Killing of Reporter by Saudi Arabia is State-Sponsored Terrorism
By Arturo Castañares / Publisher and CEO
A Washington Post reporter disappeared after entering the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, two weeks ago.
Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen but permanent resident of the U.S., went into the consulate to file paperwork so he could get married in Turkey, and was not seen again. Khashoggi’s fiancée was waiting outside and watched him walk in, and she says he never returned.
The first reports of Khashoggi’s disappearance came from unnamed Turkish intelligence sources that said they had audio and video evidence that Khashoggi had been killed in the consulate (The Turks have not released that evidence, most likely because it would also prove they have been spying on the Saudis.)
After two weeks of denials by the Saudi government, a new report by the Saudis is expected to admit Khashoggi was interrogated, tortured, and died inside the consulate in what seems like an interrogation gone bad.
The Saudis now say Khashoggi was tortured by unauthorized agents who accidentally killed him during a plan to capture and return him to Saudi Arabia, presumably to punish him for his outspoken opposition to the ruling family.
Khashoggi has been in self-imposed exile for years after constantly criticizing the Saudi King and Crown Prince for their roles in Qatar, Lebanon, and cracking down on reporters and critics.
Now he’s dead. They dismembered him. Inside their consulate. Then hid the evidence. And lied about it. But the King and Crown Prince didn’t know? That’s their story. And, for now, they’re sticking to it.
Khashoggi wasn’t just a reporter; he had been a vocal critic of the Kingdom for several years and may have been one of, if not the highest profile Arab critic of the Saudis.
On Twitter, Khashoggi had almost 2 million followers, the most among all Arab journalists.
Earlier this year, he launched a group called Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), aimed at promoting democratic and human rights causes throughout the Middle East.
DAWN was incorporated in Delaware, and Khashoggi was set to lead the group as an American-based international non-governmental agency.
A statement by the group earlier this year now seems like an ironic promise to lead by example.
“Victims of the Arab world’s authoritarian regimes seek leadership from the U.S. and DAWN intends to provide such leadership,” the statement reads.
If Khashoggi’s disappearance, interrogation, torture, death, and dismemberment happened as most people fear, no U.S. intelligence official believes it could have happened without the knowledge and approval of the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman.
King Salman appointed Prince Mohammed bin Salman, his oldest son from his third wife, as his heir apparent in 2017, after the King was diagnosed with dementia.
MBS, as the Crown Prince is called, has labeled himself a reformer and instituted progressive policies like allowing women to drive and reopening movie theaters after having been banned for more than 25 years.
But, MBS has also taken some questionable actions that have raised concerns about equal justice and human rights violations.
Last year, soon after assuming power, MBS detained more than 200 princes and businessmen in a wide-ranging corruption investigation. The people were held at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel for three months until most of them paid back billions of dollars they had allegedly taken as bribes or in illicit business deals.
Later, MBS began a crackdown on women’s rights activists. 17 activists were arrested and two are still awaiting a court hearing later this month where they could face beheading. Human rights groups have protested the arrests and threats of death sentences for activists whose only “crime” is advocating for equal rights for women.
Critics of MBS maintain that, although he may be a progressive by Saudi standards, he is still too slow to adopt real reforms to protect women, children, and activists in one of the world’s richest countries.
Many still refer to the Saudi family as an authoritarian regime with enormous financial power that seems to deter criticism from the U.S. and other Western countries.
Saudi Arabia is still the world’s largest producer of crude oil, and has an outsized influence on global oil prices. This week, Saudis suggested they could impact oil prices if countries instituted sanctions over Khashoggi’s disappearance. Not since the 1973 oil embargo has Saudi Arabia linked its oil policy to political issues.
Additionally, the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, the kingdom’s main investment vehicle, wields huge power with its estimated $1.3 trillion, second in the world only to China’s fund.
A financial summit being held next week in the Saudi capital of Riyahd aimed at attracting foreign investment has lost several key sponsors and speakers because of the Khashoggi case, including the CEOs of Ford, Chase, Uber, and the WorldBank, as well as Fox Business News and even US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin just announced he won’t attend either.
And their business ties to American companies through purchases of military airplanes, bombs, weapons, and missile systems clearly weighs heavily on American politicians.
This week, when Khashoggi’s disappearance became news, President Donald Trump said he wasn’t sure how to respond because he didn’t want to disrupt a recent military arms deal worth up to $110 billion that will help Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon.
Although Trump said he believes both King Salman and the Crown Prince when they denied knowing anything about Khashoggi, other prominent Republicans in Washington are laying out more aggressive positions.
Many in Congress, including Senators Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio have said that the U.S. must respond assertively if it turns out Khashoggi was murdered in the consulate.
In the past few days, the Turks have released pictures of one of MBS’s closest security aides arriving in Turkey on the day Khashoggi disappeared, and entering the same consulate just a few hours before him. That security aide later visited the Consul General’s home and then flew back to Saudi Arabia in a private jet that night.
In the end, the issue isn’t whether the U.S. can hold any Saudi official accountable for what happens in their own consulate; it’s about maintaining our moral authority to hold other countries accountable for human rights violations and, as in this case, the murder of a journalist to silence him and terrorize others.
Although freedom of the press is not universally protected, murdering a journalist to silence him must be condemned internationally and unanimously in this day and age.
The U.S. and other countries must demand a transparent investigation into Khashoggi’s murder to determine what happened and who’s the blame.
Anything short will chill media coverage around the world. All journalist will be at risk if this case goes unresolved. And other countries will think they too can take extreme measures to silence their critics.
This is not fake news.
This is terrorism.