The assassination and dismemberment of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi (previously) finally accomplished what decades of detailed reports of human rights abuses and years of increasingly grave details of a brutal proxy war in Yemen could not do: it made the Saudi royal family into international pariahs, even among the plutocrat class who had fattened themselves off of Saudi money.
But not everyone is willing to write off the House of Saud and its current leader Mohammed bin Salman, AKA "Mister Bone Saw," the man widely believed to have ordered Khashoggi's murder. While many of the world's elites pulled out of the "Davos in the Desert" conference (previously) that was supposed to bring the Saudi royals closer to western business interests, many attended on the delusional basis that this conference would not be used to burnish the credentials of a murdering crowned thug.
Of course, this was obviously not true, and the 3,000 attendees at the "Future Investment Initiative" were treated to a surprise visit by the butcher-prince, and dutifully rose to their feet to give him a standing ovation.
Among those in attendance: Tally Zingher, chief executive of Dawsat; Ken Moelis, the founder and chief executive of Moelis & Co; Henry Biner, an executive at the Boston-based P/E Investments; officials from Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, and Citigroup; Michael Slater of Northern Trust; Lubna S. Olayan, the deputy chairwoman of the Olayan Financing Co; journalists from Sky and RT, and others.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin travelled to Riyadh to meet with the prince but did not attend the conference.
Some who did attend said they were there just to do business and dismissed the Khashoggi situation.
"It's just noise to me," said Michael Slater, who runs the Middle East and Africa investment business for Northern Trust and is based in Riyadh. "The people I need to see are here, and that's what I care about."
Standing ovation for Saudi crown prince thrusts conference attendees into limelight [Alan Rappeport/Seattle Times]