BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
The heinous murder of prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has been exploited by leaders of several countries for their selfish political and economic gains, ignoring the vile nature of the crime. The main participants in this ugly game are Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States.
On October 2, 2018, Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen, visited Saudi Arabia’s Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, to finalize his divorce documents so he could marry his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz. Khashoggi never left the Consulate. He was murdered and reportedly dismembered by a special team of Saudi investigators who were sent to Istanbul the day before, and after the killing immediately returned to Saudi Arabia on two separate private jets.
Khashoggi, who had worked for years for the Saudi government in important positions, left Saudi Arabia and settled in the United States in 2017 after becoming disillusioned with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s limitless powers. Khashoggi began writing critical opinion columns in the Washington Post, while Saudi leaders made several unsuccessful attempts to lure him back to his native land.
Initially, Saudi Arabia announced that Khashoggi had left its Consulate in Istanbul within an hour or so of his arrival. However, after leaks from the Turkish government that there was no video of Khashoggi exiting the Consulate, the Saudi authorities changed their story, claiming that the dissident journalist was killed during a fistfight at the Consulate. A week later, the Saudi leaders changed their story once again, stating that Khashoggi’s murder was premeditated and not accidental. Saudi Arabia proceeded to fire five security officials and arrested a dozen others, claiming that neither King Salman nor the Crown Prince had any advance knowledge of the murder plan. Given the fact that the Crown Prince is in total control of the country, no one believes that he was unaware of Khashoggi’s killing by the Kingdom’s top security and intelligence officials.
In the meantime, the Turkish government, which has been in constant rivalry with Saudi Arabia for the dominance of the Sunni Islamic world, has been leaking to the Turkish media drip by drip the evidence of Khashoggi’s murder. Initially, the Turks claimed that the information came from Khashoggi’s apple watch which had recorded his torture and murder. When experts advised that the apple watch did not have such a capacity, it became clear that the Turkish government used the watch as a cover up for its secret recording devices installed inside the Saudi Consulate.
In my opinion, the Turkish government’s continuous leaks to the media were meant to send a message to Saudi authorities that it would make public potentially embarrassing evidence about Khashoggi’s killing, unless the Saudis would pay a large ransom for Pres. Erdogan’s silence. It is well-known that the Turkish economy is in shambles and desperately needs tens of billions of dollars to cover its foreign debts. Not hearing a positive response, Erdogan warned the Saudis that he would personally go on national TV and reveal the “naked truth,” unless the Saudis accommodated the Turkish demands. During his speech last week, for the first time, Erdogan made public the timeline of Khashoggi murder and raised serious doubts that it was accidental. However, the Turkish President seemed to keep the hope alive that the Saudis will eventually meet his shakedown demands by not making public all of his secretly collected evidence. In his speech, Erdogan neither mentioned the name of the Saudi Crown Prince nor the Turkish possession of audio/visual materials which had recorded Khashoggi’s painful death. Instead, Erdogan asked several questions that he probably knew the answers, such as: where is Khashoggi’s body and who is the Turkish collaborator who whisked it away at Saudis’ request? Meanwhile, to squeeze the Saudis further, the Turkish press published last week gruesome images of Khashoggi’s dismembered body!
The third culprit is the United States, more specifically, Pres. Trump. When he first got the news that Khashoggi was murdered at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Pres. Trump kept emphasizing his own “great achievement” of selling $110 billion of advanced U.S. weapons to Saudi Arabia during his last year’s visit, ostensibly creating “450,000 jobs for American workers.” As usual, Pres. Trump exaggerated the financial benefits as he had not signed a contract for the sale of $110 billion of U.S. weapons. There was actually an agreement to sell only $10-$20 billion of weapons in the next five years. Furthermore, a year ago Pres. Trump had said that the same weapon sale would create 40,000 American jobs, not 450,000. However, a few days after Khashoggi’s murder, Pres. Trump exaggerated his numbers, this time to 500,000 jobs. A week later, he increased it again to “one million jobs,” and then to “over one million jobs.”
Regardless of how many jobs would be created and how many billions would the sale of the weapons bring, Pres. Trump never expressed his condolences to the Khashoggi family. Even though Pres. Trump kept warning Saudi Arabia of “severe consequences,” he valued the price of the weapons more than a human being’s life! The only American ‘punishment’ was the suspension of U.S. visas to the 18 Saudis who were sent to Istanbul to murder Khashoggi.
Regrettably, most heads of states do not care about human beings! What’s in it for me or my nation is the common practice. In the process, leaders are willing to lie, cheat, and even murder.
Khashoggi’s Turkish fiancée did the right thing by refusing Pres. Trump’s invitation to the White House. She did not want her grief to be exploited by a politician who only cares about his own selfish gains rather than the pain and suffering of the family members of a mutilated murder victim!