Gina Haspel’s visit to Ankara has confirmed Trump administration’s worst fears

Trump tells reporters at the White House that the “Saudis”…  ‘had a very bad original concept. It was carried out poorly, and the cover up was one of the worst in the history of coverups.’ Trump hits the nail on the head about the Khashoggi case and why it is so damaging for Saudi Arabia and, by association for Trump: its planning reeks of hubris and sheer stupidity, while the cover-up is even worse. ‘Whoever thought of that idea is in big trouble, should be in big trouble’, he says. The language is ominous.

As usual Trump, having all facts, says he wants to get all the facts on Khashoggi’s killing before agreeing with Erdoğan’s assessment that the whole thing was premeditated murder. The idea is that CIA Director Gina Haspel has to report back, although she has already communicated that there is evidence on tape that bin Salman was micromanaging the murder as it took place.

This is why Pompeo is revoking the visas and imposing sanctions on those identified as the killers that, in his words, ‘ work for ministries and at the royal court. These penalties will not be the last word on the matter from the United States. We’re making very clear that the United States does not tolerate this kind of ruthless action to silence Mr. Khashoggi, a journalist, through violence.’

Pompeo echoes Trump’s position that Washington is still awaiting all the facts, promising further response. But Trump and Pompeo are not waiting on information from Erdoğan. They are addressing King Salman and his new advisers, putting pressure on them to distance themselves from MBS and choose a new Crown Prince. That’s who they are really waiting on.

Meanwhile, MBS’s planned speech at the (fake) investor conference (Davos in the desert) is summarily cancelled. Instead various other speakers allude to the ‘tragedy’ in Istanbul and the fact that actions such as Khashoggi’s murder ‘are not in the Saudi DNA.’ Sorry, but they are: the Saudi state in its three historical manifestations since the 18th century have been extremely violent affairs.

Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner, having forged a close personal relationship with MBS to pursue their aggressive policies in the Middle East, especially towards Palestinians and against Iran, would be the last to want to see him go. However, MBS is now tainted goods, and the longer he stays the worse it will be for Trump. Trump’s Middle East policy is essentially dead. It is unlikely that any other Saudi Royal will follow MBS’s soiled path, crafted over some years by Mohamed bin Zayed (MbZ) through Otaiba, his Ambassador in Washington.