At some point, someone in the Saudi hierarchy made the fateful decision that Jamal Khashoggi was a liability and a threat large enough to warrant his murder. Whilst Russia’s KGB has been using poison to send a message to former KGB officers who have gone rogue, Saudi officials didn’t need to go to such elaborate lengths – it has a century old history of dealing with dissidents and undesirables.
Jamal Khashoggi is now trending higher than household popstars as his assassination has reached global proportions.
Khashoggi was a loyal member of the Saudi propaganda apparatus. There is no journalism allowed in the kingdom. There have been courageous Saudi women and men who attempted to crack the wall of rigid political conformity and were persecuted and punished for their views. Khashoggi was not from among them. Some of his own writers suffered while Khashoggi was their boss at Al-Watan newspaper. Khashoggi—contrary to what is being written—was never punished by the regime, except lightly two years ago, when Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) banned him from tweeting and writing for Al-Hayat, the London-based, pan-Arab newspaper owned by Saudi Prince Khalid bin Sultan.
Early in his career, Khashoggi became close to two princes: Prince Turki Al-Faysal (who headed Saudi intelligence) and his brother, Prince Khalid Al-Faysal, who owned Al-Watan (The Motherland) where Khashoggi had his first (Arabic) editing job. Editors in the Middle East are trusted individuals who have demonstrated long-time loyalty. Khashoggi admitted to an Arab reporter, just last year in an interview from Istanbul that in Saudi Arabia he had been both editor and censor.
Editors of Saudi regime papers (mouthpieces of princes and kings) enforce government rules and eliminate objectionable material.
Khashoggi was the go-to man for Western journalists covering the kingdom, appointed to do so by the regime. He may have been pleasant in conversation with reporters, as they have reported, but he never questioned the royal legitimacy.
So, what sealed his fate?
Information continues to trickle out that Khashoggi was working with other intelligence agencies, namely Turkey and Qatar. A writer in Okaz, a daily newspaper in Jeddah, accused Khashoggi of meeting with the Emir of Qatar in New York and of having ties to “regional and international intelligence services.” This likely sealed his fate. A regime insider who knows too much was a liability if he is working for Saudi enemies. It’s unlikely the Saudi authorities expected the furore to reach global proportions. Something they didn’t even prepare for.
On the 2nd October 2018, Khashoggi visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to collect a document that he needed in order to marry his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz. He was never seen again.
The Saudi monarchy – who has its hands dripping with blood in Yemen – struggled to keep its story consistent. From Khashoggi leaving through a back entrance, to Saudi authorities investigating his whereabouts, to denials of murder or accusations of low level intelligence officers going too far – there have been an array of Saudi official responses. This would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious.
The US has shown in reality it has no real values and commercial deals determine its response rather than Human Rights or any ethics. Since King Salman and Mohammed bin Salman rose to prominence, the Saudi monarchy has completely aligned with America’s agenda in the Middle East. The Washington Post reported on 9 October that “the U.S. intelligence intercepted communications of Saudi officials discussing a plan to capture Khashoggi.” The intercepted communications were regarded as significant because Khashoggi is a legal resident of the United States and is therefore entitled to protection.
Despite this, President Trump told journalists: “I know [Senators] are talking about different kinds of sanctions, but [the Saudi Arabians] are spending $110 billion on military equipment and on things that create jobs for this country.” Trump, in responding specifically to the Senate’s attempt to block the Saudi Arabian arms deal, stated that the blocking of such a deal “would not be acceptable to me.”
Erdogan has a long history of arresting journalists and censuring any dissent against him. Since the coup attempt against him in 2016, Erdogan arrested professors, lecturers, journalists and academics and pretty much anybody he wanted to get rid of who may question him. Whilst Turkey has presented itself as dealing with a murder on its soil, the reality is Turkey uses the same methods and tactics to achieve the same goals to protect itself from criticism.
The European response has been to criticise the Saudi monarchy and call for investigations into the murder. Given the opportunity to undermine King Salman and his son who are fully in-line with the US agenda, this is a chance that cannot be lost. But with lucrative defence deals ongoing with the Saudi monarchy, it’s unlikely this position will go too far.
The fact that nations such as Britain and the US have factored in commerce when looking at how to respond to the slaughter of someone, shows once again, it is economics rather than any morals that determine their response.
Saudi Arabia has been slaughtering Muslims in Yemen, despite this the murder of one former dissident has got more attention than the impending famine caused by Saudi’s war machine in Yemen.
This whole episode shows how the liberal world order really deals with issues. An issue is valued through how it can be used to further each nation’s agenda, rather than actually bringing to justice those who commit acts of murder.