The disappearance of political dissidents is neither unusual nor mysterious in our world. But the drama that surrounds Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance has taken a turn that is most likely to influence the political and financial maps of the world in the foreseeable future.
Khashoggi was a free thinker and a journalist working with the Washington Post. He was close to the well-known Saudi billionaire Prince Al Waleed bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz bin Al Saud, member of the Saudi royal family at odds with the present Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman. He entered Saudi consulate in Turkey on October and never returned.
The Turkish officials say that he was murdered inside the Saudi consulate. Saudi Arabia initially denied the allegation but later changed its position. Ironically, those who came to the rescue of Saudi Arabian government were right-wing media experts, known Christian evangelical leaders, Republica party leaders and above all President Trump.
Saudi government refuted the Turkish claim that the journalist was murdered in the premises of its consulate and threatened severe punishment against those who believed in the Turkish narration. The government claimed that Khashoggi left the premises.
However, when asked to provide the proof of his exit, the Saudis kept quiet. Meanwhile, the US intelligence sources claimed that they had intercepted messages from Saudi Arabia suggesting that a team of 15 Saudi men was dispatched to Turkey to tame Khashoggi.
When the Turkish officials claimed that they had the evidence to prove the murder of the dissident inside the consulate, the Saudis insisted that they were unaware of his fate. However, the right-media promoted the rumor that Khashoggi was a sympathizer of the Muslim Brotherhood and Qatar was behind the efforts to malign Saudi Arabia.
This explanation was repeated by President Trump’s son as well as prominent Christian evangelical leaders trying to create the impression that the murder might be a good thing in disguise as it eliminated a terrorist sympathizer. This explanation did not make any sense at least to world business giants, many of whom announced their decision to pull out from an already planned financial summit in Saudi Arabia.
President Trump initially said that if found guilty, Saudi Arabia would be punished severely even though he also pointed out that the US was in a 110 billion dollar arms deal with the kingdom. The Saudis retaliated in anger and suggested that they would open their doors for the Russians and decrease the oil output to let the prices soar to 200 dollars per barrel.
It was at this point that President Trump changed its rhetoric and adopted the right-wing explanation but with a twist. He acknowledged that the journalist was killed but not by the Saudi government. Instead, he argued that the killing was done by the rogue elements who acted on their own.
This was the line that the Saudi government immediately adopted when the news was circulated unofficially that Khashoggi was killed accidentally during interrogation and the Saudi Arabian officials or rulers were not aware of it.
Political murders are not new to the kingdom. No specific data is available but Human Rights observers believe that hundreds of political dissidents are languishing in Saudi prisons and scores have been killed over the years. What is intriguing is why a US President and right-wing politicians as well Christian evangelical leaders are supportive of the Saudi monarchy and absolving it from any role in the murder.
The right-wing politicians and President Trump advised by his son in law who is his envoy in the Middle East peace efforts believe that Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman is the key to the permanent US presence in the Gulf as well as the permanent security of Israel. They believe that because of the prestige the kingdom enjoys in the Sunni Muslim world, the decision Muhammad bin Salaam takes towards the US, Israel and Iran would be accepted by a great majority of Muslim countries who are dependent on Saudi Arabia for their oil needs or financial subsidy.
They believe that over the years Saudi Arabia has developed an intensive network among Muslim organizations and groups all over the world. The Trump Administration is confident that the network would help the Saudis to convince Muslims of their approval of the US peace plan in the Middle East.
Besides, there are financial gains for the US in maintaining cordial relations with the Monarchy. But the US is aware of the fact that even in case of a change in regime, the US oil interests would remain secure. So it is not the oil that is the driving force behind the current policy towards Saudi Arabia. Rather, it is the future of Israel that is driving the current policy towards monarchy.
President Trump intends to secure Israel’s security permanently before the end of his first term. Christian evangelists are of the opinion that only Trump can do that, hence they are willing to accept the Saudi monarchy in its present role. The evangelists believe that the security of Israel would bring them closer to their theological goals of establishing the kingdom of God on earth under the leadership of Jesus who would return only when greater Israel is formed.
In this political and religious quagmire, the ideas of freedom of expression and human dignity are lost as the concerned parties are more keen to accrue political, financial and theological benefits for their interests. The disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi is being used as a pawn in this political and theological game of chess.