Orchestrated media, political campaign to damage Saudi-US ties, says analyst
Irina Tsukerman is a New York-based attorney, whose focus is on assisting human rights defenders, liberal democratic dissidents, and persecuted minorities. She frequently writes and speaks about security issues, human rights, international affairs, and geopolitics.
Responding to a set of questions from Al Arabiya English ranging from Khashoggi affair to, Qatar-Muslim Brotherhood footprint on several recent developments, Irina gives a detailed response on what she feels ails the anti-Saudi media.
Below are Irina’s answers to Al Arabiya questions:
In your pieces you emphasized many times that there is an apparent orchestrated campaign aimed to undermine Saudi Arabia and its policies through media and PR-fueled attacks. Are there certain states or organizations behind this? Why?
Irina Tsukerman: Yes, I strongly believe that Qatar, Turkey, and certain Muslim Brotherhood proxies in the West are involved in funding a media campaign and political operations to discredit Saudi reforms and the government in general. Iran is also most certainly a beneficiary even if it does not have the same level of funding to devote to these causes. But its own media and media proxies have worked hard to amplify anti-Saudi messaging. It appears to me that since the Khashoggi affair, there’s been non-stop focus on any story that has even a possible Saudi angle to it, even without any evidence. Most such stories were very obviously dragged in by their ears and were largely ignored by the intended audiences in the West, and rightfully so, but the pattern is obvious.
Soon after it was discovered that Khashoggi acted as a cutout for Qatar’s political goals in attacking the Saudi Crown Prince and the war in Yemen by way of his plagiarized articles (which Washington Post has tried hard to downplay and not revisit), Bloomberg had an article regarding one of the Saudi princes swept up in the corruption probe. That hardly tugged on anyone’s heartstrings, except giving some concern to investors who had been involved in him, so then the Wall Street Journal wrote a heart wrenching piece about some former McKinsey employee who was supposedly in Saudi custody for over a year and beaten repeatedly. Interestingly enough, at the peak of the Khashoggi affair, it was McKinsey, which was being accused of aiding and abetting Khashoggi’s alleged surveillance through their reports on dissidents. It would have been a good time to mention the irony of one of their own guys having suffered as a result of such a brutal system, but there was no mention of him at all. But once the negative attention has shifted away from Saudi Arabia toward other more important matters for the United States, this person is “discovered - only then it turns out that at the time of his arrest he was no longer working for McKinsey, that he violated Saudi laws, and that there was no evidence of his torture or other mistreatment, all of it was based on anonymous rumors, just like Khashoggi probe. And of course, one must wonder where were his colleagues and the journalists for well over a year. Why has no one written an article after he was just arrested or at least after his first reported beating? How convenient.
That, however, was not the end of the matter. Soon after, Washington Post latched on to a story about some fugitive who supposedly stabbed or killed some woman in the US, was let out on bail, and allegedly Saudi Arabia helped him escape. But no sooner that the story broke that people started asking questions: why was such a violent offender, clearly a flight risk, granted bail anyway? Of course, that was not convenient to the narrative, so the story died almost at its inception.
No sooner that was over, however, that the Netflix scandal broke, with the outraged media and human rights organizations failing in their moral indignation to note that Saudi Arabia requested Netflix to remove a comedy episode attacking Saudi Arabia for the Khashoggi affair from Saudi catalog due to its violation of Saudi Arabia’s own loss, not from Western or other catalogs. In no way was Saudi Arabia interfering with a Western country, US democracy, or preventing Americans from seeing criticism of its affairs. Instead of focusing on asking a legitimate question about Saudi Arabia’s internal censorship or something like that and whether such laws were warranted and whether Netflix should have gone along with it, the human rights activists misrepresented the situation to the readers and made the story go viral in the press.
The story was largely of no interest to most Americans, even at its worst, most Americans know nothing about Saudi Arabia and don’t care about the Khashoggi affair or the comedian in question, but every Western media outlet focused on that absurd episode to the exclusion of many, many stories from around the world with real human rights abuses at their core. Eventually the story died for lack of interest, because it was completely unrelatable to an average American. However, the dishonesty of those who jumped on this smear campaign and worked hard to make the situation look much worse than it actually was is striking. That is what defines a smear campaign, a character assassination campaign - the falsehood at its core, the utter disregard for truth and factual accuracy, and making full information available to the readers to pass their own judgment. Once someone stoops to misinforming the readers in order to make them less sympathetic to the target, this party loses credibility and cannot call itself media or a human rights organization. It’s pure politics. But money for this has to come from somewhere. Who would have an interest in funding such obvious and otherwise losing smear campaigns? Only those with enough money to spend freely to antagonize Saudi Arabia, and those with a motive to embarrass it or cause its “favorability ratings” to plummet in the West. Qatar, Turkey, and Muslim Brotherhood outlets have the motive and the funding to do so, and moreover, in addition to these covert campaigns, have been working very hard to besmirch the Saudis quite openly.
