LONDON: After US President Joe Biden’s administration took measures to sanction Saudi officials that took part in 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, several Middle East experts have accused the US of deploying double standards.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, as well as several US State Department officials, have repeatedly said that Washington will no longer tolerate the targeting of journalists and dissidents. The case of Jamal Khashoggi has been at the center of these statements.
However, critics are asking why the US administration is not deploying the same standards to the killers of other journalists, and those involved with similar violence across the region.
“We should ask ourselves what is the purpose behind the publication of the report? It is very obvious that the revival of the issue after two years aims at putting pressure on Saudi Arabia,” US-Arab affairs expert Dr. Dania Koleilat Khatib told Arab News.
Another commentator, Hussain Abdul-Hussain, tweeted: “Now that we have finished from the Khashoggi affair, can the US give any attention to the assassination of Hisham Al-Hashemi and Lokman Slim? Or is there no lobby behind them to demand the disclosure of their killers?”
Indeed, while this month’s killing of Lebanese publisher and vocal Hezbollah critic Luqman Slim was condemned by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, that was as far as it went — and his statement even shied away from naming the known culprits, Hezbollah.
Another, Iraqi researcher, Hisham al-Hashimi, was shot dead outside his Baghdad home last year in a drive-by long-suspected to have been set up by Iran-backed Kata’ib Hezbollah.
“We also should examine the timing. It is while the US is seeking to go back to the nuclear deal. This could be a tool to pressure Saudi Arabia to accept the decisions of the US regarding Iran, and to coerce the Kingdom into making concessions,” Khatib said, adding: “They don’t want to disturb the flow of communications with Iran.”
She said: “Even though the US is committed to human rights, how adamant and forceful they are in taking a position is taken in a political context.”
While more critics of Iran, its proxies and allies in the region are shot dead by “unknown groups,” much of what the US clearly focuses on is what benefits itself politically. President Biden’s pursuit to label Saudi Arabia as a pariah, as he previously argued for, comes at the cost of allowing Iran and its armed groups in the region to literally get away with murder.
Lebanese journalists Samir Kassir and Gebran Tueini were vocal in their political criticism, and both were assassinated for their vocal critiques by perpetrators that have yet to serve justice.
Journalists killed with no consequences
Assassinated: 2 June 2005
Assassinated: 12 December 2005
Assassinated: 22 February 2006
Assassinated: 6 July 2020
Assassinated: 4 February 2021
Arab countries and groups have expressed their support for Saudi Arabia’s rejection of the report, while stressing the pivotal role that the Kingdom plays in consolidating security in the region.
Political reporter and analyst Ray Hanania told Arab News: “The killing of Jamal Khashoggi is a human tragedy, but the US and the media are determined to play a hypocritical game of political exploitation to balance their foreign agenda.”
He added: “The International Federation of Journalists reports that in 2020, 66 journalists were killed, and yet it seems like only one journalist matters. This in part has also to do with media bias.
“The media, US Congress and activists showcase only one tragedy out of hundreds of journalist killings, because Khashoggi’s death is related to an acceptable foreign policy attack.”
President Biden took little time to retract the terrorist designation that the Trump administration had slapped on the Iran-backed Yemeni Houthi militia, and yet the group continues to lob ballistic missiles to Riyadh on a daily basis.
So as the US continues to appease Iran in order to bring it back to the nuclear negotiation table, its proxies could get away with silencing even more journalists and critics.