That the United States has a cozy relationship with Saudi Arabia has been established, and it remains to be seen whether the disappearance — and feared grisly death — of a dissident Saudi journalist will change that at all.
It’s been a week since Jamal Khashoggi walked into his country’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, to get the paperwork he needs in order to marry his fiancée, a Turkish national.
To the best of anyone’s knowledge, he never walked out. He might not have even left the building in one piece.
The response from the United States has been extremely muted. President Donald Trump, who chose Saudi Arabia as his first overseas official visit — and whose hotel in Washington, D.C. has benefited greatly from Saudi business — has not had much to say about it.
Nary a tweet, even.
So far, when asked, the president has only said that he is “concerned” (though not yet deeply so) and “doesn’t like hearing about it.”
The Washington Post, which published Khashoggi’s work, reports Turkish investigators believed the 59-year-old journalist was “killed shortly after he entered the consulate on Oct. 2 and his body was later removed from the premises, according to a U.S. official and sources close to the investigation.”
Earlier reports have indicated that Khashoggi might have been dismembered and carried out of the embassy in suitcases.
Saudi officials deny any wrongdoing, calling the accusations “baseless,” though they have failed to point to any evidence that Khashoggi walked out of the consulate (his fiancée had been waiting for him outside the consulate for hours) or point to any likely explanation of what has happened to the high-profile dissident.
Khashoggi has been an outspoken, if measured, critic of his government’s crackdowns in recent months. Under Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman (known as MBS), the country has undertaken a series of detentions and shakedowns of some of its wealthiest and locked up its human rights activists.
MBS has undertaken a huge PR effort in the United States, doing a major media tour here in the spring, meeting with officials, reporters, and Silicon Valley bigwigs along the way. He made Hollywood deals and sold himself as a progressive — a “reformist” prince, a man who believed in change.
And while it has finally given women the right to drive (being the only country in the world that banned women from driving), Saudi Arabia still forces women to live under guardianship laws, allowing men to make nearly all major decisions for women.