If the multiple announcements from companies publicly pulling out of the Future Investment conference in Saudi Arabia made it seem as if crown prince Mohammed bin Salman might be feeling a little lonely this week … nope. Not only do Saudi journalists report that most of those same companies quietly sent top executives along to the conference anyway, bin Salman had a very special guest on Monday in the form of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Meanwhile, Turkish president Recep Erdoğan gave a speech on Tuesday morning in which he revealed more details about the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
As TIME reports, Mnuchin paid a visit on the Saudi royal at the start of the conference, letting him know that just because bin Salman had a pesky journalist slaughtered, the United States under Donald Trump doesn’t hold it against him. Following the murder of Khashoggi, Mnuchin had announced that he would still be attending the Future Investment conference. Then a few days later as opposition mounted around the world, Mnuchin declared he would not be going. But the truth turns out to be … he went anyway. Only “quietly.”
The White House did not announce Mnuchin’s travel plans, and hasn’t posted any images or statements from the visit. However, the Saudi foreign ministry did tweet out a picture of Mnuchin sitting down with bin Salman. Possibly to discuss how the US can get in on future bone saw orders. Though Saudi reports indicate that the purpose to was “reassure the Saudi leadership” that the US values their relationship. Which is not at all reassuring to those who rate preserving the First Amendment over keeping the guy who has Jared Kushner “in his pocket” happy.
In a speech on Tuesday morning, the New York Times reported that Turkish president Erdoğan spoke at length on Khashoggi’s murder, giving out more details from Turkish intelligence. According to Erdoğan, the operation to capture and kill Khashoggi was planned well in advance, and the team that came to Istanbul wasn’t limited to the 15 operatives who pounced on Khashoggi when he entered the consulate. Some of them arrived days in advance, conducted reconnaissance of areas around Istanbul and surrounding rural location, and included generals in the team.
Though Saudi reports were keen to show attendance at the investment summit and ran video of the opening ceremony showing a packed room, other reports indicate that once the cameras were off, other sessions are much less well attended. Some reports have indicated that bin Salman is “giving up on the West” and is preparing to announce more investment deals with China and Chinese firms. But, like Mnuchin, a lot of Western companies seem to be present “quietly,” wanting to give consumers the impression that they’re concerned about Khashoggi’s murder, while still demonstrating their loyalty to bin Salman.
And there are some people present at the conference who certainly would rather not attend.
Jamal Khashoggi was not just killed inside the Saudi consulate by a hit squad sent there after days of planning, the Saudis followed up his death by sending a body double around Istanbul in the slain man’s clothing in hopes of creating a false trail of reports that Khashoggi had left the consulate alive. Even though it appears that the journalist’s death happened directly in front of the consul and other Saudi officials, the Saudi government denied for two weeks that Khashoggi had been killed, insisted that he had left “only minutes” after he arrived, and planted stories about “rogue killers” which Donald Trump was happy to repeat. The Saudi government has now settled on a story insisting that Khashoggi died in “a fist fight” that occurred between one 59-year-old journalist and a team of military special ops assassins.
Erdoğan: All evidence gathered shows that Jamal Khashoggi was the victim of a savage murder. To cover up such a savagery would hurt the human conscience.
Turkish television is running video that supposedly shows Saudi operatives at the consulate burning documents on October 3, one day after Khashoggi entered the consulate to collect forms needed for his upcoming marriage.
On Tuesday morning, Sky News reported that Jamal Khashoggi’s body has been found at the home of the Saudi consul. However, this news seems very preliminary and is unconfirmed at the time of writing.