Former Director of the CIA John Brennan today likened Saudi Arabian crown prince and major Hollywood player Mohammed bin Salman (nicknamed MBS) to North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
Speaking on NBC-TV’s Meet The Press, Brennan – a one-time station chief in Saudi Arabia for the CIA – was responding to a question from show host Chuck Todd, who asked whether “you put MBS in the same column as Putin and Kim Jong Un?”
Brennan responded, “I would put him, clearly, in the authoritarian, autocratic camp, absolutely.”
The 32-year-old bin Salman, the heir apparent in Saudi Arabia, has been under fire this week because of questions regarding his country’s role in the disappearance of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. An MBS-backed media conference later this month in the kingdom has been devastated by high-profile sponsor and speaker dropouts in the wake of the Khashoggi incident, and President Trump this weekend threatened consequences if Khashoggi’s disappearance and presumed murder is tied to the Saudis.
MBS made a high-profile visit through Hollywood last April, feted by some of the top power players in entertainment. Reports indicated he dined at producer Brian Grazer’s Santa Monica home, attended an event at Rupert Murdoch’s Bel-Air estate, and met with talent agency boss Ari Emanuel and Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Bob Iger. The Hollywood stop was part of a three-pronged US visit, wherein MBS also met with President Trump and Silicon Valley executives.
The kingdom ended a 35-year ban on films last year, and has been negotiating a $400 million investment in Endeavor, the talent and event manager. Those developments have made many Hollywood companies eager to do business with the kingdom, which could open its markets and provide a new source of financing.
Brennan said on Meet The Press that Saudi denials of involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance and presumed murder “very much ring hollow.
“To go after a permanent resident of the United States, who writes for The Washington Post, and doing it on foreign soil, at a diplomatic mission – to me, it would be inconceivable that such an operation would be run by the Saudis without the knowledge of the day-to-day decision-maker of Saudi Arabia. That’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. I think it is just beyond reality. And so I think it’s up to the Saudis now to explain what actually happened.”