Date :Sunday, October 14th, 2018 | Time : 14:15 |ID: 74345 | Print

Saudi Arabia is facing political and economic isolation over Khashoggi’s fate

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SHAFAQNA- The fate of missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, assuming that his disappearance was the work of Saudi security and military officials, threatens to upend the fundaments of fault lines in the Middle East. There has been cold weather between Turkey and Saudi Arabia for a couple of years, and the relationship between Ankara and Riyadh with the Khashoggi case is certainly not as close as before.

Jamal Khashoggi, a well-known Saudi Arabian journalist and Washington Post columnist who has been critical of his country’s government, vanished. Turkish officials said they have “concrete” evidence that the Saudi writer never left the building and was murdered there; some have even put forth gruesome theories of how his body may have been dismembered and smuggled out. Experts have dismissed claims that a recording of the alleged killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi may have been transmitted using his Apple Watch. The Turkish newspaper Sabah reported Saturday morning that Khashoggi turned on the recording function of his Apple Watch before walking into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, and that audio clips of his “interrogation, torture and killing were audio recorded and sent to both his phone and to iCloud.”

Khashoggi disappeared in Saudi consulate While under the Vienna Convention, embassies and consulates  are technically foreign soil and must be protected by host nations.

If Khashoggi was indeed murdered by his own government, it raises bigger questions about the safety of journalists, freedom of speech, and the future of Saudi relations with Turkey, the US, and others.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has tried to paint himself as a reformer by loosening restrictions on women driving and opening up cinemas in the Kingdom but he’s also led a purge of opposition within his government under the guise of a crackdown on corruption and championed a bloody, brutal war with Yemen that’s left tens of thousands dead. And despite his reforms, MBS hasn’t shown any willingness to tolerate political dissent or free speech. He’s even arrested some of the activists who championed the reforms he’s pushed through. Khashoggi had taken a more critical tack, criticizing the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The millions of pounds the Saudi prince has just paid to PR companies to burnish his image in the west as “a reformer in a hurry” have just been trashed by a killing that comes straight out of Pulp Fiction.

Khashoggi is not the first Saudi exile to be killed

Jamal Khashoggi is not the first Saudi exile to be killed. No one today remembers Nassir al-Sa’id, who disappeared in Beirut in 1979 and has not been seen since. Prince Sultan bin Turki was kidnapped in Geneva in 2003. Prince Turki bin Bandar al-Saud, who applied for asylum in France, disappeared in 2015. Maj Gen Ali al-Qahtani, an officer in the Saudi National Guard who died while in custody, showed signs of abuse: his neck appeared twisted and his body was badly swollen. There are many, many others, and thousands languish in jail.

Khashoggi’s disappearance could exacerbate tense relations between Turkey and Saudi

Turkey and Saudi Arabia already have a strained relationship, for a few reasons. Khashoggi’s disappearance could exacerbate tense relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, which worsened last year after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the Persian Gulf States’ isolation of Qatar inhumane and against Islamic values.

Saudi Arabia is engaged in an ongoing blockade of Qatar, one of Turkey’s allies, and Riyadh doesn’t agree with Turkey’s embrace of political Islam or its close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. In the spring, Mohammed bin Salman described Turkey as one part of a ‘triangle of evil’ with Iran and Islamic extremists. Turkey’s rift with Saudi Arabia widened in December when it signed a deal with Iran to break a Saudi-led economic blockade against Qatar. The Khashoggi case would undermine Saudi and UAE justification of their 15-month old economic and diplomatic boycott of Qatar.

But the fallout began as far back as 2013, when Egypt’s democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, was overthrown in a military coup that the U.S. did little to oppose. Erdogan, a political Islamist, is a strong ally and supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood movement and believes Saudi Arabia was a key player in Morsi’s ouster. Turkey has also led the outcry over Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, while Saudi Arabia has been cooler in its criticism. Turkey also opposes U.S. sanctioning of Iran that has not just been embraced, but emphatically pushed by Saudi Arabia.

