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Khashoggi’s Abduction was due to Western Media’s Greed and Vanity

Just how much responsibility should the West accept for the abduction and possible murder of Jamal Khashoggi? Or even Donald Trump himself? There are many Middle East commentators who, when Mohammed bin Salman became the crown prince of Saudi Arabia went as far as to say that his inauguration was entirely down to Trump. The US president pushed for the reshuffle in the Saudi royal family as MbS vowed to support him in anything he wished to do in the region. And the same can be said the other way around. The young crown prince more or less has a green light to do almost anything he wishes, unchallenged.

Unsurprisingly, since becoming crown prince, the arrests and abductions have risen, with many of those arrested erroneously accused of terrorism.

And so the West has created a monster in Saudi Arabia and we should not be surprised by this latest move by MbS which smacks of desperation on a whole new level, aimed at silencing a critic who, when we examine the evidence, was not an enemy or a threat in any way, but simply a Saudi editorialist with an opinion. Just an opinion.

Khashoggi was not the staunch critic of MbS as he is reported to be, but more of a cryptic commentator, who was previously part of the establishment. In fact, Khashoggi was a fan of the prince’s 2030 vision but represented a threat as he championed new ideas, his latest one being a free press, which would have been very welcome by young people in the kingdom who are looking to MbS for genuine reform.

But we should expect more of the Khashoggi type stunts as the 2030 vision that MbS holds dear to his heart will soon be seen as folly by young people in the kingdom who will only ratchet up more pressure when they see that there is not the money to get it off the ground. Ironically, the Saudis simply haven’t joined up the dots to see the link between egregious human rights atrocities – which now include kidnapping and murder – and a scarcity of foreign investors which they badly need. If the West and its self-obsessed media can’t show the Saudi leader the error of his ways, then perhaps the banks and the markets will when they boycott all investment in the country when it becomes impossible for western Op-ed writers to ignore the Khashoggi case when they try and write positively about the kingdom.

The camel’s back

And therein lies the heart of the matter. Western media has more blood on its hands than what we are led to believe, not merely a touchline observer to the tragic events but actually a key player.

Yet before we rush to judge western media using a polemic yet humble Arab commentator to procure reform in a country which has an abysmal human rights record and whose leader is close to Trump, we should note click traffic and corporate vanity are also factors.

There are many patent reasons why the Washington Post found Khashoggi a great contributor as there was no one really out there like him, who had the inside knowledge and understanding of the opaque royals there. His insight was entirely unique. But this was surely a game of Russian roulette that both the writer and the Post were playing and this is, in my view, what got Khashoggi into trouble. And the rank sanctimonious response of Post editors, when approached, merely corresponds with this.

CCTV image of Jamal Khashoggi entering the Istanbul consulate. (CCTV)

The decision by Post editors to publish his article in Arabic as well as English, in my view, was the straw which broke the camel’s back. If the insecure and paranoid young prince could not cope with the humiliation of the diplomatic circle in DC mocking him, then certainly he would have been even more enraged when his contemporaries in Riyadh could read Khashoggi’s commentaries.

The naive Khashoggi was on a suicide mission. Egged on by Post editors, it was only a matter of time before the pages of an unbelievable crime novel became a tragic reality.

Equally difficult to take in is the high moral ground and self aggrandizement from the Post itself, when held to account, as my own Twitter exchanges with the editor who commissioned him, seems to expose her as doing all she can to attract as much attention herself in his tragedy, with one post from her accusing me of “hiding behind free speech” while insulting me, personally.

The irony, of course, which is lost on the Global Op-ed Editor, is that the very sensitivity and rank inability to accept criticism which she has shown me on Twitter is the same foible which is responsible for the brutal death of Khashoggi, by his Saudi abductors.

Yet worse, The Washington Post was never concerned with Khashoggi’s fate and continues to publish all his articles, after the day of his disappearance, making him now an icon in the Middle East – and in so doing eliminating any possibility of a deal being struck to release him, in the days which followed where it looked possible that he may still be alive and being held by the Saudis. This, I find particularly repulsive and yet revealing; the sensibilities of Post editors and their egos comfortably harnessed to big media’s greed for clicks in a war with the New York Times. The frenzied, ghastly feeding off of Khashoggi’s corpse – both by the Post and the New York Times – is astonishing.

