The Economization of Protest and Defense: The Jamal Khashoggi Affair – Part II of III

Surprisingly, large segments of American business, beginning with the media,
were not buying into the attempted coverup of the Khashoggi affair. Democratic
(The Glover Park Group) and the Republican (BGR Group) public relations
firms canceled their very lucrative contracts to lobby for SA.  Cancellations to
the imminent economic conference in SA, “Davos in the Desert,” organized by
the Future Investment Initiative, a SA economic front organization, kept coming
in:

1. Andrew Ross Sorkin, the New York Times columnist and CNBC
anchor;
2. Patrick Soon-Shiong, publisher of The Los Angeles Times
3. CNN;
4. CNBC;
5. Zanny Minton Beddoes, editor of The Economist;
6. Arianna Huffington;
7. Justin Smith, CEO of Bloomberg Media Group, with anchors Francine
Lacqua and Erik Schatzker;
8. World Bank President Jim Yong Kim;
9. JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon
10. Ford Motor Chairman Bill Ford;
11. Bob Bakish; CEO Viacom;
12. Larry Fink, chief executive of the world's largest fund manager,
BlackRock;
13. Stephen Schwarzman, CEO of the huge private equity company
Blackstone;
14. Stephen Pagliuca of Bain Capital;
15.  Steve Case, chairman of venture capital firm Revolution;

16.  Ajay Banga, CEO of Mastercard;
17. Viacom CEO Bob Bakish;
18. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi;
19. Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator;
20. Ernest Moniz, energy secretary under President Barack Obama.

Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, suspended his directorships in
two tourism projects backed by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

It is highly ironic when we have to depend on a portion of the business sector of
civil society rather than governmental leaders to stand up and support
international norms. But this may be further proof of the economization of
diplomacy.

On the other hand, most invitees still plan to attend. Of the very many more still
to be heard from (estimated at 160), they include:
1. Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son;
2. Colony Capital Executive Chairman Thomas Barrack;
3. Liontree CEO Aryeh Bourkoff;
4. Joe Kaeser, CEO Siemens;
5. Bill Winters, CEO Standard Chartered;
6. John Flint, CEO HSBC.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin still plans to attend. (by Friday he
withdrew.) Will Trump seize Saudi Arabian assets if the evidence
overwhelmingly points to the likely commission of a murder carried out by the
highest authorities of a country? Will Trump ban travel to America for his Saudi
Arabian friends? You have to be smoking something very strong to believe
even in such a possibility. Recall that Donald Trump made his first foreign visit
to Saudi Arabia of all countries.

Barack Obama may have signed the Global Magnitsky Human Rights and
Accountability Act as one of his last acts of official business, but that is simply

another piece of legislation that Trump ignores and/or actively undermines. I
suspect that, even if the Democrats win a majority in the House of
Representatives in the November midterm elections, they will not be able to
rein in their President and they have certainly no capacity for independent
action without Trump’s support. The House can, however, hobble the President
by making it impossible to sell billions of dollars in arms to the Saudi regime
under agreements that Trump has vowed to uphold. The House can cut off
support for military training. Whether the House will do so is a very different
story. Further, only Trump could order a suspension of routine intelligence
cooperation with SA’s intelligence services. Given Trump’s negative attitude to
the UN, one could not expect the U.S. to sponsor a Security Council resolution
condemning SA for murder.

The problem is that Trump has led the world back to a Hobbesian one where it
is everyone against everyone else; he has been a major, if not the major,
contributor to the destruction of the liberal international order and replacing it
with states who must be a gang or in league with a gang that provides
protection, more economic than military. After the Holocaust, we said, “Never
Again.” After the genocide in Cambodia we said, “Never Again.” After its
repetition in 1994 in Rwanda, we said “Never Again.” Again and again, we say
never again, but again and again it recurs, the most recent to the Rohingya
from Myanmar.

With only token chastisement, Syria violated all the laws governing war and the
use of chemical weapons. We have international laws against nuclear
proliferation, but treaties to implement such laws are abrogated by Donald
Trump. The perpetrators are not the greatest danger to the international liberal
order. We used to believe that the bystanders who remain passive were the
greatest danger. But the threat now comes from states which use their coercive
clout to get domestic critics and satraps in line and economic clout to keep
other states passive.