Also, you doubted the authenticity of the story of escaped 18-year-old Saudi girl in Thailand. What are some alarming details surrounding the story that may raise red flags? Why would there be external forces involved in this case and how does the story benefit them?
Irina Tsukerman: There are many odd things about this story. It’s clearly aimed to embarrass and smear the Saudis, to portray the country as backwards, extremist, conservative and to attack the reforms for not really being genuine.
That’s not to say that every part of it is an outright fabrication. The best smear campaigns have some truth to them even if it’s not very much. It’s not hard to believe that a young, naive, idealistic girl would have a dispute with her family, or, living in a relatively conservative community, felt, like many teenagers, oppressed or unable to freely express her views. It is also true that Saudi Arabia has blasphemy laws, and capital punishment for apostasy. But when was the last time that was actually enforced, and furthermore, who, in her right mind, would openly claim to have left Islam if something like that was a real threat? It’s interesting that at no point did she try to find any solution to her grievances other than running away. And when you are young, it’s natural to look for the most radical solution to however minor a grievance, to want to escape her problems, and to run to the end of the world. Good thing her family had money, too, otherwise she would not have had the luxury of running so far.
What’s interesting to me is that her supporters at no point offered her any real support, they did not raise questions about her family circumstances to see whether the issue could be somehow resolved amicably, whether her problems could be solved without her having to abandon everything and to go live somewhere very far as a lonely 18 year old with no family. The goal seemed to be to break her away from her family and her country as quickly as possible, and to send a very public message to all of the young women in Saudi not to wait for the reforms to take place, not to help the government with implementing them, not to look for creative solutions in the meantime, not to go out there and make great things happened as so many Saudi women are doing – they are now studying science, joining the military, getting jobs, becoming very talented artists – but instead to run far and away from their families, culture, and country, to assimilate, and to become famous for being victims, not for contributing something important and significant to their societies or for promoting any constructive ideas that help anybody else. They are encouraged to run from problems, not to solve them and to make their government look bad, no matter what the cause of their problems is.
This story has many red flags that immediately caught my attention, as someone who has been in touch with many asylum seekers and refugees, including people w ho are secular or left religion in a number of Muslim majority states. This young woman of course did not openly claim to be an apostate in Saudi. It sounds like she had differences with her family, and wanted to get out so she kept that until she was out so that Australia would grant her an asylum just because she made that claim. And because of Saudi Arabia’s reputation, Australian government would naturally be under pressure to do that. Then, once stopped in Thailand, she articulated a very vague threat from one cousin who supposedly threatened to kill her. That may very well be true - but why did she not go with that information to the Saudi government? Would she want her cousin to threaten somebody else in her situation? What she did not do is articulate years of physical and psychological abuse as justification for her escape and asylum request that now many of her supporters, particularly in the atheist circles, are conveniently attributing to her - though she said no such things. Her comments were always were very vague. By contrasts, many asylum seekers who are in dangerous situations can very clearly articulate horrific details of years of persecution by their governments or families and can very specifically explain the many ways in which they have been threatened. Many are so traumatized that even with the full support of lawyers and foreign governments are afraid of speaking before the press for years or even showing their faces and real names. The young woman may very well be frightened, but is her life really in danger, and does she even believe that her life is actually in danger – or did someone convince her that it is in order for it to make a dramatic story on the news?
