Why the White House Should Demand Answers about Jamal Khashoggi https://mosaicmagazine.com/picks/2018/10/why-the-white-house-should-demand-answers-about-jamal-khashoggi/

October 12, 2018 | Varsha Koduvayur

On October 2, the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to fill out some routine paperwork; he hasn’t been seen since. Rumors and reports have meanwhile circulated that he was either murdered or smuggled out of the country and taken to a Saudi prison in retaliation for his public criticisms of Riyadh. But nothing is known for certain. Varsha Koduvayur writes:

Saudi Arabia has previously targeted dissidents living abroad. Indeed, three princes living in Europe that were critical of the government disappeared in 2015-2016. Khashoggi, while not royal, was undeniably close to power centers. As an outspoken critic from within the kingdom’s elite—he was a consummate insider, having served as an adviser to the royal family—the regime may have viewed him as a voice that would not be ignored.

Saudi-Turkey tensions are now escalating. . . . President Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded that Saudi Arabia provide video footage to prove that Khashoggi left the facility. . . . Oddly, Turkey now seems to be de-escalating its rhetoric after initially stirring the pot. . . . Though the two states are political rivals, they are usually keen to shun public spats. Still, Ankara could expel the Saudi ambassador to Turkey over this, prompting tit-for-tat measures from Riyadh. The ensuing diplomatic crisis would drag the U.S. into the midst of a nasty dispute between a NATO ally and one of its closest Middle Eastern allies, potentially forcing Washington to pick a side. . . .

The U.S. may have robust relations with Saudi Arabia, but that doesn’t absolve Washington of its responsibility to safeguard journalists worldwide. Press freedom has hit a nadir in the Middle East. And now the irony that Turkey, a serial jailer of journalists, is opening a probe into a missing Saudi journalist—while itself possessing a terrible record on this front—should not escape anyone. . . .

Khashoggi’s fate remains unclear. But his disappearance is certainly a fact. And it took place in a Saudi diplomatic facility—sovereign Saudi soil. There is no evidence either to absolve or to implicate Riyadh in the matter, [and] it is difficult to trust either Turkey’s or Saudi Arabia’s official version of accounts, given the former’s penchant for disinformation and the latter’s multiple explanations. . . . The State Department and White House should demand answers from the Saudis over the whereabouts of Khashoggi, and pressure both Ankara and Riyadh to publicize evidence.

Read more on The Hill: https://thehill.com/opinion/international/410797-saudi-arabia-must-answer-to-khashoggi-allegations