In case you haven’t been watching the news lately Jamal Khashoggi was a Washington Post journalist who had been critical of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Khashoggi disappeared October 2nd of this year after entering the Saudi consulate in Turkey. Khashoggi was a Saudi citizen who had been living in the United States. He reportedly had gone to the consulate to get paperwork to marry his Turkish fiancée. Khashoggi entered but never left. His fiancée waited outside the consulate for ten hours but Khashoggi never reappeared. She had been told by Khashoggi to call an adviser to the Turkish president if he did not return.
Very soon reports were coming out of Turkey that Khashoggi had been killed in the consulate. Turkish intelligence sources claimed they had video of a Saudi “hit team” arriving in Turkey and at the Saudi consulate. They also reportedly had an audiotape of Khashoggi being tortured and killed. They also reported Khashoggi had been dismembered and his body parts had been taken out by different members of the Saudi hit team. I am not very well informed on Middle Eastern geopolitics but it looks like Turkey was quick to throw the Saudis “under the bus”. At first the Saudis claimed Khashoggi had left the consulate and claimed they had nothing to hide.
As days passed footage and photos emerged of the alleged hit squad deplaning and arriving at the consulate. A photo of a “body double” for Khashoggi was released. The man was dressed in clothes that looked like Khashoggis’ or his actual clothes. Finally the Saudis admitted Khashoggi had been killed but that it had been during a fight. They claimed the murder was due to a “rogue operation”.
The government disavowed that the Crown Prince, frequently referred to as MSB, had any knowledge of or had approved the operation. However several experts offered that the Saudi intelligence agency and Saudi culture does not encourage freethinking. The likelihood of an operation like this being carried out without higher approval, perhaps the highest approval, is extremely unlikely.
Eventually the Saudi government arrested eighteen people. Five high-ranking officials were dismissed including MSB’s media chief and the deputy head of the Saudi intelligence service. The Saudi government announced it was taking steps to “restructure the Kingdom’s intelligence services.” Government spokesmen for the Kingdom repeatedly denied that MSB had any knowledge of or had approved the “rogue operation” in any way.
On Thursday, October 25 (lost in the coverage of the mail bombs here in the U.S.) Khashoggi’s killing was described as premeditated by the Saudi Attorney General. This marked a significant shift in the Saudi version of events. Will the Saudi government be held accountable? Unfortunately the Saudi aristocracy has a history of getting away with questionable or even downright criminal behavior.
In November of 2017 Saudi Crown Prince MSB consolidated power by having eleven princes and numerous government ministers seized. They were confined in the five star hotel, the Ritz-Carlton Riyadh until January 30th 2018. According to an article in the Business Insider. One of these hostages was billionaire Alwaleed bin Talal, the richest man in the Middle East. The Insider article does not mention the hundreds of businessmen who were reportedly “subject to coercion and physical abuse” according to a March 2018 article at nytimes.com .The article also says “17 detainees were hospitalized for physical abuse and one later died in custody with a neck that appeared twisted,..”. This person was a general in the Saudi National guard. .In one attempt to explain what happened to Khashoggi the Saudis had claimed that during a physical confrontation he had been accidentally strangled as the result of a chokehold. Hmm… coincidence? You decide.
Even though these detainees were also held in the Ritz Carlton many surrendered huge sums of money and signed over to government control precious real estate and shares of their companies all outside any clear legal process according to the nytimes.com article. Saudi officials have denied any allegations of abuse and portrayed the Ritz episode as an orderly legal process. Most of the “detainees” were denied attorneys, threatened, and many physically harmed but none is talking about the incident. Even the billionaire bin Tala isn’t speaking. His company declined to make him available for an interview and one associate said, “it is something he wants to forget.” Apparently the richest man in the Middle East is afraid to talk about the ordeal.
This incident was covered very little in the U.S. If MSB was capable of this could he be responsible for the death of a very vocal critic of his regime?
Many people either don’t know or have forgotten that Osama bin Laden was a Saudi. Bin laden was the co-founder of Al-Qaeda . He was the mastermind and financier of the 2001 destruction of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Osama bin Laden was banned from Saudi in 1992. Osama bin Laden was considered a planner of two U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Dar es Salaam in 1998.
Former President Bill Clinton, speaking the day before the 911 attacks, claimed “I nearly got him. And I could have killed him.” according to an August 1st 2014 L.A. Times story. Clinton claimed that due to collateral damage he did not have bin Laden killed. According to a February, 16, 2016 Washington Post story bin Laden was not targeted in a desert hunting camp due to the proximity of a United Arab Emirates royal hunting party. The Saudis maintain close relations with the U.A.E. The countries share extensive political and cultural ties. Was Clinton’s decision to not take out bin Laden based on a desire to not offend the Saudi’s? Clinton is not talking.
Finally I’ll mention the alleged Saudi involvement in the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. As recently as 2016 two co-chairmen of the Congressional inquiry into the attacks said the redacted pages of the 911 report refer to evidence of Saudi Arabia’s substantial involvement in the attacks according to an April 8th, 2016 CBS news report. As 15 of the terrorists were Saudi it is hard not to believe there was a connection to if not actual support of the operation. Although there has not been any official U.S. government sanctions or punishments to Saudi Arabia a U.S. court recently ruled people injured in the 911 attacks, the families of those killed and businesses and insurers affected could proceed with lawsuits against Saudi Arabia. This was the result of a Congressional override of a veto by Barack Obama.
Please realize I am not meaning this article to be an indictment against Saudi Arabia. I am just trying to point out instances where it appears the Saudi Government committed offenses but was not held accountable. The gruesome murder of a journalist who was a resident of the United States and who has children who are U.S. citizens would seem to require some negative actions against Saudi Arabia. So far all the negative response to this act has been by France and Germany who are saying they will enact an arms embargo against Saudi Arabia. What will the U.S. do if anything? Perhaps the bigger question is why the U.S. is hesitant to penalize the Saudis. Is it the importance of the oil the Saudis produce? Is it the strategic position of the country and the U.S. having an ally in this Middle East region? Perhaps a little of both.
Did the Saudis think this murder of a journalist for a U.S. news agency could go unresolved? Perhaps because they have gotten away with so many abuses before they have become presumptuous. Or could it be this really was a “rogue operation”. Only time will tell what will happen in this case.
– Mark Haskins