The Great Unravelling – Jamal Khashoggi’s Disappearance Play by Play
Turkey Police confirmed this Tuesday that it found evidence in Saudi consulate that Khashoggi was killed there.
It all began on October 2, when Jamal Khashoggi, one of the Washington Post’s most prominent columnists and a former Saudi intelligence official entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, never to be seen again.
A U.S. resident in self-imposed exile for just under a year, Khashoggi left the Kingdom on the wake of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salam’s (MBS) grand purge in October 2017, when over 30 Saudi Royals were detained and allegedly brutalized so they would sign over their wealth to the Crown.
By his own admission on Al Jazeera’s Mehdi Hassan’s show, Khashoggi did not want to be yet another victim of MBS’s relentless pursuit of ‘dissident voices’, however mild the criticism.
While Khashoggi’s recent critic of Riyadh may have antagonized the Crown Prince, his comments were by no stretch of the imagination incendiary – merely encouragements for greater reforms and an end to Yemen’s atrocious war.
Jamal Khashoggi’s Disappearance Creates PR Disaster for Saudi Arabia
A member of the ‘elite’, Khashoggi’s disappearance and subsequent alleged murder prompted voices across the world to rise up in anger – leading the charge: the Washington Post.
On October 15, an editorial of the Post reads: “Who needs Saudi Arabia”, pointing to a dramatic shift in both narrative and position.
No longer the darling of mainstream media and foreign officials, both MBS and the Kingdom have taken a dive in popularity.
So much so in fact that many are floating complete cuts in diplomatic relations with Riyadh over the incident. Members of the U.S. Congress have already warned they would support a motion calling for a suspension of all weapons deals with Saudi Arabia, with the possibility of further sanctions should Riyadh be proved guilty of murder.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) says that if Saudi Arabia had knowledge into the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and President Donald Trump doesn’t take a strong response against Saudi Arabia, Congress will.
Whatever ‘story’ the Kingdom will now spin to deflect blame away from an increasingly isolated Crown Prince will unlikely be received as plausible by an increasingly angry public.
Not even U.S. President Donald Trump’s attempt to offer a somewhat ‘dignified’ explanation to Khashoggi’s believed death by positing the actions of a ‘rogue element’ caught on.
Democratic Senator Bill Nelson told reporters: “it sounds like they’ve concocted a cover story.”
The Washington Post writes: “CNN reported that the regime was preparing to admit that Mr. Khashoggi died in an interrogation gone wrong. If so, there must be consequences not just for those who supposedly erred in killing the journalist but also for whomever ordered the illegal operation in the first place. U.S. intelligence intercepts suggest the order came from Mohammed bin Salman, the reckless crown prince whose excesses had been criticized by Mr. Khashoggi in columns for The Post.”
Turkish police are reportedly in possession of an audio recording, which would support the claim that the missing Saudi journalist was killed at the Saudi consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul. Sources in Turkey have revealed under cover of anonymity that the audio recording had been made available to the United States, France and the United Kingdom over the past days.
“Turkish police have an audio recording that indicates that Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi consulate” Reuters quoted in a news report.
The audio, sources maintain, establishes an attempt to inject Khashoggi with a chemical compound. This claimed was reinforced by reports from Turkish police that traces of a dangerous chemical were found at the Consulate.
Speaking to the press on Monday Turkish President Erdogan noted: “My hope is that we can reach conclusions that will give us a reasonable opinion as soon as possible, because the investigation is looking into many things such as toxic materials and those materials being removed by painting them over.”
Saudi Arabia Tries to Save Face
While Saudi Arabia is said to be readying a statement admitting to the death of Khashoggi, state officials have until now held to the official narrative that all murdering allegations are but “lies” fabricated to taint Saudi Arabia’s image.
With pressure mounting against Riyadh, King Salman ordered an investigation into Khashoggi’s case.
“The king has ordered the public prosecutor to open an internal investigation into the Khashoggi matter based on the information from the joint team in Istanbul,” an unnamed official was quoted by Reuters as saying.
Last week, Ankara accepted a Saudi proposal to establish a joint working group to probe into Khashoggi’s disappearance, quickly followed on Monday by Turkish investigators entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
According to The New York Times, Saudis are trying to develop a scenario that would shield Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman from involvement in the embarrassing event.
But such deflection of guilt has been made more difficult by a series of revelations that reaffirmed not only guilt but premeditation.
Sources close to the matter in Riyadh have revealed that it was under strict order of Prince Khaled bin Salman, son to King Salman, and Saudi Ambassador to the United States that Khashoggi was directed to Istanbul to finalize his paperwork, rather than Washington D.C. where he resided.
Moreover, one of MBS’s most trusted bodyguards was identified by Turkey’s Intelligence Services. Labeled the ‘executioner,’ the bodyguard entered Turkey the same day as Khashoggi’s disappearance never to resurfaced again.
He was one of the 15 Saudi agents to have entered Turkey on October 2.
Turkish media already released the identities of all the designated Saudi operatives.
UN Steps In
The United Nations is now urging for a lift of diplomatic immunity. The UN human rights chief has called for the lifting of the immunity of officials who may be involved in Khashoggi’s disappearance.
“In view of the seriousness of the situation surrounding the disappearance of Mr. (Jamal) Khashoggi, I believe the inviolability or immunity of the relevant premises and officials bestowed by treaties such as the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations should be waived immediately,” Michelle Bachelet said in a statement.
She added “under international law, both a forced disappearance and an extra-judicial killing are very serious crimes,” emphasizing that the probe should not be hindered by the issue of diplomatic immunity.
“Two weeks is a very long time for the probable scene of a crime not to have been subjected to a full forensic investigation,” Bachelet said.
With U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo currently in Riyadh, the world is waiting to hear what will transpire from such a meeting.
Meanwhile, the royal family’s hold on Saudi Arabia risks unraveling at the seams.