Khashoggi case: the fallout

As further gruesome details about journalist Jamal Khashoggi's death come to light pressure is mounting on the Saudi royal family. In addition to the tensions between Turkey, the US, the EU and Saudi Arabia European commentators discuss certain aspects of the affair which they say have been neglected so far.

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Corriere del Ticino (CH) /

Something fishy about the whole affair

Stefano Piazza, chairman of the Swiss NGO Security and Protection Against Crime and Emergencies (Space), voices doubt in Corriere del Ticino that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had any interest in the journalist's murder:

“Why should an ambitious prince like MBS, the designated heir to the throne and a man who enjoys the support of the US and other actors in the region, get mixed up in an affair that promised only to leave him discredited and facing sanctions and international isolation. ... Something's wrong here. What if it was the enemies of the Saudi heir, of whom there are many even within his own family, who planned the whole thing? One gets the feeling that the darkest chapters of this story still haven't been written yet.”

RTV Slovenija (SI) /

Journalists also gagged in the West

Journalists are also under pressure in Western Democracies, writes Marko Radmilovič in his column for RTV Slovenija:

“The owners of media and often even the editors they employ openly reflect on the insignificance of journalists. For me that means that in a modern media landscape a good advertising customer is worth as much as a whole army of journalists. In democratic countries journalists have been effectively decapitated by ads. Today we who live in Western democracies are still comparatively civilised and the decapitation of journalists takes place only on a symbolic level. But in Europe too there are a good few pretty suspect magnates who would gladly cut into the wrinkled and famished skin of a journalist's neck.”

De Standaard (BE) /

No more weapons for Saudi warlords

Independently of Khashoggi's killing the war in Yemen is reason enough to end weapons exports to Saudi Arabia, De Standaard demands, adding that the role of the Wallonian company FN Herstal also needs to be addressed:

“The political taboo has grown ever larger over the years. If FN doesn't supply weapons a competitor will, the argument goes. And then the Wallonian workers would be sacrificed at the altar of mainly Flemish moral superiority. ... Saudi Arabia is FN Herstal's biggest customer. The country buys almost half of all the weapons it produces. ... Now the war in Yemen is turning into a humanitarian disaster and millions of people are in dire need. In view of this situation all justifications sound dreadfully immoral. Belgium pays 25 million to alleviate the crisis that is being fuelled by Wallonian weapons.”

Trud (BG) /

President has got the better of everyone

Trud admires how Erdoğan has used the Khashoggi case to further his own goals:

“Hats off to Erdoğan! With a single manoeuvre he has managed to get the better of the snooty Saudi Princes with their American carte blanche, as well as Donald Trump, who has been forced by international pressure to rein in his support for Riyadh. And all this in the name of freedom of opinion! It's hard to believe, bearing in mine that Erdoğan's regime oppressed the voices of Khashoggi's colleagues, and that nowadays all Turkish media are subordinate to his will and spread his propaganda.”

Frankfurter Rundschau (DE) /

Royal family will show its gratitude

The Frankfurter Rundschau says Erdoğan is once again demonstrating his skills as a wily power politician:

“Erdoğan is counting on wearing down the royal family with revelations and international condemnation. He knows he sees eye to eye on this count with branches of the royal clan who would prefer the rule of King Salman's son to end as soon as possible. If the ageing king were obliged to cede to this pressure, Erdoğan could look forward to receiving the thanks of the rest of the clan - and along with that new Saudi investments running into the billions.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

Trump trying to save his skin

Gazeta Wyborcza suspects that the US president is trying to mediate between Turkey and Saudi Arabia:

“Trump sent CIA chief Gina Haspel to Ankara. Officially she is to help with the investigation. But we can safely assume that her mission consists of extinguishing the fire in the relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia and preventing direct accusations against Mohammed bin Salman that would cause difficulties for Trump. ... Erdoğan's speech on Tuesday still left enough room to dismiss the Khashoggi case as the rogue actions of a few agents - provided this version is accepted by the Turkish secret services.”

Daily Sabah (TR) /

Revelations not a problem for Riyadh

The Turkish pro-government newspaper Daily Sabah sees it as a possibility that the revelations about the murder actually fit in well with Saudi Arabia's plans:

“The work of the news agencies is becoming increasingly difficult. Operations that are supposed to remain secret no longer do, as they did in the past. Sometimes they are exposed due to a mistake made by the persons carrying them out. But sometimes you also get the feeling that the country behind the operation didn't really try to conceal it. It wanted the operation to serve as a warning to other potential targets. In other words: some countries like to boast.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

Inter-Sunni rivalry growing

Turkey has played its cards well in the Khashoggi case, Le Figaro believes:

“Over the last three weeks the Turkish government has been slowly torturing the Saudi monarchy. Without officially denouncing the monarchy, it let a growing number of details leak out to the Turkish press. ... Between President Erdogan's neo-Ottomanism and Crown Prince MBS's modernised Wahhabism there is rivalry for dominance of the Sunni world - and with it the vast majority of Muslims. ... The Khashoggi case has revealed the vehemence of the inter-Sunni rivalry, which until now had been hidden by the ancestral opposition between Sunnis and Shiites.”

