Weekly Geopolitical Report – Reflections on the Khashoggi Incident: Part I (November 5, 2018)

by Bill O’Grady

Jamal Khashoggi, a well-connected Saudi journalist, entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2nd and has not been seen since.  His apparent death (at the time of this writing, no body has been produced) has caused an international incident.

The assumed death of Khashoggi highlights a number of issues for the Middle East that we will explore in this two-part series.  This homicide did not occur in a vacuum and the context of this event could have broader ramifications for the region.  We will not recount the events leading to his death nor dwell on the details of the apparent murder, which have been widely reported in the world media.  However, our decision to not discuss the details of the event does not mean we overlook it on a human level.  What happened to Khashoggi was terrible, but the focus of this report is to give context to this ugly event.

In Part I of this report, we will begin with the particular problem of kingly succession in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).  We will pay particular attention to the generational change in power that Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS) represents.  We will note the history of earlier successions and examine the potential for instability if King Salman dies and MbS remains crown prince.  Part II will deal with the regional power rivalry between Turkey and the KSA, along with Turkish President Erdogan’s actions in the wake of this homicide.  We will analyze U.S. policy goals in the region followed by our expectations for the resolution of this incident.  As always, we will conclude with market ramifications.

View the full report