By Syed Zafar Mehdi

Murder most foul: Saudis admit Khashoggi was killed

October 21, 2018

The outpouring of anger and outrage over Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance and subsequent killing inside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Turkey is unprecedented. The 60-year-old journalist, who had been critical of Saudi crown prince Mohammad Bin Salman, walked inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 afternoon to complete paperwork ahead of his marriage. He never came out.

On the same day, two private jets carrying Saudi intelligence sleuths had arrived at Istanbul Airport, and several diplomatic vehicles were seen entering the Saudi consulate carrying Saudi agents. A few hours after Khashoggi went inside the consulate, vehicles quietly came out and both jets left the country.

The mysterious ‘disappearance’ of Khashoggi was widely reported in the international media. For two weeks, Saudi officials kept denying that the journalist was killed inside the consulate even though the circumstantial evidence suggested so. 

The kingdom faced tremendous pressure to explain the Saudi journalist’s ‘disappearance’ after Turkish officials said he had been deliberately killed inside the consulate and his body had been dismembered. Turkish police, as part of their investigation, searched from consulate grounds to a nearby forest, but found no trace of him. The details of an audio were published by Turkish media, included what they described as screams while the journalist was interrogated and tortured inside the Saudi consulate.  

U.S. government officials, including President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, went out of their way to shield their ‘blue-eyed boy’ MSB and cover up the heinous crime. Jared Kushner reportedly advised Trump to "stand by" the Saudi crown prince, arguing the scandal would “eventually pass”. 

According to a report in NYT, when Secretary Pompeo flew into Riyadh last week to discuss the issue of Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia quickly transferred $100m to the U.S. State Department. The timing of the fund transfer did not seem to be just a coincidence. Both parties had agreed to peddle lies.

But, a lie has no legs. After weeks of denial, Saudi officials on Wednesday finally admitted that Khashoggi was killed in the consulate in a “fight”. A statement from Saudi public prosecutor said a fight broke out between the journalist and people who met him inside the consulate – ending with his death. 

It is hard to believe a 60-year old man would engage in fist-fight with a 15-member hit squad including a forensic pathologic with a bone saw when he was there merely for his paperwork. The Saudi explanation of Khashoggi’s cold-blooded murder is implausible and preposterous. 

Bob Corker, the top Republican on Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the Saudi explanation changed with each passing day so “we should not assume their latest story holds water”. Adam Schiff, a senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, tweeted that if Khashoggi had been “fighting with those sent to capture or kill him, it was for his life”. Senator Chris Coons blasted the Saudi statement about the death of Khashoggi and called for a classified briefing on the case. 

Although Trump has decided to throw his weight behind MBS “to keep the million jobs in the U.S.”, the hotheaded crown prince’s honeymoon period is virtually over. If he thought he would get away with the murder, he was utterly mistaken. 

And the Trump administration also stands exposed in this episode. The way Trump and his cohorts shamelessly rallied in support of MBS following the murder and the way they are backing him now is self-explanatory. Their decline and fall begins now. 

A former U.S. government official called for a Congress hearing on how “sprawling conflicts of interest” of Trump and Kushner were influencing the White House’s complicity in the cover-up of Khashoggi’s murder. Wadah Khanfar, Al Sharq Forum President, in an interview with TRT said there was some communication between the US and Saudi officials “to find a way out of this by putting it on the shoulders of 18 who were arrested and trying to brush it under the carpet.”

“The Arab world is facing its own version of an Iron Curtain,” Khashoggi wrote in his final column published by Washington Post two weeks after he went missing. His words were powerful and that is what the Saudi rulers feared most. But as his editor at Washington Post Karen Attiah said, they may have silenced Khashoggi, but they cannot kill his words.  

Meanwhile, Turkey has vowed to reveal all details about the murder. “Turkey will never allow a cover-up,” a ruling party spokesman said after the sham statement by Saudi officials. 

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