Flag of Saudi Arabia in front of a clear blue sky. Photo: iStock
Flag of Saudi Arabia in front of a clear blue sky. Photo: iStock

Jamal Khashoggi, an influential Saudi journalist living in self-imposed exile in the US, was killed inside his country’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

Consular officials initially denied the whereabouts of the journalist but later admitted that he was killed in a “brawl.” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and US officials, however, claim that Khashoggi entered the consulate on October 2 but did not leave the building and was killed in a well-planned operation, possibly on the instructions of a high-ranking Saudi official. Khashoggi was a well-known critic of the Saudi king, Salman, and his sons, and the kingdom’s controversial war in Yemen.

Attracting global attention, the killing and has become a sensitive political and diplomatic issue. Various interest groups and powerful countries are twisting the story to serve their agendas. For students majoring in international relations and security studies, it serves as a perfect example of how the global media have become the principal instrument of hybrid warfare.

It is interesting to note that Saudi Arabia is being maligned by the press on a daily basis. The New York Times has suddenly discovered that there are gross human rights violations being committed in war-torn Yemen. Every day, the press finds something new to condemn in Saudi Arabia. Today, it was Saudi Twitter trolls “damaging the world peace.” The media campaign against Saudi Arabia continues vigorously.

A few days back, a front-page New York Times article made the dangerous assertion that the kingdom’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman (MBS), should be replaced, a view shared by The Wall Street Journal. This is about more than regime change; the aim is to pressure the royal family to expedite previously agreed defense deals.

MBS is effectively the king of Saudi Arabia, and the political stability of the kingdom is vital for Muslims all over the world. US president Harry S Truman dropped nuclear bombs on Japan, killing millions instantly at a time when “Japan had no allies; its navy was almost destroyed; its islands were under a naval blockade, and its cities were undergoing concentrated air attacks.” Was the US president convicted of war crimes? Moreover, how about those who “democratized” Iraq, “liberated” Libya, and continue to kill “terrorists” with drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan?

Looking at Khashoggi’s credentials, it is evident that he was quite an influential journalist. He was the only non-royal Saudi who knew of the royal family’s intimate dealings with the powerful Saudi ruling class, al-Qaeda, and the CIA. If you look at the Khashoggi family’s history, there are clear links with these entities.

Khashoggi’s grandfather was the personal physician of King Abdulaziz Al Saud, the founder of the kingdom. Khashoggi was the nephew of the high-profile Saudi Arabian arms dealer and billionaire Adnan Khashoggi, who had facilitated the secret supply of arms to Iran in exchange for US hostages through Israel. Jamal Khashoggi was also a first cousin of Dodi Fayed, who was dating Diana, Princess of Wales, when the two were killed in a car crash in Paris.

Khashoggi served as a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan and worked for the Saudi intelligence service (and possibly the CIA) in the country from 1991 to 1999. The 60-year-old was an author, journalist and a former general manager and editor-in-chief of Al-Arab News Channel. The channel was owned by the Saudi prince and entrepreneur al-Waleed bin Talal. The Bahrain-based news channel was launched in February 2015 and was almost immediately shut down for airing controversial content by the government of Bahrain. Recently, al-Waleed bin Talal was also scrutinized by the Saudi authorities.

According to the British weekly magazine The Spectator, “Khashoggi, with almost two million Twitter followers, was the most famous political pundit in the Arab world and a regular guest on the major TV news networks in Britain and the United States. Khashoggi relocated to the United States in June 2017 and soon began writing for The Washington Post. In 2018, Khashoggi established a new political party called Democracy for the Arab World Now, challenging the entire Arab world to pursue democratic reforms.

The Turkish president has taken it upon himself to expose the “culprits” in an effort to damage the Saudi kingdom. He has suddenly become the puppet of the US and its allies by serving their aim of further squeezing Saudi Arabia and defaming the Muslim world at large

The Turkish president has taken it upon himself to expose the “culprits” in an effort to damage the Saudi kingdom. He has suddenly become the puppet of the US and its allies by serving their aim of further squeezing Saudi Arabia and defaming the Muslim world at large.

The global Muslim intelligentsia know that the Islamic nations have been exploited through a divide and rule strategy for centuries. Turkey will not get anything worthwhile from the game being played against Saudi Arabia. The actual winner will be the US. It is not Erdogan but ultimately US President Donald Trump who will decide the outcome of the high-profile case.

Saudi Arabia should stand firm in the face of international pressure and not allow its national sovereignty to be compromised. The Saudi government should settle matters with the grieving Khashoggi family, order a comprehensive investigation and punish the culprits. The security of the royal family should also be enhanced using the neutral and apolitical armed forces of other Islamic countries, such as Pakistan and Egypt.

Khashoggi was a talented but ambitious person. He worked for intelligence agencies and tried to find success through secret doors and shortcuts. He knew too many secrets and was ultimately killed in the crossfire.

Whether Khashoggi was killed for stealing secret documents from the Saudi government or for merely criticizing the kingdom remains to be seen. However, one thing is certain: Khashoggi’s killers were ruthless and grossly incompetent. They need to be punished.

Atta Rasool Malik

Atta Rasool Malik hails from semi-tribal areas of Pakistan. He holds an MPhil degree in International Relations from National Defence University in Islamabad. His interests include politics and security of South Asia, the Middle East and Islamic & Jewish theology.

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