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.

In 2012, the United States created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to protect these young people from being deported. Yet just five years later, the program was rescinded, putting close to 700,000 DACA recipients at risk of being banished from the only home they've ever known. More than five dozen of these DACA recipients at risk are Microsoft employees. These young people contribute to the company and serve its customers. They help create products, secure services, and manage finances. And like so many young people across our nation, they dream of making an honest living and a real difference in the communities in which they reside. Yet they now live in uncertainty.

Microsoft has told its Dreamers that it will stand up for them along with all the nation's DACA recipients. It will represent them in court and litigate on their behalf. That's why Microsoft joined Princeton University and Princeton student Maria De La Cruz Perales Sanchez to file one of the three cases challenging the DACA rescission that was heard on Nov. 12 by the United States Supreme Court.

Read more on Microsoft On The Issues.

Last week, French President Emmanuel Macron said that NATO was experiencing "brain death," citing a lack of coordination and America's fickleness under Donald Trump as reasons to doubt the alliance's commitment to mutual defense. NATO – the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – was formed in the wake of World War II as a counterweight against Soviet dominance in Europe and beyond. Its cornerstone is that an attack on one member is considered an attack on all. But disagreement about burden sharing has gained increasing salience in recent years. In 2014, the bloc agreed that each member state would increase their own defense spending to 2% of their respective GDP over the next decade. But so far, only seven of 29 members have forked out the money. Here's a look at who pays what.

In the predawn hours of Tuesday morning, Israel launched a precision attack in the Gaza Strip, targeting and killing a Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) commander. In response, the terror group fired more than 200 rockets at southern Israel. Exchanges of fire have brought cities on both sides of the Gaza border to a standstill and at least eight Palestinians are dead and dozens of Israelis wounded. With this latest escalation, Israel now faces national security crises on multiple fronts. Here's what's going on:

More Show less

More Brexit shenanigans: Britons this week saw Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Boris Johnson endorse Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in upcoming elections. As a special bonus, they got to see Corbyn return the favo(u)r with a formal endorsement of Johnson. Most viewers in the UK will have understood immediately that these are the latest example of "deep fakes," digitally manipulated video images. The more important Brexit story this week is a pledge by Nigel Farage that his Brexit Party will not run candidates in areas held by the Conservatives in upcoming national elections. That's a boost for Johnson, because it frees his party from having to compete for support from pro-Brexit voters in those constituencies.

More Show less

80: More than 80 percent of the electronic voting systems currently used in the US are made by just three companies, according to a new report which warns that they are regulated less effectively than "colored pencils."

More Show less