After weeks of wild rumors and salacious allegations, here’s what we actually now know about the death of Jamal Khashoggi — and what we don’t.

Khashoggi

After more than two weeks of wild rumors and salacious, unsourced allegations concerning the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi — a story that captured global headlines — the tragic truth has become clear: the Saudi dissident is dead. 

Here is what we actually know at this hour, and what we don’t.

HERE’S WHAT WE KNOW

  • The Saudi government now publicly admits it is fully responsible for the death of this U.S. green card holder who was engaged to a Turkish woman but residing in northern Virginia. 
  • The Saudis say their intelligence officials were supposed to interrogate Khashoggi  (pronounced, “ka-SHOW-gee”) at their consulate in Turkey and then bring him back to the kingdom. When the Khashoggi protested and began raising his voice, the Saudis say one of their officials put the 59-year old journalist in a “chokehold” and “covered his mouth” to quiet him but in the process killed him.
  • The Saudis say “the team then wrote a false report for superiors saying they had allowed Khashoggi to leave [the consulate] once he warned that Turkish authorities could get involved and that they had promptly left the country before they could be discovered,” according to al-Arabiya news service. 
  • These false reports were fed to senior Saudi officials which formed the basis of their public statements — once the agents were found to be lying, the government conceded culpability.
  • 18 Saudi intelligence officials have been arrested for participating in Khashoggi’s death, according to the state prosecutor.
  • 5 senior Saudi officials have been fired in the affair. NBC News reports that “in addition to the deputy intelligence president and the Royal Court adviser, several other top intelligence officials were dismissed: Mohamed bin Saleh al Rumeh, assistant to the president of general intelligence for intelligence affairs; Abduallah bin Khalifa al Shaya, assistant to the president of general intelligence for human resources; and Rachad bin Hamed al Muhamadi, director of the general department for security and protection in the command of general intelligence.
  • Full interview with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir on Fox News

HERE’S WHAT WE DON’T KNOW

  • Is the current Saudi account the truth? Many journalists, Members of Congress, business leaders and others are expressing skepticism. Others are waiting for more information to confirm or deny the Saudi explanation. President Trump is vowing to stand with Saudi Arabia as a strong U.S. ally against Iranian and other radical Islamist aggression in the Middle East, yet he is also expressing concern about shifting Saudi narratives. “Their stories are all over the place,” Mr. Trump said.
  • Did Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (known as “MBS”) directly authorize the capture or assassination of Khashoggi? The Saudi government says the Crown Prince authorized Saudi intelligence to bring dissidents back to the kingdom, not to murder them. “There were no orders for them to kill him or even specifically kidnap him,” said a Saudi official, speaking on condition of anonymity to Reuters. “MBS had no knowledge of this specific operation and certainly did not order a kidnapping or murder of anybody. He will have been aware of the general instruction to tell people to come back.”
  • Do Turkish authorities have audio tapes of the Khashoggi’s murder from listening devices inside the Saudi consulate? Turkish media has been rife with the most wild, salacious and horrifying allegations regarding details allegedly gleaned from such recordings. Western media, including many U.S. media outlets, ran with such stories as factual without verifying their credibility. Yet as of this writing, U.S. officials say they have not heard any such recordings, or read any transcripts, or been given such items. Nor is it even clear that such recording exist. Agence France Presse noted on Friday, “The existence of the tape has never been confirmed on the record by Turkish officials.”
  • Where does this all leave the U.S.-Saudi alliance? Many journalists, Members of Congress and various Mideast experts are demanding the Saudi government be “punished.” Some are calling for the cancellation of military sales. Others are calling for sweeping economic sanctions. Still others are calling for more targeted sanctions on Saudi individuals via the Global Magnitsky Act, a law that is used to target the world’s worst human rights abusers. That said, other experts note that while this is a tragic, sordid affair and the administration must deal with it forthrightly and not soft-peddle it, the White House should also not overreact or take steps that might fundamentally undermine the U.S.-Saudi alliance. The U.S. shares very real and important national interests with the Saudis, from thwarting radical Islamism in the region to establishing between between Israel and all of her Arab neighbors. Throwing the Saudis under the bus is shortsighted and imprudent. The Turks hardly have clean hands, having killed and arrested hundreds of dissidents, journalists and other innocents during the regime of President Recep Erdogan. The Iranians are the worst terrorist state on the planet. Yet the very same Obama administration officials who are demanding the Saudis be severely punished were the same people who removed all sanctions off of Tehran and forked over to the tyrants in Tehran $150 billion in cash. How exactly should the Trump administration proceed? How will they proceed? It may take more time, more investigation of the facts and more weighing of the implications of every move before the administration is ready to make any final decisions.

For now, please pray for the Khashoggi family, for comfort at this very hard time. Please pray for more facts to be revealed in a timely way and a complete picture to emerge. Please pray for U.S. leaders to have the wisdom to know how best to handle the situation. Please pray for the leaders of Saudi Arabia to know how best to deal with tragic injustice and make sure it never happens again. Please pray, too, for the people of Saudi Arabia who have been very much in favor of the economic and social reforms that MBS has been implementing, and surely want to see these reforms continue and expand, not the kingdom be suddenly isolated and potentially destabilized. 

Developing…..