All this has to be set within the geopolitics of the region as well. Qatar and
Saudi Arabia were at loggerheads; the latter instigated a blockade against the
very tiny but very rich envisioned satrap that refused to bow before SA’s
bullying. Turkey sent troops to Qatar and Qatar sent money to Turkey as well

as to Gaza, the latter with the cooperation of Israel. Saudi Arabia sent money to
prop up the Syrian Kurds who are holding back Turkey from xample that part of
Syria under the banner of defending the Assad regime. If the American
Congress tries to retaliate against the Saudis for its abuse of human rights,
Saudi Arabia will retaliate economically.

SA is not Iran that not only persecutes dissidents, but members of the Baha’i
faith and more recently Christians. (Victor Bet-Tamraz, Shamiram Isavi, Amin
Afshar-Naderi and Hadi Asgari were all convicted and sent to prison simply for
insisting on practicing their faith.) Saudi Arabia is not Turkey. Saudi Arabia is
not even Russia. In the current international order, Saudi Arabia pulls more
international weight than all three together. Because SA uses the current
currency of the international regime, economic pressure.

When Trump reversed himself and suggested that he might adopt a program of
“severe punishment” of Saudi Arabia if the evidence is convincing that MbS
ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, after SA’s stock market plummeted,
on 14 October, SA very quickly replied. An official source proclaimed that SA
had played a prominent role in ensuring security, stability and prosperity, not
only in the Middle East but in the world more generally. It was a leading country
in combatting terrorism. It had used its economic clout to help pacify the region.
And it promised it would respond to its international critics with economic
measures and, if those failed, even with such shocking diplomatic measures as
reconciling with Iran. Further, America’s Middle East policy depends on Saudi
Arabia that finances the U.S. military presence in Syria.

What will happen to critics from abroad who do not submit to this apologetic for
SA? If they are individuals, they could be murdered. If they are states, they can
and will be subject to economic counter-measures if they even try to apply
diplomatic pressure, as the case with Canada demonstrated. Only this time it
might up the ante. SA could renege on its commitment to producing 7.5 million
barrels of oil per day and that would lead to a significant increase in the price of
gasoline and, consequently, the wrath of the citizens of those states. It could
even abandon using the American dollar for pricing that oil and recycling those
petro-dollars into the American economy in accordance with the economic deal
Kissinger forged with SA in 1974. SA could adopt, for example, the Chinese

currency. SA will cut off trade with its critics, sending students to its universities
and buying goods and services by the 20 th  largest economy in the world.

Alternatively, SA could pay Turkey a rumoured $5 billion to squash the
investigation, or, at the very least, produce a whitewash. The agreement to
conduct a joint investigation certainly points in such a direction. Because of the
ineptitude of the SA intelligence service, Recep Erdoğan could escape the most
dire effects of American economic pressures and seal a deal with the SA
envoy, Prince Khalid bin Faisal Al Saud. The Europeans would obtain a double
victory – undermining American economic pressure and saving Erdoğan’s skin.
Erdoğan wins part of Turkey’s way back into the good graces of the Europeans.
The recent release of the U.S. pastor (and possibly CIA asset), Andrew
Brunson, bought Erdoğan some goodwill with the US.

Israel, in turn, a secret ally of SA, could enhance its progress towards
reconciliation with Turkey. Jared Kushner’s peace plan for the Israeli-
Palestinian conflict depends on Saudi endorsement. The vice-president of the
Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, a former Israeli deputy national
security council head, Eran Lerman, said: “It is certainly not in our interests to
see the status of the Saudi government diminished in Washington.” One might
expect the American Jewish Committee, the formidable Israeli lobby group, to
secretly act on behalf of the Saudis, particularly if a face-saving formula can be
agreed upon.

If states now resort to the instruments of terrorism to keep its dissidents in line
at the same time as right-wing extremists reply in kind with terrorist murders of
innocent civilians and suspected Palestinian nationalists kill Kim Levengrond-
Yehezkel and Ziv Hajbi in the joint Israeli-Palestinian industrial area of Barkan,
and if the rule of law is subverted by economic deals or even by liberal
procedural justice systems, the law and the rule of law begin to appear more
and more as an antiquated relic incapable of dealing with either the radical but
now mainstream right as well as the rogue actions of states. Instead of the
Responsibility to Protect we have irresponsibility and recidivism where each
citizen is thrust back to his or her own devices in protecting oneself.

To be continued

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