Jamal Khashoggi, a veteran Saudi journalist and human rights activist, went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week to collect documents for his forthcoming marriage. He’s never been seen again. The Saudis say he left the consulate safe and sound. The Turks say he was not seen leaving the building.
The Turkish police believe the Saudis murdered him and the Al-Jazeera TV network claims a body, believed to be that of the Saudi dissident, was found dumped in an Istanbul street on Sunday. Some Turkish reports say that Khashoggi was not only murdered in the consulate but that his body was subsequently cut into pieces and flown out of the country in boxes.
The Turkish government is outraged and Saudi Arabia’s European allies, and this includes Britain, are clearly embarrassed amidst renewed calls to cut ties and stop arms sales to the House of Saud.
Jamal Khashoggi was an unlikely dissident. He had once been an insider close to the movers and shakers within the Saudi royal family including, the former intelligence chief, Prince Turki al-Faisal, and the billionaire speculator, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. He interviewed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden several times in Afghanistan and Sudan, and was editor-in-chief of Al Watan, Saudi Arabia’s main daily, until 2010.
But his criticism of Saudi meddling in Lebanon and of intervening in the Yemen conflict put him at odds with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the power behind the throne in Saudi Arabia. Khashoggi went to work for the Washington Post in the USA, where he continued to criticise the Saudis and their current master in the White House, Donald Trump.
Khashoggi denounced Trump’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly on 25th September in which the chief American war-lord said that the USA expected other countries, such as Saudi Arabia, “to pay their fair share” for US military support – a demand Trump repeated last week when he said that Saudi Arabia and its King would not last “two weeks” in power without American military support.
Although the House of Saud has been allied to US imperialism since the 1920s the Saudi kings, in the past, always paid lip-service to the Palestinian cause and Arab unity. All this pretence has been swept aside by the Crown Prince, who clearly believes that the Islamic Republic of Iran threatens the very foundations of their kingdom and that the House of Saud’s security depends entirely on Israel and the USA.
This, of course, is also the view of Donald Trump and Khashoggi’s recent remarks may have sealed his fate.
The British government has told Saudi Arabia that it expects urgent answers over the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, warning that “friendships depend on shared values”. But the May government, which usually has plenty to say about ‘human rights’ when it comes to Russia and Syria, won’t want to risk losing its juicy Saudi arms contracts by going beyond the usual platitudes over the missing Saudi journalist.
Labour, on the other hand, has condemned the May Government’s role in arming Saudi Arabia. In March Jeremy Corbyn accused Theresa May of “colluding in what the United Nations say is evidence of war crimes” in Yemen.
“A humanitarian disaster is now taking place in Yemen. Millions face starvation, 600,000 children have cholera because of the Saudi-led bombing campaign and the blockade,” the Labour leader said, comparing Germany’s decision to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia with a sharp increase in British arms sales. And Jeremy Corbyn recently pledged to go to the United Nations “tomorrow”, after Labour win the next election, to present a resolution to end the war in Yemen. The sooner the better.
Saudi Arabia is a corrupt, feudal kingdom that does the bidding of US imperialism. Its vast oil wealth is used to enrich the House of Saud and the parasites that revolve around them whilst the regime oppresses its own people and spreads bigotry throughout the Islamic world. We should have nothing to do with them.