Expectations over the Khashoggi crisis
The murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is a complex issue from various perspectives, the first being that it is a political crime amid very odd circumstances. Second, it is associated with a country that has never been known to be violent toward its rivals.
Third, Khashoggi was not known to be a threat to national security, as he worked for 30 years either as a spokesman for the government or in its media. Fourth, the crime was committed in an unfriendly territory due to the ongoing political conflict and regional partisanship manifested in the Qatari-Turkish alliance against Saudi Arabia.
It is noteworthy that the account of the Saudi public prosecutor, which was based on the interrogation of suspects, conformed with the majority of Turkish leaks, but not all of them. The final conclusion is that a Saudi team had traveled to Istanbul in order to meet with Khashoggi at the consulate and bring him back to the Kingdom by means of persuasion, or by force if he refused.
This may explain the large number of participants, since secret security operations may require a sizable logistical support team. For example, the assassination of Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh, who was known for smuggling arms for the Palestinian group Hamas, required sending a large team of Israelis who entered Dubai as tourists via different airlines, stayed in distant hotels, and carried passports under fake names and unidentified phone numbers.
However, the team that carried out the Khashoggi murder operated collectively and clearly. Some of the members were known to Turkish security, as they entered Turkey carrying their real passports and then continued to the Saudi Consulate. This reinforces the account that the primary goal was to bring him back alive, but that he was killed after their failed attempts.
The attempt to destabilize Saudi Arabia, both the leadership and the country, is premeditated and started long before the assassination.
The findings of the public prosecutor’s office are based on investigations, and during the next hearing we hope to hear direct testimonies from the suspects. The investigative aspect has been met, and the spokesman of the public prosecution gave more accurate details than the Turkish leaks.
Nevertheless, there is no doubt that Turkey and Qatar, which are in a political conflict with Saudi Arabia, will spare no chance to exploit the case and play political football with it. Therefore, we must differentiate between two crimes. The first is the murder of Khashoggi, may he rest in peace. The second, which is still in progress, is the orchestrated campaign against Saudi Arabia.
The murder of Khashoggi is a single crime. More than a half million have been killed intentionally in Syria, yet no one has been held accountable, not to mention many other similar crimes committed in the region. But murder remains a crime, and as the Holy Qur’an says: “Whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption in the land — it is as if he had slain mankind.”
However, we must reject Qatar’s campaign of politicizing the crime for more dangerous purposes. The attempt to destabilize Saudi Arabia, both the leadership and the country, is premeditated and started long before the assassination. All those who have been following the crisis can sense that there is a bad intention in exploiting Khashoggi’s murder.
I will now demonstrate a comparison that shows the intentions of the two sides. Following the failed coup attempt in Turkey two years ago, Ankara insisted that several governments in the region extradite people it accused of being opposition members. Some people were handed over by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
But when Turkey hosted Saudi extremist activists, Ankara denied Riyadh’s request to hand them over or at least stop them from engaging in hostile activities funded by Qatar. This comparison shows the serious problem among the governments concerned, and the intermingling of states’ higher interests. It also explains how a human tragedy has been turned into a heinous game.
- Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is a veteran columnist. He is the former general manager of Al Arabiya news channel, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Twitter: @aalrashed