Sabah (TR) /

Saudi Arabia in a tight spot

The pro-government daily Sabah also concludes on this basis that Saudi Arabia won't be able to get away with anything in future:

“After Erdoğan announced that he would reveal the truth without holding back anything Trump called him up for the first time since the Brunson crisis and discussed the situation. Because the facts that Turkey presents will also be decisive for future relations between the US and Saudi Arabia. If Saudi Arabia wants stability both at home and in the entire region, it will have to set a new course in foreign policy.”

All the image-polishing was in vain

The conservative Egyptian daily Shorouk sees the kingdom facing its worst crisis since its founding in 1931:

“Only a handful of countries have shown solidarity with Saudi Arabia. ... This limited solidarity is at the core of today's crisis. Riyadh couldn't have imagined this in its worst dreams. The 'Istanbul incident' has destroyed the image of itself Saudi Arabia has spent decades nurturing, the image of a country that generously donates to the poor, combats terrorism and campaigns for Islam and stability. ... It is very likely that the kingdom will overcome this crisis because of its financial clout and its strong ties to its allies. Nonetheless nothing will be as it was in the post-Khashoggi era.”

Večernji list (HR) /

Trump cares more about money than human lives

Trump is using double standards in his Middle East policy, Večernji list comments angrily:

“It's interesting that Donald Trump believes bin Salman, whose country is at the top of the list of human rights abusers and which is responsible for the biggest humanitarian disaster in Yemen to date. But he doesn't believe Iran when it says it's not producing any nuclear bombs. If any other state had committed such a despicable crime in another country, dismembered a journalist, Tomahawk cruise missiles would be on their way there and B-52 bombers would raze it to the ground. It's obvious that Trump and a few other Western states will never punish Saudi Arabia since there's a lot of money at stake - the arms trade is worth around 380 billion dollars. ... A country that is a symbol of democracy and freedom has put material interests above human rights and life.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

Middle East policy impossible without hypocrisy

Critics of Trump being hesitant about pinning the blame on Riyadh are taking the easy way out, Lidové noviny believes:

“Those who accuse Trump of supporting arms exports to Saudi Arabia are to a large extent the same people who condone exports to Iran without any regard for human rights. Of course cooperation with Saudi Arabia is hypocritical. But is cooperation with Iran, a fundamentalist regime that threatens other countries with destruction, any less hypocritical? The bigger problem is: how to find a country in the Muslim Middle East with which cooperation does not pose a problem?”

Ria Nowosti (RU) /

US must avoid hurting its own interests

Ria Novosti warns the political forces in the US not to impose harsh sanctions on Saudi Arabia:

“If the Saudi assets in the US were to be frozen, Riyadh would have to look for other money sources. And independently of what combination of euros, yuan, gold and other currencies that would be, it would be the end for the petrodollar system, with all the resulting consequences for the US and global economy. ... If the US Congress members choose a hard form of confrontation, this will be another example of how pride and stupidity can ruin what was once a great empire for good.”

Dserkalo Tyschnja (UA) /

Riyadh's dominance soon at an end

Saudi Arabia's ambitions to play a leading role in the Middle East could soon suffer a major setback, Dzerkalo Tyzhnia comments:

“The ambitions of the young politicians [in Saudi Arabia] radicalise their actions, as recent events - in particular the Khashoggi case - vividly illustrate. If pressure on neighbours, interventions and blockades, persecution and murder of dissidents become the typical instruments of Saudi Arabian foreign policy, then it's just a matter of time until the activities elicit a response at the international level. This could radically change the balance of power in the region, undermine Saudi positions and put an end to Riyadh's quest for regional dominance.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Despots sense that their chance has come

Saudi Arabia is not the only country where the disappearance of dissidents is a common occurrence, La Stampa points out:

“The incident is representative of a far more widespread phenomenon: growing aggressivity vis-à-vis any kind of opponent or troublesome person on the part of the leaders of autocratic or illiberal nations. ... So we are facing a new phenomenon that is probably the result of the weakening in international relations: despots, autocrats and absolute monarchs see the breakdown of the multilateral architecture as an opportunity to strengthen their power by persecuting their domestic enemies everywhere. Without much regard for the laws, treaties and conventions on which the concept of coexistence among nations is based.”

