Deyan Ranko Brashich
The murder of 29 school children and the wounding of another 30 by a Saudi air strike in Yemen is met with a stifled yawn. The death of 576,000 Iraqi children over a 5-year span, the result of United Nations Security Council economic sanctions gets a sparse page A6 story in the New York Times on December 1, 1995. In Syria, hundreds of men, women and children, civilians all, are killed by barrel bomb chemical weapons with one superpower expressing its outrage by firing a missile at an empty air base runway while another ramps up military support for the assassins.
And remember the ongoing Saudi blockade of Yemen which has 10 million civilians at risk, a full-blown famine, ignored by much of the media worldwide, quiet, hidden assassinations waiting to happen.
All assassinations, whether gory or bloodless, are equal and terminate in untimely deaths- yet some assassinations catch our attention, our morbid imagination, changing history and the course of human events.
The assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, either by design or miscalculation, led to 40 million casualties world-wide during the course of the First World War. The course of emancipation and of the Republic was altered by the assassination of President Lincoln as was the cause of integration by the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. The execution of Tsar Nicholas II paved the way for the ascent of the Bolsheviks, Stalin’s rise to power and the 10 million deaths by starvation of the New Economic Plan while Julius Caesar’s assassination marked the end of the republic as a form of governance for centuries.
The cold-blooded killing and dismemberment, while still alive and sentient, of the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi is an assassination that has caught the world’s attention and will have far reaching consequences – far beyond Saudi Arabia’s Consulate in Istanbul or the Consul General’s gardens where Khashoggi’s dismembered body parts are to be found.
One would have to be a haruspex, a diviner of the future – which I am not – and interpret signs found in the entrails sheep, goats and chickens, to accurately predict the impact of Khashoggi’s death on the course of future events. Even if I were a diviner and had that gift I lack the intimate knowledge of the Middle East’s history of ties and alliances, grudges and slights that control future actions.
The region’s history is as convoluted as the innards of goats, chickens and sheep. Remember the main protagonist rooting for the dismissal and fall from grace of the House of Saud and Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman [“MBS”] is Rejep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s elected President. Erdoğan, like his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, recalls the glory of vast Empires lost and seeks to regain the might of Mehmed the Conqueror and Suleiman the Magnificent. Remember Turkey, “the Eternal State”, was the seat of the last Sunni Islamic Ottoman Caliphate. The clash between Turkey and Saudi Arabia is for the hearts and minds of the Sunni world which has been usurped by Saudi oil and petrodollars.
This, of course must be taken with the Shi’a-Sunni religious kerfuffle for supremacy in the Muslim world in mind. You also have the Kurd conundrum – a Sunni minority in a Shi’a Iran – a political minority seeking independence from the Turkish, Iraqi, Iranian and Syrian states for a place in the sun all of their own.
Geopolitical issues on a local level will have far reaching effect world-wide. You all have heard of the Saudi blockade of Qatar, yet this is not a one-on-one dispute – it pits Saudi Arabia along with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, the Maldives, Mauritania, Senegal, Djibouti, the Comoros, Jordan, “the Tobruk-based Libyan government and the Hadji-led Yemeni government” in severing diplomatic relations with Qatar.
Qatar is the home of America’s Combined Air Operation Center at the Al Udeid Air Base, a sprawling advanced military complex that “provides command and control of air power throughout Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and 17 other nations”. You can bet your bottom petrodollar that Qatar will use that fulcrum to dislodge and destroy the Crown Prince who has instituted the blockade.
Throw in for good measure Jared Kushner and his plan for peace in the Middle East – read that as a one state, two state or chaos solutions for the Israeli Palestinian intifada – and you have yet another player, the United States pondering on whether to support MBS or throw him under the bus. Then ask if Donald Trump will put money where his mouth is, his venal interest in his real estate ventures supported by Saudi money and abandon any semblance of supporting freedom of speech and the press.
I sense that Jamal Khashoggi’s assassination while not notable – journalists and dissidents are a dime a dozen and readily disposable by autocrats of the likes of Rodrigo Duterte and Kim Jong-un – has legs and will have a long shelf life. Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman and the Saudis will rue the day they ordered the hit.
Deyan Ranko Brashich is a contributor writing from New York. He is the author of Letters from America, Contrary Views and Dispatches. His contact and blog “Contrary Views” is at www.deyanbrashich.com