys, let's blame them for the whole thing,'" Jatras said. "Some heads will roll, maybe literally, so they can somehow protect Mohammed bin Salman himself from implication."

But even if the US-Saudi arms deals ultimately remain intact, there are many other ways Washington could still distance itself from the scandal by hurting Saudi interests on the diplomatic front, like reducing their support for the Yemen campaign, Robert Naiman, policy director with Just Foreign Policy explained to RT.

"The United States has huge leverage on Saudi Arabia; first of all, it can end the US support for the Saudi War in Yemen. The US is not just supplying weapons, it is refueling the Saudi and UAE bomb planes in the middle of their bombing runs, providing target information, and it is providing diplomatic cover at the United Nations. The United States, together with Britain and France, have blocked UN Security Council resolutions for the ceasefire," Naiman said, stressing that it will be up to US Congress to make a decision on how and whether to sanction Saudi Arabia.

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