Newscoop Footnotes: November 21, 2018

Welcome to Newscoop Footnotes —  the weekly review of important news no one’s talking about.

Hi, I’m Zoe Licata.

It’s been another interesting, if disturbing, week in the news. The reporting on issues related to the Saudis’ murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi continues to evolve.

  • As background, 15 Saudi agents flew into Istanbul on October 2nd and murdered Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate, where he had gone to obtain documents needed for his marriage to a Turkish woman. The U.S. CIA has determined with “high confidence” that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the assassination of Khashoggi.
  • But the CIA conclusion may be inconvenient for Donald Trump, given the close relationship between his son-in-law Jared Kushner and the crown prince, and the Trump/Kushner alliance with the Saudis as linchpin of a MidEast policy. On Tuesday, November 20, Trump defied the U.S. intelligence community with an extraordinary statement, promising that he would be “Standing with Saudi Arabia.” Trump used the first two paragraphs of his statement to excoriate Iran for non-Khashoggi-related issues, and then went on to speak about all the money America makes from its relationship with the Saudis. Finally, he floated the false Saudi claim that Khashoggi was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, and an enemy of the Saudi state. The Turkish government called Trump’s statement “comical.”
  • Notable is that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also offered his support to the Saudi crown prince, and was said to have asked Trump to do the same. The reasons for Netanyahu’s willingness to look away from the Khashoggi murder include hugely lucrative military contracts, their mutual hatred of Iran, and the Saudi push for Palestinians to accept a U.S. peace deal that greatly favors Israeli interests.
  • However, not so easy. The U.S. spy agencies are now being sued to release records on whether they warned Khashoggi of an impending threat to him. And despite Trump giving the Saudis a pass, there is the expectation of a U.S. Congressional resolution to sanction the Saudi government for Khashoggi’s murder.

And now, as Saudi Arabia receives deeper and deeper scrutiny, the world is taking a closer look at other Saudi human rights issues beyond the Khashoggi murder.

  • On November 20, Amnesty International announced that Mohammed bin Salman’s crackdown on dissent has included the torture of women right-to-drive activists who had earlier been arrested. Amnesty reported that the jailed women had been beaten and flogged, given electrical shocks, hung from the ceiling, and had been sexually harassed.
  • And despite Mohammed bin Salman’s claims of social reforms inside the country, Saudi women are still being forced to wear the long black cloak of the abaya. Now they’re protesting. Using the hashtag #inside-out abaya, Saudi women are posting photographs of themselves in public, wearing the abaya inside-out.

Last, but not least:  It’s being reported by Reuters and Al Jazeera that following the audacious murder of Jamal Khashoggi, dozens of royals in the House of Saud are moving to change the line of succession when King Salman dies. Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, uncle of the crown prince and deputy interior minister for 40 years, is being touted as a likely successor to the king — one who would be accepted by senior U.S. officials and the Saudi security apparatus alike.

We’ll see.

This has been the latest edition of Newscoop’s Footnotes – important events getting too little attention. See you next week with more.

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