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Murder of Khashoggi: The straw that broke the camels back?

Three traditional strategic positions in the Middle East have reached tipping points and are likely to change due to the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi's murder in Istanbul: US relations with Saudi Arabia, Turkey's role in the Middle East and Israel's strategic defenses.

Published: October 25, 2018, 8:47 am

    The Trump administration is currently wrestling with Saudi Arabia’s belated and confused explanation for the death of Khashoggi. United World International (UWI) has written an interesting analysis of the Saudi media coverage of the murder.

    A Saudi commentator told the Wall Street Journal that “the sanity of our very own Caligula” was now in question because of it. Muddled Saudi press reports sadly seem to be supporting such a notion.

    The Saudi Press Agency (SPA), a Saudi news outlet, cited an official at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 7, who dismissed reports that Khashoggi had been killed in situ, denouncing the “baseless” allegations, while casting doubt on conflicting accounts offered by Turkish officials.

    Khashoggi had left the Consulate General in Istanbul alive and they had no information on his whereabouts or fate, the Saudi official said. This account of events soon changed and has been in flux ever since.

    On Friday the Saudi regime finally admitted that Khashoggi was killed inside its consulate in the Turkish capital. Since then they have changed their story twice.

    The Saudis had initially claimed that Khashoggi had left the consulate. But CNN soon reported a Turkish story of a decoy which was send out to make it look as if Khashoggi had left.

    When this account fizzled, a Saudi English-language daily Arab News, reported that Khashoggi had died in a “fistfight” at the Consulate. “Discussions between Jamal Khashoggi and those he met at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul… devolved into a fistfight, leading to his death,” the SPA claimed, citing the public prosecutor.

    A London-based Saudi newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat then reported that Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir had called the death of Khashoggi the result of a “rogue operation” by killers acting beyond the scope of their authority.

    To a KSA official’s question of “Why they had to lie about the version of the Khashoggi’s death before?”, the response has been rather surprising:

    “The government wanted to convince Khashoggi, who moved to Washington a year ago, to return to the Kingdom as part of a campaign to prevent Saudi dissidents from being recruited by the country’s enemies. The deputy head of the General Intelligence Presidency, Ahmed al-Asiri, put together a 15-member team from the intelligence and security forces to go to Istanbul, meet Khashoggi at the consulate and try to convince him to return to Saudi Arabia. The government wanted to convince Khashoggi, who moved to Washington a year ago, to return to the Kingdom as part of a campaign to prevent Saudi dissidents from being recruited by the country’s enemies. According to the plan, the team could hold Khashoggi in a safe house outside Istanbul for ‘a period of time’ but then release him if he ultimately refused to return to Saudi Arabia. Things went wrong from the start as the team overstepped their orders and quickly employed violence,” according to the Saudi official quoted by Asharq al-Awsat.

    It appears that Khashoggi had to face somewhat harsh “Islamic justice” for his refusal to comply with an invitation, UWI noted.

    The king and the crown prince of Saudi Arabia this week ordered a son of Jamal Khashoggi to appear in front of them so they could express their condolences for the murder of his father, SPA reported.

    Sahal Khashoggi is the oldest of the four children of Jamal. Three of them live in the United States, while Sahal is banned from leaving Saudi Arabia.

    King Salman bin Abdulaziz and his son, crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, “consoled” him, the Saudi Press Agency reported early on Monday. But the act was also an insult as Khashoggi’s body had not yet been found at the time of the invitation.

    The Saudi mainstream media then ignored reports that Khashoggi’s body had been dug up in the garden of the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and had not been brought home to family of the murdered journalist.

    An Arabic language news agency based in Dubai with close ties to Saudi Arabia, Al-Arabiya, cited the Minister of Justice and Chairman of the Supreme Judicial Council Sheikh Dr. Waleed bin Mohammad al-Samaani stressing that the judiciary enjoys “full independence” in Saudi Arabia and the results of the investigation would be handed to the judiciary once all procedures are completed.

    He added that King Salman and the Crown Prince were “supporters of the judicial institution’s right to stand in the face of anyone who wants to harm the country or harm the rights of citizens, whoever they are”.

    Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir declared the Kingdom’s commitment to a “comprehensive investigation” into the murder of their own citizen when Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan called for independent investigation of the murdered journalist, and said on Tuesday that the 18 Saudi suspects of Khashoggi’s murder should be tried in Istanbul.

    Not surprisingly, Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman himself, one of Khashoggi’s most virulent critics, will now head the “comprehensive and independent” investigation into the Saudi dissident journalist’s murder.

    According to United World International this decision is both “very strange and almost comedic”.

    The Saudi regime is facing mounting pressure, also at the “Davos in the desert” investment conference with a wave of cancellations by policymakers and business tycoons.




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