Khashoggi murder –an explainer
Why is Saudi Arabia at the center of a storm these days?
Why is Saudi Arabia important for world politics? …
Saudi Arabia, the oil-rich Arab country, is run by a royal family, and not a democratically elected government. Being the home to Islam’s two most important shrines – Mecca and Medina— it enjoys a lot of clout among the Islamic world. The western nations befriend it, because of its massive oil reserve and humungous forex reserve generated through oil exports. The kingdom buys a lot of arms and ammunitions from the United States, the United Kingdom and other European arms manufacturers. A big customer is always pampered by the seller.
The geo-political factor ..Apart from the above, this Sunni powerhouse has traditional hostility with the Shia power house Iran, the bête noire of President Trump. This makes the Saudi monarchy a valued alley of the United States. America expediently overlooks the facts that Saudi Arabia doesn’t have an iota of democracy, and has a dismal human rights record. The past rulers have all been despots following a very austere form of Islam, otherwise known as Wahhabis.
Who is Khashoggi? ..
Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi (60) is an eminent journalist and an author. He is a Saudi dissident who worked with the Washington Post as a columnist writing on matters related to his home country Saudi Arabia and the Middle East. He minced no words while describing the abysmal state of affairs in Saudi Arabia where a cocktail of corruption and strict autocratic rule has stifled free speech in the most reprehensible manner. Airing of such views critical of the Saudi monarchy through the coloumns of the Washington Post angered the Saudi government greatly. Khashoggi, thus, became the target of the wrath of the Saudi rulers. Fearing reprisal, he decided to make America his home.
He was killed in Istanbul on October 2, 2018 when he had gone inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to obtain certain papers pertaining to his divorce. His fiancée, whom he was to marry soon, waited outside the consulate as Khashoggi went in. But, he never returned.
Later, it emerged that he had been beheaded, and his body savagely cut into slices to facilitate disposal. Some body parts were later found buried in the garden of the Saudi Consul General’s residence. It also became known that a group of 15 hit men had been flown in to Istanbul from Saudi Arabia to carry out the murder of Khashoggi. They flew out in the same chartered flight after the gruesome murder was committed.
Who ordered the heinous murder of the renowned journalist Khashoggi?
Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud (MBS) ordered it. He is the son of the Saudi King, Salman of Saudi Arabia. Like Indira Gandhi had given a free hand to her wayward son Sanjay Gandhi to interfere in the government, the Crown Prince MBS has been given de facto power to rule the country.
MBS had charmed the western observers last year when he took some visible and bold steps towards reform of the Saudi society. He allowed women to drive cars, study in co-ed colleges, take up jobs etc. He also loosened the tight state control on the media. In seminars and public forums, he declared that Saudi Arabia will shed its conservative character and will inch towards a modern liberal Islamic country. The economy will depend less on petro dollars, and more on modern manufacturing. For a brief period, he became the darling of the West.
The murder of Khashoggi, a dissident journalist-cum-author, has shattered that liberal image of the Crown Prince, MBS. That he is cast in the same cruel, despotic mould as his father and grandfather is now clear.
How did America react?…
President Trump initially was very reluctant to admit that there was a clear Saudi hand behind such a despicable act. Large Saudi orders for American fighter jets, oil trade, and most importantly, Saudi Arabia’s value as a counter weight to Iran, clouded Trump’s judgment. American media and intellectuals have, however, continued their vociferous protest against Trump’s foot dragging in declaring MBS as the mastermind behind the murder. The truth is now so much in the public domain that Trump has veered around to the position that the Saudi agents under the instruction of MBS eliminated Khashoggi. This murder will have far-reaching ramifications on U.S.-Saudi relations.
How has Turkey reacted? .. President Edogan of Turkey has loudly condemned Saudi Arabia, and MBS, in particular. It has to be remembered that there is no love lost between Edogan and Trump. America and Turkey, despite being NATO members, have drifted apart in recent months. At the same time, the relation between Turkey and Iran has become warmer causing much chagrin in Washington. Edogan’s open name calling has angered MBS.
Khashoggi has gone, but his ghost will haunt MBS for long time to come.