She comes from a relatively privileged circumstance. She could afford to find a way of getting to the airport despite the much maligned guardianship system (so someone must have been helping her), and she could afford a ticket to Australia. Why Australia, not UK or Germany - a much faster flight out of danger, where she would have been welcomed with open arms, and where she would not have to deal with Thailand’s illiberal monarchy? Now we are hearing that some activist from Australia helped made it happen... How on earth could he do that without knowing anything about this woman other than what she told him? How was he able to verify this story? Did he know enough about Saudi Arabia to pass judgment that she was not a fraud or a danger to Australia? I have had one case I personally had to deal with when someone from Iran after years of brutal torture and a history of arrests had to go through months of questioning from US government before being allowed to enter the country - that was years ago before additional travel scrutiny restrictions came into place. Clearly strings were pulled for this woman even though her story was far less dramatic. But it was clear to me that no one involved was concerned about the most “deserving” candidates for asylum, otherwise the one in Australia would have turned to the refugees who risked their lives to get to the country by boat from various places and are now stationed in detention camps. He would have turned to the many miserable lives maltreated in Turkey or Malaysia, many people who have escaped prisons and torture and have not had a UNHCR visit even after years of living there. I have tried calling UNHCR time after time for some of these people; even with an American lawyer they would not lift the phone. But once the press is involved, miraculously, they appeared out of nowhere and interviewed this girl instantaneously, and that alone was enough for the Australian government to consider giving her asylum on the spot - with no further details released as to grounds for that asylum. To me, that is astounding, and it’s a great example how celebrity can be created by the media, not through the merit of the case, or security verification, but because a few very privileged people pulled the right strings, and a few governments such as Canada, with an ax to grind against Saudi Arabia, got involved to pressure Australia on her behalf. This very ordinary story that does not have particularly dramatic or compelling details otherwise has been politicized and turned into some campaign of good versus evil, even t though I see nothing heroic about this story - there are many people who deserve far more attention and never get it because they don’t have money to fly to Australia or they don’t have gullible friends who believe anything they say and are willing to risk their reputations to get them out. To me, however, this case does not speak to the credibility of the human rights activists who worked to make this a newsworthy item that held the world’s attention for days, but to their gullibility and lack of good judgment.
And the timing of it is very suspicious. This incident happened now, at the zenith of negative publicity for the Kingdom. Had this girl been from some other country, I doubt anyone would have been as interested. Quite possibly, she was encouraged, maybe even pushed to leave at this time to maximize the attention. Who knows if some Qatari back or Muslim Brotherhood organizations were involved in her case. But it’s obvious what will likely happen once she is in Australia – these organizations, even if they weren’t much involved to date, will work to turn her into an anti-Saudi spokesperson, who will make appearances at various human rights panels and talk about what an oppressive country that is, conveniently leaving out any ongoing internal processes that are so easy to dismiss in comparison to much more intriguing and emotional TV drama. Qatar, Muslim Brotherhood, Turkey, and Iran were all watching the Khashoggi affair unfold with great interest and learned how easy it is to manipulate public opinion by making an emotional case with half-truths and pleasing fabrications. We will see this scenario repeat again and again in the near future.
Do you think these anti-Saudi narratives that have been circulating across international media and social media platforms have anything to do with the close relations between Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the Trump administration?
Irina Tsukerman: There is no question that at least one of the goals of these media and political campaigns is to damage relations between the two countries, not just the two leaders. However, Saudi Arabia’s enemies and the enemies of the US are also using the specific animus against the Trump administration to fuel the narratives. They are using the US media to jump on any story that can damage the Trump administration or at least make it look back, and there is also a specific interest in weakening the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman because of who he is, not just because he happens to be at the helm currently. We have seen the US media sing praises to the late King Abdullah as a great reformist even though under him there were far fewer reforms and far more repression in Saudi Arabia than now. So it has nothing to do with any real concern for human rights. It has to do with the fact that the two leaders – of Saudi Arabia and of the US – who are there currently are causing concern because of their firm opposition to political Islam of the Muslim Brotherhood variety, to Iran’s neo-imperialist expansionism, to Qatar’s meddling around the world, and to Turkey’s vision of another Sunni Caliphate, which ultimately promises nothing but bloody military campaigns and oppression, as we have seen from w hat Turkey has turned into under Erdogan. A lot of the Western press is inundated with former Obama officials who were campaigning against Donald Trump even before he took office, and who were certainly against Saudi Arabia and for Muslim Brotherhood and in support of the Iran deal. That such forces would align with the countries benefiting from the weakening of this alliance in general and of the two leaders specifically is far from surprising. They likely also stand to benefit financially which does not hurt. The echo chamber of these officials - many of whom had no foreign policy or national security background at all when they took office under Obama, and who have appeared to learn very little from their experience, because they were motivated by ideology, not by willingness to examine reality - is very obvious in the press and on social media.