El Mundo (ES) /

The bubble of impunity has burst

This time the rulers in Riyadh overestimated their supposed immunity, El Mundo says:

“Every dictatorship is a regime in which the rulers are confident that they enjoy impunity. But globalisation, despite all its defects, has shrunk the spaces of immunity for those who violate human rights. The Saudi monarchy, entrenched in medieval traditions and customs that are incompatible with modernity, has above all committed a calamitous error of judgement. Its hitherto unquestioned complacency has to all appearances led it to perpetrate a state crime against the critical journalist Jamal Khashoggi. This case is so shocking - the Turkish press reports that he was torn apart alive - that the bubble of impunity that had protected Riyadh up to now has burst.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Take off the kid gloves

Several European countries have called for an independent investigation into the Khashoggi case. Europe must send a strong signal, NRC Handelsblad urges:

“The criminal character of the regime now has a face. Finally. Because for a long time now there has been ample reason not to view Saudi Arabia as a normal country. ... A new red line has been crossed for the international community with the Khashoggi case. ... Caution is a recognised instrument in diplomacy. But if you're too careful it can also be misunderstood. After all the initial obstacles to the investigation set up by the Saudi side, a signal must now be sent. ... There is every reason, particularly in the European Union, to reappraise our relations with Saudi Arabia.”

Financial Times (GB) /

The myth of the young Arab reformer

As with Assad and other young rulers in the Middle East, the West fell for the idea that crown prince Mohammed bin Salman would guarantee the advance of democracy in the region, the Financial Times laments :

“True, youth brings more energy. But inexperience can channel that energy in the wrong direction. Inexperience is compounded by insecurity: the sons' need to consolidate their power leads them to sideline old advisers. They rule with narrower power bases and fall back on paranoid instincts. The recurring mistake of western political establishments has been to confuse youth with a commitment for change and to assume that young rulers who travel abroad, show an interest in art and in the digital world are likely to act responsibly.”

Delo (SI) /

Arbitrariness instead of justice

Who will the US end up pinning the blame on in the Khashoggi case? Delo asks:

“The US is a resolute and serious country and therefore it will impose tough sanctions if it decides to. The question now is who will pay for the dreadful murder of the Saudi journalist. So far as a rule it has been others who received the 'just American punishment' for Saudi crimes . When (predominantly) Saudi citizens flying passenger planes attacked the US on 11 September 2001, the US waged war against Afghanistan. In addition US courts have already several times pinned the blame for this terrorist attack by Sunni extremists on the Shiite regime in Iran and ordered it to pay damages to the relatives of the victims of September 11.”

Polityka (PL) /

Khashoggi's legacy could change Saudi Arabia

Polityka hopes that Khashoggi's presumed murder will be a catalyst for change in Saudi Arabia:

“The repercussions of the Khashoggi case will clearly affect the heir to the throne Mohammed bin Salman the most. In the royal family there is no lack of conspiracies and counter-candidates who want to inherit the legacy of the old King Salman. So we can expect a palace intrigue and an attempt to disempower the all-powerful 'MBS'. But perhaps this won't be enough and Khashoggi could become an icon of the women's rights movement and the advocates of liberalisation in the world's most repressive monarchy. Change won't come to Saudi Arabia today or tomorrow, but Khashoggi's death certainly brings it closer.”

Il Manifesto (IT) /

Unholy alliance between Washington and Riyadh

Middle East expert Alberto Negri explains in Il Manifesto why the Saudis can buy their way out of being blamed for any crime as far as the US is concerned:

“The US either doesn't want to or can't curtail the arrogance of Riyadh, its biggest arms customer which finances a sixth of its defence budget. Yet for decades the Saudis have been the main sponsors of radical Islam. In 2001 America launched a war on the terror that Riyadh itself was fuelling, from Afghanistan to the Middle East. ... The alliance between the US and the Saudis is not an alliance but a genuine complicity in the biggest disasters and massacres of the last half century. This is the only truth we know for certain.”

Aftonbladet (SE) /

Money put above human rights

Sweden has also put economic interests above criticism of Saudi Arabia, Aftonbladet laments:

“And that's the case whether we have a conservative or a red-green government. The case of Internet activist Raif Badawi, who was arrested and publicly flogged, also didn't help to tip the scales. Economic Affairs Minister Damberg travels back and forth to promote trade with Saudi Arabia, spurred on by powerful representatives of the business world. Money takes precedence over human rights on all levels. The Khashoggi case has once again made that crystal clear.”

The Washington Post (US) /

A red line has been crossed

The Washington Post points to similarities with the case of whistleblower Edward Snowden in the US:

“The damage [in Snowden's case] put U.S. allies in an impossible situation. What made Snowden so damaging was that long-standing allies such as Brazil and Germany curtailed cooperation because the evidence of U.S. surveillance could no longer be denied. ... Jamal Khashoggi went into the Saudi Embassy in Istanbul. He never came out. There is no artifice, no pleasing illusion, that can mask that fact.”

