Saudi Heir and Aramco Despair – a Motive for Khashoggi Killing

By Finian Cunningham

February 04, 2019 "Information Clearing House"   The brutal murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was preceded a few weeks by a major event that could be the key for why his assassination was ordered. That event was the cancelled stock market sale of Saudi Aramco shares, the kingdom’s state-owned oil company.

The Initial Public Offering of Aramco – the world’s biggest oil company – was the “brainchild” of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), as told in this recent documentary. When he became heir to the throne in early 2017, the young prince made the partial sell-off of the state-owned asset the “cornerstone” for his far-reaching plans to reform the ultra-conservative desert kingdom.

MBS, the favored son of aging King Salman, was given free rein over major policy decisions, including trying to modernize the Saudi economy away from its near-total dependence on oil. The Crown Prince drew up a “Vision 2030” master plan to reinvent Saudi Arabia as a hi-tech business hub for the Middle East. The plan – widely hailed by Western news media as an “ambitious new beginning” – also included social reforms to give women more rights and to open up more lax leisure facilities, such as cinemas and sporting venues. The Western plaudits for the young royal pandered to his ego and vanity.

However, the thirty-two-year monarch has since fallen out of favor among his erstwhile Western backers over the gruesome murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 in what many believe to have been an assassination plot ordered by Crown Prince MBS. The House of Saud vehemently deny his involvement and claim that the murder was a “rogue operation” by Saudi intelligence agents who were sent to Istanbul to forcibly return Khashoggi to his native country. Few people – most notably US President Donald Trump – believe the official Saudi claim of MBS’ innocence.

The timeline of events is important here. Khashoggi went in self-exile in September 2017, a few months after MBS became heir to the throne. His next-in-line promotion was seen by many observers as a breach of the kingdom’s succession rules. MBS, with his father’s approval, bypassed other heirs who were higher up the succession ladder. It was a “power grab” by the sharp-elbowed MBS who is known for being arrogant and impetuous.

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