Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance affects political, economic relations with Saudi Arabia

UPDATE — 10/16, 11:02 a.m. EDT: Both the New York Times and CNN on Monday cited sources familiar with the matter saying Saudi authorities will admit Jamal Khashoggi died during a botched interrogation at the Saudi Arabian consulate earlier in October.  

According to one source, the plan was to effectively kidnap Khashoggi, while another said actions against the Washington Post columnist lacked final authorization from Riyadh.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Tuesday amid a report by the Associated Press that Turkish law enforcement has obtained evidence of Khashoggi’s murder.

 

On Tuesday, Oct. 2, Washington Post journalist and Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi entered Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, to obtain a document certifying divorce from his now ex-wife.  Khashoggi entered the Saudi building at approximately 1 p.m. local time and hasn’t been seen or heard from since.

Nearly two weeks have passed since Khashoggi’s disappearance, leaving the strong possibility he may no longer be alive.

Saudi officials inside the consulate have yet to provide proof Khashoggi exited the consulate that day — merely stating security cameras did not capture his exit. However, an individual familiar with Saudi embassy operations is suspicious of such statements, declaring:

“The Saudis take security at diplomatic posts very seriously, especially in a complex security environment like Istanbul. If the cameras were not working, it could have been a violation of security protocol.”

Saudi Arabia’s lack of evidence has diminished their credibility, strengthening the view Saudi officials assassinated the journalist.

Khashoggi’s disappearance has also created a cascade effect, affecting international and domestic political affairs. President Trump, who was scheduled to make a multi-billion dollar arms deal with Riyadh now possesses a moral obligation to censure the wealthy oil nation, which has yet to provide answers on the disappearance of Khashoggi.

So far, Trump has been reluctant to vow sanctions, however the president has warned of “severe punishment” for Saudi Arabia if responsible and Monday tweeted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will meet with King Salman over the matter.  Both Republican and Democratic senators have also called for the U.S. to punish Riyadh if found responsible for Khashoggi’s death.

The Saudi government in turn responded: “The Kingdom also affirms that if it receives any action, it will respond with greater action.”

American business have circled their wagons, boycotting the annual investor conference scheduled to convene in the Saudi capital later this month. Several high-profile business leaders and entrepreneurs have dropped out, including Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, Steve Case, co-founder of AOL, Viacom CEO Bob Bakish and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.

For Saudi Arabia, Uber’s cancellation was the most discouraging, as Riyadh has invested billions in the burgeoning transportation company.

Allegations of Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Khashoggi’s death have been detrimental to both its own economy as well as the U.S.

If the Middle Eastern kingdom hopes to save face and continue trade with America, it should disclose any information it has about Khashoggi before it is too late.

 

[Washington Post] [Reuters] [The Hill] [NBC News]