KHASHOGGI UPDATE: SAUDIS ADMIT IT, SORT OF

As of this writing, Saudi Arabia was reportedly preparing to release a report that acknowledges the death of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate earlier this month. The twist? It was an accident, they say, which occurred during an “unauthorized” attempt to kidnap and repatriate Mr. Khashoggi, who was living in exile as a critic of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. This explanation would fit with what President Trump said he heard from King Salman, the crown prince’s father, yesterday morning — that maybe it was “rogue elements” within the Saudi elite who were responsible for Khashoggi’s death.


Irrespective of its veracity, which is impossible to know, this explanation does have the effect of cooling for now rising tensions between the three main powers involved in the drama—the US, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. For the US and Saudi, Riyadh’s decision to shift the blame onto a few rogues gives President Trump cover to avoid taking actions that significantly downgrade an important — if controversial — relationship with Saudi Arabia. Washington won’t cancel any arms deals, and Riyadh won’t have to follow through on threats to retaliate, say, by cutting oil production or dumping US assets.

Turkish President Erdogan will also see this alibi as a way to ease tensions with Riyadh. His security services first leaked the gruesome allegations that Khashoggi was killed by the Saudis — who have been at odds with Ankara both over Turkish support for Sunni Islamist movements and Turkey’s warm ties with Iran. Erdogan himself—not wanting to escalate tensions—was somewhat diplomatic, proposing a joint investigation with the Saudis.

But the explanation also raises a few questions about what’s going on politically inside of Saudi Arabia, where Prince Mohammed has moved to enact reforms while also ruthlessly suppressing dissent and consolidating power. It’s certainly not uncommon for officials in highly authoritarian systems to misread signals about what their bosses want, or to overstep the bounds of unspoken understandings about what’s permissible — this often happens, for example, in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. On the other hand, 15 officials traveling abroad to kidnap a prominent journalist with powerful friends in the West is a heck of a conspiracy to keep under wraps.

Here’s the dilemma Prince Mohammed now faces if this is the final word from Riyadh: he will have to name and punish some of his own top officials in order to satisfy outside critics. If they are really rogues, then his grip on power may be more uncertain than it seemed. If they are not, he will have to punish people who will consider themselves to have just been following orders.

Even if the official explanation of this deplorable killing eases international tensions, the domestic implications within Saudi Arabia could only just be starting.

The goal of Eni's High Performance Computing is to perfect and industrialize low carbon energy technologies developed in collaboration with research centers. Eni's efforts are helping to generate energy from waves and guarantee access to energy in remote areas thanks to light-weight and flexible organic photovoltaic panels


Watch Eni's new docuseries on HPC5

Nicholas Thompson, editor-in-chief of WIRED, explains the feud between Trump and Twitter and weighs in on Elon Musk's ambitious space plans:

What is happening between Trump and Twitter?

A lot. Twitter decided it had to fact check the president because the president said something that wasn't entirely true, and perhaps was false, about voting. Twitter cares a lot about lies about voting. So, they fact check Trump. Trump got really mad, said he's going to get rid of some of the laws that protect Twitter from liability when people say bad things on their platform. That started war number one.

More Show less

Trump promised a statement about China. Today's announcement was not about China. Most significant was about the World Health Organization, which is a distraction for Trump because it's weaker. They're reliant on the US, have no ability to hit back. But announcing they're pulling all funding and pulling out of the World Health Organization, the international governmental organization tasked with responding to pandemics, in the middle of a pandemic, is one of the stupidest foreign policy decisions that President Trump could make.

More Show less

The world's worst health crisis in a hundred years might not seem like the best time for the World Health Organization's biggest financial supporter to threaten to pull the plug on its operations, but that's where we are. On Friday afternoon, President Trump announced that the US is withdrawing entirely from the Organization.

The move comes ten days after the White House sent a withering four-page letter to the organization's Director General which accused the organization of ignoring early warnings about the virus' spread and bowing to Chinese efforts to downplay its severity. The letter closed with a threat to withdraw within 30 days unless the WHO shaped up to better serve "American interests." In the end, the Administration had patience only for 10 days after all.

More Show less