Bin Salman will step down: Hossein Askari

TEHRAN, Nov. 13 (MNA) – Professor Hossein Askari, an expert on Saudi Arabia who also teaches international business at the George Washington University, believes that with no doubt Mohammad bin Salman, ordered Khashoggi kidnapping, murder and disposal of the body.

“I don’t believe that MBS can survive,” Hossein Askari, who served as special advisor to Saudi finance minister, told the Tehran Times.

Following is the full text of the interview:

What new facts are there in the Khashoggi tragedy?

Erdogan has released some of the tapes surrounding what happened to Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate to the US, UK and Saudi Arabia among others. These tapes purportedly confirm the murder and dismemberment of Khashoggi. I say some of the tapes because we don’t know what he has and what he has released.

Is there any evidence in the tapes or anywhere else connecting Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) to Khashoggi’s murder?

This is a red herring. Let me tell you why and with no doubt in my mind, Mohammad bin Salman, or MBS, ordered this kidnapping, murder and disposal of the body. Such actions are not carried out unless ordered from the top. MBS is today the effective top man. This is the way Saudi Arabia works. There is no doubt about this. The US knows it. The UK knows it. The hypocrisies of all these leaders is unbelievable. Let me repeat, MBS the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia ordered this horrific act and its every detail.

What are the inconsistencies in Saudi Arabia’s story of what happened to Khashoggi?

Where is the body? If the Saudis gave the body to a ‘collaborator’, where is the collaborator? Why did the Saudis send in a ‘cleaning’ crew? And above all, the Saudis have spewed out lie after lie. Even Trump, who is not exactly regarded as a man of truth, has said that the Saudis have engaged in a very bad cover up.

What does Erdogan say he wants from Saudi Arabia?

There are a number of things that Erdogan has demanded. He wants the 15 or 18 people involved in this murder extradited to Turkey to stand trial. He wants the name of the so-called collaborator in Turkey that Saudi Arabia keeps alluding to. He wants Khashoggi’s body to further confirm what happened. But nothing. And given all these lies, how can anyone be expected to believe in the investigation that MBS is supposedly conducting?

Will the Saudis comply with Erdogan’s demands? 

No. MBS cannot risk even letting one of the 15 or 18 and the Saudi Consul in Turkey who was a witness to it all leave Saudi Arabia for the foreseeable future. Why? Because they could tell all. This is one of the reasons supporting the assertion that MBS ordered every detail. If he had not, he would let them speak and tell all. He has to now keep all of the perpetrators in Saudi Arabia. There is no collaborator in Turkey so he cannot produce him or her. And as for Khashoggi’s body, I believe that it was cut up and dissolved in acid. Why else would they send it such a cleaning crew?

What is Erdogan’s game? What does he really want?

Erdogan is playing a chess game. First, he wants the US to lift any and all sanctions on Turkey. He wants to extract a number of concessions from Trump for Turkey, including the military aircraft that he wants. And also, he wants the US to pressure a change in Saudi policies. That is to lift the embargo on Qatar, a Turkey ally. And to pressure Saudi Arabia to rescind most of its demands on Qatar. He wants to pressure Saudi Arabia directly and indirectly through the US to be more accommodating towards the Muslim Brotherhood and reform in the Middle East and North Africa. Erdogan wants Saudi Arabia to change its regional policies and to give financial support to Turkey.

Erdogan wants to become the leader of the Muslim World. He wants to expose Saudi duplicity, injustice, corruption and ultimately its illegitimacy as the self-declared leader of the Muslim World. In this quest to become the leader of the Muslim World, Erdogan has to be careful. He cannot be accommodating towards the US and to Saudi Arabia and in the process alienate Muslims around the world. So, he cannot compromise too much and forget his stated quest for justice and transparency.

How will this affair end? Will MBS stay in power? Will the Qatar embargo end? Will Turkey get Saudi financing? Will US support for Saudi Arabia be curtailed?

I don’t believe that MBS can survive. How can the Al-Sauds pretend to be upholders of the Islamic faith? The custodian of the two holy mosques? Their only claim to legitimacy is religion. Yes, they have freely taken from the country’s treasury to finance their lavish lifestyles but now under MBS they are being stripped naked of even more serious crimes—murder of a journalist, genocide in Yemen, the kidnapping of the Prime Minister of Lebanon, wholesale torture of political opponents, lies to the world and on and on. How can MBS be respected by any foreign leader and especially in the Muslim World? They must all be bought but Saudi Arabia does not have enough money! It is too embarrassing for Saudi Arabia and for all Muslims. The best that the rulers of Arabia can do is to at least replace MBS for 2 or 3 years until this whole affair has receded in the minds of all. And then bring him back.

Yes, the Qatar embargo will end within the next few months. This is a minimum concession that Saudi Arabia has to make.

Yes, the US will have to walk back its over the top support for MBS and the Al-Sauds. But who knows what Kushner will do behind the scenes?”

What does this tragedy say about the future of Saudi Arabia and the Muslim World?

Reform. Saudi Arabia will be nudged into more meaningful reforms than allowing women to drive. Muslims worldwide will be demanding representative governance, transparency, better policies and social and economic progress from their rulers. Khashoggi’s death may turn out to be the spark for much-needed reform in the Muslim World, and especially in Saudi Arabia.

Interview by: Javad Heirannia

MNA/TT

News Code 139578

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