Saudi Arabia denies any part in the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi. All evidence points to the theory that they have either abducted or killed Khashoggi after luring him to the consulate to obtain wedding documents. The Washington Post columnist has been a critic of the Saudi regime.
At this point, either Saudi Arabia ambushed Khashoggi or Turkey is going to great lengths to fabricate evidence pointing at them. While still possible, the latter seems highly unlikely, especially in light of a new report that shows the U.S. may have been aware of the plot.
The US has intercepts of Saudi officials discussing a plan to lure journalist Jamal Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia and detain him, according to a US official familiar with the intelligence.
The official would not go so far as to say Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the operation but said that, although he may not have known the specifics such a plan couldn’t have taken place without his approval.
This was a bold move made on foreign soil against a Saudi citizen with ties to the United States. In retrospect, it may seem obvious the world would pay attention, but it’s likely the Saudis expected this to be a blip on the news radar.
It hasn’t been. Between the Washington Post using every ounce of clout and reach they have to push out the story to nearly every U.S. news outlet covering it, the exposure Saudi Arabia is receiving from this had to be underestimated. If they’d known taking and/or killing a journalist would have this much blowback, it’s hard to imagine them executing the plan.
Now, they’re stuck with an international incident that isn’t going to go away until Khashoggi is returned unharmed. That is likely impossible.
Saudi Arabia has been one of the harshest dictatorships in the world when it comes to silencing dissidents. Khashoggi is far from the first journalist to be punished for his criticisms, which may have helped push the notion through Saudi leadership that they could sweep this under the rug as they have so many times in the past.
There are huge implications if the White House is forced to respond. Saudi Arabia is the key to peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Any successful peace deal will go through Riyadh and pass through the hands of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. This puts the White House in a predicament. If they call out bin Salman, they could jeopardize their strong relationship with their second most important ally in the region. If they say nothing and the story continues to have legs, it could make the White House seem complicit in the coverup.
Some on Capitol Hill have taken steps to make the White House act:
The Magnitsky law requires that the president conduct an investigation after a request from the leaders of the Foreign Relations Committee into whether a foreign person is responsible for an extrajudicial killing, torture or other gross violation of internationally recognized human rights against an individual exercising freedom of expression.
Under the law, the president has to report the findings back to the committee in 120 days, along with a decision on imposing sanctions on the person or persons responsible.
If Saudi Arabia can be proven to have abducted and/or killed Khashoggi, should we continue to call them friends and engage with them as allies? To me, the answer is a resounding ‘No!”