They amplify every Al-Jazeera or Press TV or Turkish media talking point without any question. And much of this animus has been aimed at specific geopolitical issues that are at the heart of the relations between Mohammed bin Salman and President Trump, specifically the US Support for the Saudi-led Arab Coalition in Yemen, US presence in Syria and Iraq, the joint opposition to Iran and to Hezbollah, and President Trump’s vision of Saudi Arabia as one of the bedrocks of stability and future prosperity in the Middle East. President Trump has been quite vocal in articulating his view of KSA as a leader in the region, and Iraq, Qatar, and Turkey are not happy with that at all. They have been doing whatever possible to undermine these relations; they put a lot of media and political pressure on discrediting the Saudi role in supporting the legitimate government in Yemen against the Houthi rebels, who with training and support from Hezbollah and Iran, have turned into another terrorist proxy of Iran. They have been pressuring the administration to withdraw from Syria, knowing that President Trump wanted to leave for various reasons - and Erdogan’s threats to attacks have essentially forced his hand in this matter. There have been false narratives about the Syrian Kurds supposedly selling oil to Iran. And Qatari media even distributed a narrative about Saudi and Emirati forces supposedly going into Syria as a substitute for US presence. All of that is done to create political divisions between the countries, to push Saudi Arabia away from its close relationship with the US and to rely more on Russia and to have to make disadvantageous agreements with Turkey. The Khashoggi affair was greatly exploited by Erdogan to that effect.
Saudi Arabia has been undergoing changes with the reforms of Mohammed bin Salman, as he aims to diversify the economy with his Vision 2030 and introduce positive changes in Saudi society. Those against Saudi Arabia do not wish to see it prosper in such a positive light. Don’t you think it’s a little convenient that such anti-Saudi narratives emerge during this time in order to undermine these reforms and show Saudi Arabia in a negative light?
Irina Tsukerman: There are many actors who do not wish Saudi Arabia to change in any meaningful way, and it’s not just the usual suspects. Believe it or not, there are many human rights organizations who depend on Saudi Arabia’s negative image for fundraising and mutual back patting. They don’t actually want to help the Saudi government with anything; otherwise, they would be reaching out quietly behind the scenes and offering their various professional expertise with the reforms. But that would take away their own limelight. They want to take credit for any changes, while at the same bashing Saudi Arabia - and even regular Saudis - as much as possible to show that real change is not actual possible, because it cannot be imposed externally with any success. If they can’t rely on a country that is not expansionist and which will not go after them personally to be the convenient boogeyman to make headlines, they might, heavens forfend, have to do some actual work. In the West, you have a contingency of hardcore bigots who do not wish to believe that change in a Muslim majority tribal Arab state is possible. IF that paradigm shifts, they can no longer rely on the same political narratives to make their point. Their safety bubble will burst and that’s scary. You also have hard leftists and atheists, who have never been friends of Saudi Arabia and who have happily aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood to oppose it.
If they see a moderate Islam, whose practitioners contribute to science and the arts and the improvement of the world as much as any secularists, how can they peddle their ideology to others? If they cannot scare people into believing that faith can be positive when it’s not in the hands of hateful clergy and political revolutionary ideologues, how can they proselytize their argument to the wider public? Extremists of any ideology can be dogmatic, fanatic, and hateful in their views, and some of these guys are no exception. And then you have Iran, Turkey, Qatar, for whom Saudi Arabia is a convenient foil. If they can’t accuse it of being a human rights violator, then they themselves will be subjected to greater scrutiny.
If Saudi Arabia becomes an independent military power with well trained forces, then Iran and its proxies will really be in trouble, because it will no longer be up to whether or not the United States has the political will to back some occasional operations; the Saudi government clearly means business and once it has the capabilities to do so, it is obvious what is going to happen to the Iran-backed terrorists, without whom that the regime will roll back to a poor, backwards, insignificant oppressor of its own people, nothing more. And if Saudi Arabia becomes a benefactor of knowledge and positive education across the region and beyond, Qatari bribery and Turkish populism will become irrelevant. The people will have a different vision to look up to. And we can already see some of that happening. People in the Middle East want something real, they want a life that is based on good relations with their neighbors and professional collaborations and economic growth, not on myths perpetuated by Al Jazeera, hatemongering, and feuds. Initiatives such as KAUST, MISK, and many others can eventually transform the region into something that is being held up as an example around the world, competitive in the contemporary private sector of innovation and entrepreneurial initiatives and at the same time open to sharing breakthroughs that benefit humanity. Iranian regime, Erdogan, and Qatar cannot offer any of that - all of their development is only aimed at keeping power, and attacking their enemies.
