Jamal Khashoggi was a Saudi-Arabian journalist with close ties to the United States. His untimely disappearance and presumed murder at the hands of the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey have drawn wide criticism from all over the world. According to the New York Times, Khashoggi entered the Saudi Arabian consulate on October 2nd and hadn’t been seen since. Since, Turkish officials released that Saudi agents killed and dismembered his body inside his consulate. US President Donald Trump has had several encounters with the media regarding accusations of Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman’s complicity in Khashoggi’s disappearance. President Trump has forged an important relationship with the Saudi Crown Prince which include massive arms deals and economic cooperation between the two countries.
Human Rights Abuses by Saudi Arabia
Unites States officials are increasingly convinced that MBS played a significant role in the killing of Khashoggi. According to video surveillance obtained by Ataturk airport, 15 Saudi nationals traveled to Turkey days before the journalist’s disappearance. Of this group, 7 belong to the Crown Prince’s personal security detail. Although MBS strongly denies involvement with the disappearance, the evidence seems to be overwhelming. The suspects dined at the Saudi consulate general’s residence that Istanbul Prosecutor General’s office stated, the same night that they were suspected of killing Khashoggi.
Saudi Arabia has been accused of human rights abuses in Yemen. Thousands of civilian deaths in the war-torn country can be traced back to Saudi coalition airstrikes, and the UN World Food Program has warned that 12 million people will be facing the worst famine in over 100 years as fighting around the country’s main port continues. Saudi Arabia has been bombing the country since 2015, with their arms supplied from the US and the UK. Khashoggi’s last published column implores Saudi Arabia to change from “warmaker” to “peacemaker”.
America, Arms Deals and Saudi Arabia
US Secretary of Defense Mike Pompeo met with the Crown Prince in Riyadh as part of a defense deal between the two countries. Saudi Arabia promised the Trump administration $100 million for American efforts to begin stabilizing areas of Syria which have been liberated from the Islamic State.
The difficult case of Khashoggi presents an interesting predicament for the United States. On one hand, the Crown Prince has presented himself as one of the most progressive Gulf leaders. The once ultra-religious country now allows women to drive and has forged alliances with countries in the West. On the other hand, human rights abuses have driven defense partners such as Canada away from ties with the country. The indirect involvement of the US in Syria and Yemen shows where the moral standards of today’s United States is, and the unwavering support for the Crown Prince despite all evidence against him by Donald Trump will leave a stain on the American legacy in the Middle East.