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All eyes on Turkey: The strange and disturbing cases of Pastor Andrew Brunson and journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

TURKEY-US-POLITICS-JUSTICE-RELIGION-DIPLOMACY(Colorado Springs, Colorado) — As I finish several weeks of speeches and meetings in the U.S. and prepare to return to Israel, I’ve been following two very different and yet strangely linked stories. Both are drawing global media attention. Both involve Turkey and the regime of Turkish President Recep Erdogan. And both deserve your attention and prayer. Let me explain.

Story #1: Andrew Brunson, the American Evangelical Christian pastor that the Turkish government arrested and kept in prison for more than two years, was finally set free today. The latest reports are that Brunson is on his way out of Turkey back to freedom in the United States.

Evangelicals have been praying for years for Brunson’s protection and release. I thank the Lord those prayers have been answered, and am grateful for all the White House, State Department and other senior U.S. officials have done to secure the pastor’s release.

Story #2: Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist at times close to the royal family in Riyadh and more recently quite critical, has disappeared in Turkey. It seems clear from closed circuit TV evidence that Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week. It is not clear, however, that he ever left. The Saudis say he did. The Turks say he didn’t. The Saudis have not yet offered video proof that he left. The Turks have not yet offered any evidence that something sinister actually occurred. I am praying for Khashoggi’s safety, protection and freedom, and ask you to join me in those prayers.

That said, let’s be clear: the Turkish media is filled with macabre tales that the Saudis have either arrested Khoshoggi and secreted him out of the consulate back to the Kingdom, or even murdered and dismembered him with a bone saw. Global media — including the U.S. media — has run with the wildest leaks and unnamed, unsourced quotes from Turkish officials. Such officials anonymously say they have all kinds of hard, factual, intelligence proving the most sinister of actions by the Saudis, yet they have released nothing concrete or compelling so far.

Indeed, as I write this, all we actually know for certain is that the Saudi journalist is missing. Nearly everything else is conjecture.

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If the Turkish allegations are true, this would be a very serious and disturbing turn of events. And the consequences could lead into uncharted waters for the Saudis.

President Trump, Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Pompeo — along with many House and Senate members — have rightly called for a full and transparent investigation by both countries. If Khashoggi is alive, where is he? If not, what happened?

We need answers. We need facts. Then we can assess such information and draw conclusions and implications. Someone is lying. But whom?

What we don’t need are wild, unsourced allegations by one U.S. ally in the Middle East against another, both of whom deeply distrust, even despise, each other.

We should certainly be cautious about accepting unproven allegations from the government of Erdogan, which is steadily turning against the United States, Israel and the Sunni Arab world and allying itself with Russia, Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.

Keep in mind: for more than two years, Erdogan’s government has made the most brutal, heinous, and slanderous allegations against this innocent American Evangelical pastor, Andrew Brunson. Yet the allegations were all false. Several so-called “witnesses” have now recanted. The charges were ultimately thrown out. Thank God, Brunson is now a free man. But in the process we have learned just how horrible the Turkish government can be.

Is Turkey telling the truth this time about Khashoggi? Maybe yes. Maybe no. Until we see hard facts, we should be slow to make any judgments. Let’s take a breath. Let’s let the investigation play out. And let’s not stop praying for Mr. Khashoggi and his family.

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Where will war break out next — Russia, Iran, North Korea? I’ll address this question on October 6th in Denver. Please register today to join us. Ticket required to attend.

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On Saturday evening, October 6th, I will speak in the Denver, Colorado area.

The topic of my address will be, “FLASH POINTS: WHERE WILL THE NEXT MAJOR WAR BREAK OUT?”

We’ll discuss the rising tensions between the Iranian-Syrian-Turkish axis and the emerging U.S.-Israeli-Sunni Arab alliance. We’ll examine the trendlines in Europe and the possibility of a conflagration between Russia and NATO. We’ll also consider the latest developments in Asia and whether North Korea is really looking to make peace or just buying time to complete its nuclear and ballistic missile program. 

I’ll share insights from my recent meetings with Vice President Mike Pence, Egyptian President el-Sisi, the Saudi and United Arab Emirates Foreign Ministers, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and others.

We will not only consider these and other “flash points” from a geopolitical perspective but from a spiritual perspective, as well. What doors may the Lord be opening for the furtherance of the Gospel, and what doors seem to be closing? How can we in North America strengthen the Church on the frontiers of the Gospel, and help fulfill the Great Commission in light of rapidly changing global conditions?

The occasion will be the annual fundraising event for Ministry Architecture, Inc. This is the ministry that my parents — Len and Mary Rosenberg — started nearly two decades ago to provide architectural services for Evangelical Christian ministries operating in developing countries who need orphanages, training centers, medical missionary hospitals, and other facilities to share the love of Jesus and teach the Word of God.

As the event begins, my parents will share about the exciting work God is doing through this ministry and how you can be involved prayerfully and financially. Then, I’ll speak, take your questions — my favorite part of the evening — and afterwards I’ll sign books.

The event will take place at Calvary Chapel South Denver in Littleton, Colorado, from 7:00pm to 9:15pm. Doors will open at 6:15pm. A contribution of $30 per person is requested to help support Ministry Architecture. Contributions are tax deductible. Registration is required, and you can register at www.ministryarchitecture.com.

Please register today to join us — yes, you can purchase a ticket at the door, but it’s best to register online. I hope to see you there!

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