The case of Jamal Khashoggi had been taken, twisted, and turned by the media. Recently, it was revealed that his journalistic pieces were influenced by Qatar. Is this coincidental or does it fall under the anti-Saudi scheme?
Irina Tsukerman: None of what happened with Jamal Khashoggi is coincidence. The fact that at no point while he was alive Washington Post was willing to admit that all this time he was not an original contributor but merely cutting and pasting articles disbursed to him shows extremely bad faith on Washington Post’s part, but also shows that that Washington Post was an integral part of that collaboration. It was fully aware of what was going on and in some manner was benefiting from that arrangement. It was covering up an anti-Saudi campaign for well over a year before the dramatic culmination in Khashoggi’s demise, who, by that point, has more or less outlived his usefulness. There are only so many identical-sounding shallow columns against the war in Yemen or against the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s supposed tyranny that can be churned out before they stop getting any traction from their intended targets. And notice that once the Turkish media started leaking fabrications concerning the circumstances of Khashoggi’s demise, Washington Post jumped on board without asking any questions. It could not even be bothered to release information about Khashoggi’s ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, Osama bin Laden, Alwaleed bin Talal or Turki al Faisal, which were all public information available on his Wikipedia page! Is that a coincidence or was the Washington Post involved in a concerted effort to discredit the Crown Prince personally? If its actions were not mere journalist laziness, than the Post was acting as a foreign agent and should not have press credentials. Such actions deserve thorough scrutiny. Notice that after the very reluctant release of the information about Khashoggi’s work for the Qatar Foundation International, Washington Post not only did not take any accountability for failing to inform the readers about this level of hackery, not only followed up on the investigation of that relationship, but in fact recently put out another editorial morning Khashoggi’s death as if he was still the saintly hero of the battle to protect the freedom of the press that Washington Post portrayed him to be. However, given what we now know, it seems to be that the picture originally painted as very simple and obvious is increasingly more complicated.
Washington Post, without any real evidence, held the Crown Prince personally responsible for Khashoggi’s death, claiming that the Saudis wanted to get rid of a loud mouthed dissident who defended freedom of speech and criticized the reforms. But how many such people are there? There’s been countless articles criticizing the war in Yemen and the reforms and much else by far better writers than Khashoggi. Has anything that happened to them? Not at all. And the Crown Prince, better than anyone, knows that Khashoggi’s stint at the Washington Post was a ruse for his real beliefs none of which had anything to do with the freedom of the press or speech or reforming the society. He was a Saudi government spokesman under a faction where many members shared the ideas of the Muslim Brotherhood and financed educational initiatives by the Muslim Brotherhood in the West. Mohammed bin Salman arrested many of them and cut it all off. And Khashoggi ultimately failed in his mission to derail these efforts through his verbal attack. Furthermore, he knew a great deal about the financial and other shenanigans of his Muslim Brotherhood backers, some of whom had ties to the Saudi intelligence and US intelligence, as we have seen from a series of leaks of fabrications or classified information which occurred at the early stage of the Khashoggi investigation. SO w ho stood to benefit more from Khashoggi’s death - the Crown Prince who has an entire country to worry about, or the people who have been harboring thoughts of revenge against him after t heir unceremonious arrests? People who were involved in money laundering towards personal schemes in the West and probably tied up with all sorts of financial schemes with highly placed Westerns who benefited from such arrangements? People who saw no further use in Khashoggi’s efforts, and who were yearning to strike a real blow to Mohammed bin Salman, which would damage his efforts at attracting investments and damage his efforts at fighting Houthis in Yemen and terrorists all over the Middle East? Wouldn’t the people who were concerned about their own names being brought up to the Saudi government after the were warned to stay out of political meddling with the Muslim Brotherhood if Khashoggi were detained for questioning as rumor had it he might have been? Didn’t they have something to gain from his untimely demise before that ever happened, an absurd cover-up, and international embarrassment and abandonment of Mohammed bin Salman? Wouldn’t people like that have every reason in the world to pull every media string possible to help make that happen?
I don’t believe in coincidences and neither does anyone with an iota of common sense, particularly where there are sophisticated and experienced intelligence operatives involved. And whomever tells you that this sounds an awful lot like a conspiracy theory should ask himself first: well, w hat was the Washington Post’s cover-up of Khashoggi’s involvement with Qatar, long preceding his death, if not a conspiracy?
Finally, you mentioned that “enemies of Saudi Arabia are also enemies of the West,” could you elaborate on this statement? Who might these “enemies” be?
