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.