It’s been difficult to get one’s arms around Khashoggi’s abduction and murder. The accusations by the Turkish government have been detrimental to the Saudis, and the Turks have not yet disclosed all of the relevant facts.
What we do know is that Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and never came out. He was supposedly there to obtain documents that would enable him to remarry.
The Turks and the Saudis have stipulated that Khashoggi was killed while in the consulate. It’s also been confirmed that several Saudi security people were at the consulate the day that Khashoggi died. And these men have been connected to the Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. Beyond this, the situation becomes much cloudier.
The uproar over Khashoggi’s death, although tragic, involves only one man. Elsewhere in the Middle East thousands are being persecuted, tortured, killed or forced to move from their homes every day. Khashoggi is only a small cog, so one might ask who has the power to raise the importance of the death of one man, somebody very few have ever even heard of?
Khashoggi was a journalist employed by the Washington Post, which carries a lot of weight. Journalists are always traumatized by crimes against members of their community. His fellow news colleagues are appalled and always disturbed, whenever one of them is detained or imprisoned, much less murdered in cold blood.
Khashoggi, once an ally of MBS, wrote some opposition pieces directed at Saudi Arabia. One theory being bandied about is that the Saudi “rogues” at the consulate were supposed to force Khashoggi to agree to return to Saudi Arabia to face criminal charges for his reporting. Why would he? It turned violent, and the journalist was slaughtered.
Many countries around the world and in the region are speaking up about this crime including the U.S. President Trump wants to know what happened and whether the King or the Crown Prince is responsible. He promised to punish the Saudis if the royals were involved in the affair. To what extent is up in the air.
Saudi Arabia is investigating the event and has changed its story several times. The sentiment throughout the world, and among most U.S. politicians, is that MBS is culpable to some extent. It may be that the Saudis and the Turks are trying to craft a story that will make this problem go away. More on this later.
What is unusual is that Turkey, a Sunni country is working at odds with Saudi Arabia, another Sunni country. Recently the two have been on opposing sides of a number of situations in the region.
Often a Sunni/Shia conflict is the underlying cause for violence between nations in the region. Not this time. Nor does it have anything to do with Israel or the U.S. Even refugee issues in Turkey and the constant threat of Kurds to Turkish government are not in play.
The principle problem between the Kingdom and Turkey is growing Islamic demands for free elections in the region. The Saudis are against this Arab Spring because it threatens the authority and stability of the their monarchy. The Turks, in conjunction with the Muslim Brotherhood support free elections on the Arabian Peninsula and elsewhere.
Another interesting suggestion is that Turkey may be holding back evidence giving Saudi Arabia an opportunity to make a monetary and/or political proposal to Turkey for its cooperation. As in many situations, the Saudis are not shy about using their financial strength to buy their way out of problems.
The last issue is relevant to the U.S. We have a $100 billion arms deal pending with the Saudis and a convenient alliance to fight Iranian aggression and its support of terrorism in the area. The president will be reluctant to take significant action that might threaten the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia.
Many pundits are talking up MBS’ involvement. Few believe that the Saudi interlopers would take such a bold step, like murder and dismemberment, without the Crown Prince’s authorization. Moreover MBS has his share of enemies in his country, including many of his blood relatives that he fined for their misdeeds.
Is it possible that the death of Khashoggi could lead to MBS’s downfall? We’re about to find out.