By Mel Gurtov
Act 1 (Washington, DC): Upon learning of the disappearance and possible murder of the Saudi journalist and critic, Jamal Khashoggi, Pres. Trump expresses concern and vows to get to the bottom of the case. Turks say they have indisputable evidence Khashoggi was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Trump says he won’t use arms sales as leverage—it would hurt Raytheon et al.—and besides, Khashoggi isn’t a US citizen.
Act 2 (Washington and Riyadh): Trump reports that in a phone conversation with Mohammed bin Salman, the “reformist” crown prince, Salman vigorously denies having anything to do with Khashoggi’s disappearance. Trump says “rogue killers” may have been responsible, implies Salman’s denials are believable. Meantime, many invitees to “Davos in the Desert” drop out, but US officials participate.
Act 3 (Riyadh): Trump dispatches Mike Pompeo to “investigate” the case. He is warmly received by Salman, who touts the alliance and says the two countries will face the future together. “Absolutely,” Pompeo chimes in. They go into private session, where Pompeo apologizes for the “headache” this “incident” must be causing the king. The king smiles, says he appreciates Trump’s “helpful” comments, tells Pompeo he’s coming around to the “rogue killers” idea.
Act 4 (Riyadh and Washington): Pompeo reports that the Saudis are cooperating in an investigation and are “adamant” that the royal court was not involved. Salman speaks to the Saudi people, sounds contrite, vows to pursue justice. (Meantime, nearly all the hit men have been sent out of the country; one has been executed.) Trump professes relief, Jared Kushner urges a refocus on “the Middle East peace plan.” Trump sends Salman warm regards, looks forward to overcoming this tragic affair. Congressional critics find little support for sanctions on Saudi Arabia. The US-Saudi alliance is saved, Salman’s rule is saved, and Trump tells Kushner to “lie low for a while” with his friendship with the king. Next day, Trump lashes out at the Washington Post for convicting the king before any proof has been found. END