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The Murder of Jamal Khashoggi

Jamal Khashoggi offers remarks during POMED's "Mohammed bin Salman's Saudi Arabia: A Deeper Look.".Photo credit: April Brady/Project on Middle East Democracy/Flickr

Turkish authorities now believe that the Saudi government murdered Jamal Khashoggi in their Istanbul consulate. Kareem Fahim reports for The Washington Post:

Turkey has concluded that Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent journalist from Saudi Arabia, was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul earlier this week by a Saudi team sent “specifically for the murder,” two people with knowledge of the probe said Saturday.

Turkish investigators believe a 15-member team “came from Saudi Arabia. It was a preplanned murder,” said one of the people. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation.

When the Saudi government continued claiming that they were not holding Mr. Khashoggi several days after he disappeared inside the consulate, that strongly suggested that they meant to kill him. According to initial reports, they had already murdered him and promoted the bogus story that he had left the consulate to serve as their extremely weak alibi. Considering the many other horrible things that the current Saudi leadership is responsible for, it is not surprising that they did this, but that doesn’t make it any less outrageous and despicable.

Mohammed bin Salman is a despotic war criminal, and he has presided over the destruction and starvation of Yemen for the last three and a half years. He is responsible for war crimes against thousands and thousands of innocent Yemenis, so we should assume that he is more than capable of ordering the murder of prominent critic of his policies. Unfortunately, this appears to be what he has done. This is what comes from giving a destructive, destabilizing government a blank check and unstinting military and diplomatic support. The U.S. and most other Western governments have refused to criticize the Saudi government over its conduct of the war on Yemen, its domestic crackdowns, its human rights abuses, and the increasing repression under Mohammed bin Salman’s de facto rule, and so the Saudi government assumes that it can get away with doing whatever it wants wherever it wants. That needs to stop, and the U.S. has considerable leverage with the Saudis that it can and should use to stop it.

The Saudi government should pay a steep price for this latest outrage, but it remains to be seen whether any Western government will hold them accountable for Mr. Khashoggi’s murder or any of the Saudi government’s other crimes. The U.S. should at the very least condemn the murder and sanction the Saudi officials that can be linked to it, and if the Trump administration won’t do this Congress should act. Blocking all further arms sales and withdrawing U.S. support for the war on Yemen were already the right things to do, and this crime gives members of Congress one more reason to do them. Congress should consider other measures to hold the crown prince and his officials personally to account for Mr. Khashoggi’s murder, including travel and financial sanctions. Western pundits need to stop talking Saudi Arabia as an “ally” and acknowledge that it is a regional menace that is becoming even more repressive than it was in the past. Ideally, Mohammed bin Salman’s Western fan club would disband and apologize for their unwarranted enthusiasm for a cruel and incompetent authoritarian.

Sen. Chris Murphy responded to the news of the murder this evening:

Saudi Arabia behaves like a reckless rogue state, and so the U.S. should treat it accordingly.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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