If Jamal Khashoggi Is Dead

If Jamal Khashoggi Is Dead


Leonard Zwelling

Usually, this blog doesn’t delve too deeply into areas of foreign affairs. When it has, it has usually focused on matters involving the State of Israel, a subject near and dear to my heart. This is a departure, but does tangentially touch on matters in play in the Middle East the resolution of which might affect Israel.

Jamal Khashoggi is/was a Saudi journalist who wrote for the Washington Post. He was a critic of the current Saudi regime and particularly of its millennial functional leader Mohammed bin Salman (known as MBS). Mr. Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to finalize his divorce papers so that he could remarry. He gave his cell phone to his Turkish fiancé with instructions to call for help if he did not emerge. He didn’t. He has not been seen since and the Turkish government believes he was killed by agents of the Saudi government in that consulate or perhaps kidnapped to Saudi Arabia.

If this is the case and Mr. Khashoggi has been murdered by his own government, it should inform the foreign policy of the Trump Administration and MBS’s co-millenial, Jared Kushner. It should be crystal clear that the Saudis have really not reformed at all. The hope that a new Saudi crown prince would be both a leader in the Sunni Arab world and stand as a bulwark against Iran may turn out to have been a pipe dream. The war in Yemen will go on and the U.S. should not allow surrogates in Riyadh or Jerusalem to do its negotiating for it when it comes to matters of consequence in the Middle East.

Once again, we try to talk ourselves into a leader being “not so bad.” In this case it is MBS, but it could be Trump himself or Putin for George W. Bush who was able to “look into his soul.” These guys are bad guys who only know brute force and unsheathed power as a means to control their countries and the interactions their countries have with the rest of the world.

The Saudis will need to come clean on this one. For a renown, independent journalist to go missing over his criticism of the ruling monarch suggests that Saudi Arabia is still what screenwriter Robert Bolt said of it in Lawrence of Arabia in 1962:

“Sherif Ali, so long as the Arabs fight tribe against tribe, so long will they be a little people, a silly people, greedy, barbarous, and cruel, as you are.”

If the Saudis are to lead a rejuvenation of the Sunni Muslim world, it cannot be through murder.

MBS must solve the mystery of the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi and admit if he was involved.

I seriously doubt any of that will occur and the mystery of the journalist’s disappearance will remain just that, a mystery.

The United States needs to be very circumspect about who its new friends really are. Especially, Mr. Kushner.

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