Turkey, despite deep policy differences with Saudi Arabia over Qatar, Iran, and the Muslim Brotherhood, has so far refrained from statements.

United States in a difficult position

The Khashoggi case, also puts the United States in a difficult position because of its close ties with Saudi Arabia, seen as an important strategic ally in the Middle East. Khashoggi’s fate, threatens to severely disrupt the U.S.-Saudi alliance that underwrites much of the Middle East’s fault lines.

Trump, who took his first overseas trip as U.S. president to the kingdom. Trump has backed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ambitious campaign to modernize the conservative kingdom and its economy. The Pentagon has also continued to back the devastating Saudi-led war in Yemen by providing intelligence assistance, refueling planes, and engaging in gargantuan arms deals. If the Saudi government is indeed responsible for his disappearance, it could severely complicate the US’s friendly relationship with the country

Khashoggi’s fate, could result in a U.S. and European embargo on arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Trump pronounced U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia “excellent” and said he doesn’t want to scuttle arms deals with Riyadh because it means tens of millions of dollars pouring into the U.S. economy. He said the kingdom would simply buy the weapons from Russia or China instead.

It also would project Saudi Arabia as a rogue state and call into question U.S. and Saudi allegations that Iran is the Middle East’s main state supporter of terrorism.

John O. Brennan, Former CIA Director who earlier had said US should never turn a blind eye to this sort of inhumanity, in a new tweet asked for a full and forceful US response.

Brennan tweets: “Jamal Khashoggi’s apparent death at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul is an atrocity, and Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman’s close ties to the White House must not stand in the way of a full and forceful U.S. response”.

The situation is also creating friction between the Trump administration and members of Congress .

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusett condemning Trump administration lobby with Saudi Arabia tweeted: “Saudi Arabia – a country that’s bombed thousands of innocent Yemenis & stands accused of murdering journalist Jamal Khashoggi – is shelling out millions to lobby the Trump Admin. My bill to End Corruption Now would ban Americans from lobbying for foreign governments like Saudi”.

But even before Khashoggi vanished, concerns were mounting in Congress over Saudi Arabia’s policies and the crown prince’s aggressive steps to silence his critics. And now there are calls on Capitol Hill for the U.S. to halt arms sales to the kingdom, and Khashoggi’s disappearance could galvanize more opposition from lawmakers and pressure Trump to rethink his relations with Saudi Arabia. But Relations between the two countries are complex because they are entwined on energy, military, economic and intelligence issues.

Although earlier Trump said he doesn’t want to scuttle arms deals with Riyadh, in recent times he vowed in a “60 Minutes” interview that the United States would get to the bottom of what happened to a missing Saudi journalist and that there would be “severe punishment” if he were found to have been killed.

UN: Truth to be clear

Determination that Saudi Arabia was responsible for Mr. Khashoggi’s fate would likely spark renewed debate about the wisdom of the international community’s support for Arab autocracy that has proven to be unashamedly brutal in its violation of human rights and disregard for international law and conventions. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, speaking to the BBC at the IMF meeting, called for the “truth to be clear.”

“We need to know exactly who is responsible and of course, when we see the multiplication of this kind of situation I think we need to find ways in which accountability is also demanded,” he said.

Global Companies have cut ties with Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is facing growing isolation as firms pull out of a high-profile investment summit due to take place later this month in Riyadh. Most of the news outlets that had agreed to sponsor the Saudi Future Investment Initiative — known as “Davos in the desert” — have now withdrawn. They include Japanese media company Nikkei, CNBC, The New York Times and the Financial Times. Bloomberg said Friday it was pulling out as a media partner but added it still planned to cover news from the conference.

Sources: vox, Npr, time, telegraph, Theglobalist, thestate, middleeasteye, nbcnews,cnn, BBC

 

Read more from Shafaqna:

Khashoggi issue: the new Saudi challenge

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