Irina Tsukerman: We don’t need to speculate. We know who they are because they do not hide from us. It is no longer necessary for them to act in secret because so many people have fallen for their propaganda.
The West is filled with Muslim Brotherhood shills like CAIR, and ISNA, and MPAC, and Islamic Relief, all of which have been shown to benefit from Muslim Brotherhood’s financing, and whose members and officers cross pollinate among these organizations, lobby Congress, and put out fancy campaigns against any foreign or domestic policy by the US that endangers the agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood. Some of these organizations are unindicted co-conspirators in trials against the Holy Land Foundation and other Muslim Brotherhood proxy money laundering vehicles. They claim to represent the entire Muslim populations in the US, or UK, but in reality they have nothing to do with the many diverse and vibrant Muslim communities in the United States and instead only speak for the political revolutionary goals of their financiers in Turkey, who have had agents of influence in the West for decades and have learned how to manipulate the press, the elected official, and the public opinion.
We have Qatar, which, through a series of recruitments of American influencers, has managed to gain a foothold with the White House and managed to pull wool over everyone’s eyes, claiming to be a victim of Iranian pressure and Saudi threats. Meanwhile Qatar had been the beneficiary of Saudi backing of its independence back in the day, and has chosen to repay the GCC for its backing by supporting Muslim Brotherhood backed terrorists in Yemen and Libya, give financing to Turkey’s Erdogan, house a Turkish base, and meddle in assorted disputes all over Africa. Who do you think financed the Astroturf protests against the Crown Prince in Tunisia recently? None of that was authentic and heartfelt. Tunisians are now battling their own problems, they have internal issues they are protesting in. Khashoggi was hardly a priority for them, and I doubt most of these protestors would have thought twice about coming out to protest for anything other than their own issues if they were not paid or deceived to do so. NIAC, a pro Iran regime lobby in the US, has lost influence under the Trump administration, having successfully misled the Obama administration into claims that it represented the opinions of all of the Iranian American community, who supposedly supported the nuclear case. In fact, thanks to its efforts, most critical voices, including the voices of Iranian minorities, such as Ahwazi Arabs and Kurds, have been shut down the entire time, and had no say at all on that matter or on the matter of the vast human rights abused by the regime. NIAC is still at it, openly bashing and fabricating lies about the Trump administration and its travel restrictions, that have been debunked and yet continue to proliferate. NIAC tried to sue an Iranian American journalist for defamation after he exposed their ties to regime, and the court found NIAC and its found Dr. Trita Parsi in contempt of the court by tampering with evidence, and stated that they were unregistered foreign agents of Iran. That finding was upheld on appeal, and yet that organization was never thoroughly investigated by the Department of Justice or forced to register and declare t heir funding.
We have Qatar’s proxy Al Jazeera, which has a huge office in DC and has more journalists in the US than a number of US publications. “Journalists’, I should say, because these are actually political operatives who have been known to infiltrate private American organizations, make illicit documentaries, blackmail influencers and critics with the release of these programs, and then leak them to radical leftist publication. Is that journalism or espionage? I think we both know the answer.
And then we have Turkey, which has openly threatened to finance intelligence operations in the US, its ally – not a friendly action to do, if you ask me. President Erdogan’s security beat up a number of peaceful Kurdish American protesters when he was visiting the White House. The charges against these attackers of US citizens were later mysteriously dropped by the prosecution, perhaps thanks to political pressure at the highest level. Erdogan detained a number of US citizens and dual nationals. One of them, pastor Brunford, was held under fabricated charges for over a y ear before finally being released thanks to the pressure from the administration and briefly imposed Magnitsky sanctions. But other Americans are still being held by Turkey. Is that in any way a friendly action? No, it’s a blatant act of political hostage taking that US adversaries such as Iran do. Friends don’t take their friends’ citizens hostage. I won’t even mention the videos of Turkish operatives who have threatened Erdogan’s political rival Fetullah Gullen in the US , and who have gone around Turkish communities in some American states looking for Gullen supporters or any other critics. Such actions are in violation of US sovereignty. These are actions undertaken by an enemy, not a friend, an enemy who is using his position in NATO, and the presence of the US base on his soil to extort leniencies that would have been long since denied otherwise. All these rogue actors are by some strange twist of fate have been at the forefront of trying to destroy Saudi Arabia, particularly now that it has a leader who is determined to combat their ideologies just as much as their political and military operations.