Jamal Khashoggi, a bone of contention
The disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi could force Washington to change its attitude toward Saudi Arabia, something that the White House has avoided for years, even after September 11, 2001.
Relations with autocratic countries and, even worse, regimes like Saudi Arabia, is a risk to international diplomacy because you can’t pray to both God and the devil.
The disappearance and alleged murder of the Saudi Washington Post columnist, Jamal Khashoggi, has triggered a diplomatic crisis within the U.S. government for its deep ties to the Saudi regime, whom Turkey blames for having kidnapped and dismembered the journalist.
Khashoggi was last seen when he was visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week to organize personal documents. On Saturday, the Post reported that investigations carried out by Turkish officials had concluded that the journalist, an arduous critic of the Saudi leadership, “had been killed inside the consulate on Tuesday by a team sent from Saudi Arabia,” which people close to the investigation called “a premeditated murder.”
U.S. government officials confirmed the preliminary results of the investigation, which subsequently determined that Khashoggi’s body “was probably dismembered with a bone saw.”
While Saudi Arabia has denied the accusations - assuring that the journalist left the consulate shortly after arriving - the investigation has triggered an international crisis after the first findings were published considering that both Turkey and Saudi Arabia largely determine the stability of the Middle East.
“Saudi Arabia is wary of Turkey’s expanding military power in the Persian Gulf, its support for political Islamists and its cooperation in the Syrian war with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s archrival,” the Post explains. “Turkey was alarmed by the Saudi leadership’s support for a military coup against the former Egyptian president and Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi in 2013.”
In this entire scenario, the government of Donald Trump is between a rock and a hard place.
Since its inauguration, the Trump administration has made the economic relationship with Saudi Arabia a priority, especially through a multi-million-dollar arms sales agreement and unconditional support for the war the country is waging in Yemen.
The disappearance of Khashoggi has forced members of Congress to exert pressure on the president to reevaluate his relationship with the Arab regime, taking into special consideration the journalist’s trajectory as a critical columnist of Prince Mohammed bin Salman in media such as the Washington Post and, more important still, for his weight in Capitol Hill as a “reformist,” as Politico explained.
For his part, Trump has stated that he is “very worried” about the situation and assured that his government “would get to the bottom of it,” as reported by CNN, but the intrinsic relationship between both governments won’t make things easier.
“The Trump government trusts Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies in the fight against ISIS, and is pushing them to fund reconstruction efforts in Syria,” the report continues. “The White House’s effort to forge a peace in the Middle East between Israelis and Palestinians, led in part by Kushner, also depends on Saudi Arabia.”
Likewise, the Trump administration depends on the Saudi government to maintain its policies of retaliation against Iran, something that has set the tone in its international diplomatic discourse.
But to consider that the current White House is going to put at risk its multi-million dollar agreements with Saudi Arabia for the human rights of a journalist is something that must be seen to be believed.