What on earth was on the minds of Post editors to publish his articles in Arabic? We all have Khashoggi’s blood on our hands if we chose not to ignore Post editors’ decision or fail to acknowledge their lack of judgment.

We know for a fact that the Canada fiasco erupted when Ottawa tweeted its criticism of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, in Arabic. The Post needs to acknowledge that it made a grave mistake in publishing Khashoggi in Arabic.

For those two who took the King’s shilling and were lured into feeding the Saudi spin machine with DC-based Op-ed’s defending MbS, there should also be rapprochement.

For two leading commentators who have come under fire for supporting Mbs – Ignatius of the Post and Friedman of the New York Times – surely those ludicrous Op-ed’s praising the Saudi prince must now come to an end? They have, after all, contributed towards the crown prince believing that he can easily create a grand allusion in the US through media manipulation.

(Saudi Press Agency)

After the disappearance of Khashoggi on October 2, even the crown prince’s most loyal supporters around the world though can no longer keep the farce alive of pretending that Saudi Arabia is heading towards modernization of any sort when in reality it’s heading for the dark ages.

Khashoggi entered Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul in the belief that workers there were about to hand him a divorce certificate which he needed to wed his Turkish fiancé. Where is that certificate now? I don’t see any great journalism from the Post in trying to obtain it, in their frenzied scramble to unlock the paywall to Khashoggi’s articles as they race for clickbait. Where are the Op-ed’s from the Post condemning Trump for dragging his feet on the matter, and perhaps more importantly not warning Khashoggi of a Saudi plan to kill him?

What we didn’t know at the time, was that just a few days earlier an offer had been relayed to him via a close confidant of MbS for him to return to the kingdom and work for the crown prince as an advisor.

The offer was rejected by the 59-year-old journalist who had fled the country in 2017 through fear of arrest. He clearly didn’t think the offer was a trick as he was confident that consulate staff would treat him well when he returned there to pick up the certificate. He was also, evidently, not warned by anyone in the Trump administration that the Saudis had hatched a plan to kidnap him.

Since leaving his country he became a columnist for the Washington Post, with his articles, published in Arabic, threatening to stir debate even within the House of Saud, which might consider him too dangerous and oust him, for a series of foolish decisions which have all backfired – and which have all played a part in a recent failed IPO, plus record low foreign investment. The list of MbS self-induced schemes blowing up in his face is too long: the Yemen war, the kidnapping of Hariri, jailing women’s rights activists and threatening their execution, arrest, and detention in Ritz hotel of ‘enemies’ who were forced to pay cash for their release, Canada fiasco, failed IPO of state oil firm. It just goes on and on.

The humiliation of these articles which touched on some of these subjects was too much for MbS which has led many to assume that two teams of 15 Saudi officials who arrived at the embassy earlier had, in fact, murdered him inside the consulate. On 9th October, there are reports now that consular CCTV footage is not available as cameras, we’re told, were not switched on. The day after more accounts from Turkey are now making it look as though he was indeed murdered, given the identity of the 15 officers (one of whom was a forensic expert, another an autopsy expert – presumed to oversee the dismembering of the body).

There are still questions about what these two teams did or how Turkish officials claim that Khashoggi’s body was cut up with a bone cutting device.

But what is clear is how little or no opprobrium will be sought out neither from Theresa May nor from Donald Trump, whose recent public haranguing of the Saudi King for more money is also part of Khashoggi’s demise, who criticized the young prince’s support for the US president over his ill-conceived, foolish schemes in Palestine and tried to warn the Saudis not to buy into Trump.

But we should also note that Trump was no great fan of Khashoggi and this might well be what is irking the US president now, the worry that journalists in America will seize on the point that not warning the Saudi journalist has certainly played a role in his demise; Khashoggi would certainly have never gone to the consulate in search of documentation, if he had known. And are we to assume that such intel was not in the hands of such a prestigious team of journalists at the Post? Perhaps they too held on to it, fearing it might spook Khashoggi into stopping his columns.

The outlandish Trump relationship with the Saudi elite has some factor on Khashoggi’s death, no question, as he threatens its longevity. Perhaps more poignantly, it is the fact that Khashoggi’s mere presence and commentary is becoming increasingly unsavoury as the Saudi royals realised that his advice all along on Trump was spot on. In Saudi Arabia, it is a crime to have an opinion about the prince’s activities. And a double crime to be right. The problem with Khashoggi is that he was nearly always right.