Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi wrote for The Washington Post, and he was one of the loudest voices in America against the brutal Saudi Arabian regime. Khashoggi was last seen on October 2nd, where he walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. No proof has emerged that he ever left the Saudi consulate, and despite the Saudis insisting that he did leave their building, they have offered no evidence that he did. Turkish officials say they have proof of his murder and torture at the hands of the Saudis in the form of audio and video taken from Khashoggi’s Apple Watch (the Apple Watch portion is almost certainly a lie made in order to protect Turkish surveillance methods).
An uproar has ensued, as the Saudis have become more internationally isolated than at any point in the last few decades. A Saudi business conference has been abandoned by an avalanche of attendees, including longtime Saudi financiers like JPMorgan. Given what we know, it sure seems likely that Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, the new self-proclaimed “reformer” of Saudi Arabia, issued an assassination order, and dramatically underestimated the political blowback that would ensue. He likely did so because the United States of America has a president who continually attacks journalists as “the enemy of the people.” Despite being largely abandoned by the international community, Mohammed Bin Salman still has at least one ally.
Trump said his conversation on the topic with King Salman lasted about 20 minutes today, and MBS “firmly denied any knowledge of it.” Trump also echoed his “it wasn’t Russian hackers but a 400 pound man” line, when he claimed that “it sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers — who knows.”
This is a patently ridiculous notion. If rogue killers had walked into the Saudi embassy and murdered a Saudi dissident, it would be a stain on Saudi Arabia, proving that for all the talk of a new, progressive ruling class, they cannot protect people even in their own buildings. If this truly were the case, we would see a different posture out of Saudi Arabia. “Maybe some random person walked into our embassy and killed someone” is not the kind of nonchalant attitude that any government would take towards a crime like this.
We can’t say for certain what exactly happened to Jamal Khashoggi, but his public work of denigrating Mohammed Bin Salman’s regime, combined with the relative silence from the Saudi Embassy that he likely died in points us in the direction of the obvious: an authoritarian regime did what authoritarian regimes do, and silenced its opposition, and the cover-up is being aided by the head of a wannabe authoritarian regime here in the United States.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.