Evrensel (TR) /

Turkey deliberately chosen as "crime scene"

Evrensel lists reasons why the presumed murder took place in Istanbul:

“Turkey was chosen as the 'scene' of Khashoggi's disappearance because in the conflict between the Middle East Axis and the Arab Peninsula it opposes Saudi Arabia. To give a complete picture it must also be said that the US government is experiencing difficulties with Turkey regarding its plans in the region. Hence the Saudis may have believed that the US would tolerate it if Turkey was used as the location [for the killing].”

Die Presse (AT) /

A red line for the crown prince

If it turns out that the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was behind Khashoggi's disappearance, sanctions must be imposed, Die Presse argues:

“Yielding is not an option. That would only encourage someone like the young and impulsive de facto ruler in Riyadh. In the summer hardly any Western states backed the Canadians when the Saudis announced diplomatic and financial reprisals in retaliation for Ottawa's criticism of the arrest of women's rights activists. Governments from Berlin to Washington must now also fear for their multi-billion dollar arms deals if they come down too hard on the Saudis. Nevertheless the crown prince apparently needs a red line, one that must be clearly drawn should evidence of Khashoggi having been murdered come to light. Otherwise the only value holding the West together will be indifference.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

All of a sudden Saudi Arabia is a pariah state

Commenting on Western criticism of Saudi Arabia, columnist Sheila Sitalsing asks in De Volkskrant why the kingdom is being dropped now of all times:

“Of all the evil regimes, Saudi Arabia is perhaps the one that is the best tolerated by us here in the free West. The regime hacks off heads and hands. It treats women like underage breeding machines. It cracks down mercilessly on people who protest against such treatment. ... And it's responsible for war crimes and a humanitarian disaster in Yemen. Yet all of that hardly bothered us in the past, for two reasons: oil and the war against the IS. ... But Khashoggi's disappearance was apparently one crime too many.”

The Guardian (GB) /

Rule of law breaking down

The case shows how values are being debased across the globe, The Guardian writes:

“It reflects a more general loss of respect for international law and for the much-battered, much-lamented 'global rules-based order'. … Khashoggi's disappearance shows what can happen when the primacy of the law breaks down, and far from fighting to restore it, democratically elected leaders and governments connive in, or turn a blind eye to, the dictators and despots who are responsible. Similarly blatant outrages are occurring every day, and every day go unpunished.”

De Telegraaf (NL) /

Free rein thanks to Erdoğan and Trump

Thanks to two heads of state Mohammed bin Salman is clearly under the impression that he can get away with completely unscrupulous behaviour, De Telegraaf comments:

“The crown prince feels reinforced by President Trump, whose first visit to a foreign country after taking office was to Saudi Arabia. Former American diplomats point out that thanks to Trump Salman feels he has free rein to do as he likes. Like his Turkish counterparty Erdoğan, the American president has made hardly any critical statements about Khashoggi's disappearance. Both need Saudi Arabia politically and financially.”

Star (TR) /

Not even concerned to cover their tracks

Khashoggi's kidnappers or murderers are sending a message to someone with what they have done, Star is convinced:

“Their behaviour shows that they didn't even try to avoid making mistakes. Or in other words, they deliberately didn't cover their tracks. ... No secret service (and we now know that the 15 Saudi citizens who landed at Atatürk airport on 2 October were secret service agents) is as sloppy as this. This is what is called 'professional sloppiness'. ... This murder is not just about the disappearance of a dissident. It also contains a message. ... What that message is, the target country and its leaders will assess and then prepare an appropriate 'plan of action'.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

A tragedy for Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia will be isolated if the allegations turn out to be true, Thomas L. Friedman, columnist for The New York Times, writes in an opinion piece in La Repubblica:

“If Jamal was kidnapped or killed by agents of the Saudi government this will be a disaster for Mohammed bin Salman, and a tragedy for Saudi Arabia and all the countries in the Arabian Gulf. It would be an inexplicable violation of the norms of human dignity. What Western leaders would want to side with Mohammed bin Salman if it is shown that his government kidnapped or assassinated Jamal?”

The Guardian (GB) /

Regime's brutal approach to dissent

The journalist's disappearance is another signal from the Saudi crown prince that he will not tolerate any internal opposition, The Guardian comments:

“Developments in the kingdom over the past year follow a clear pattern. Since the ascension of Mohammed bin Salman to the position of crown prince and de facto ruler, Saudi Arabia has entered an era in which internal dissent - no matter who is behind it - is met with brutality. … Alongside this, the Saudi state has painted itself as the only legitimate orchestrator of change in the country. … Whatever the ultimate fate of Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia's new zero-tolerance approach to dissent is being broadcast loud and clear.”

Yeni Şafak (TR) /

Also an attack against Turkey

This case must not remain without consequences, warns the pro-government daily Yeni Şafak:

“President Erdoğan personally is following the case. The public prosecutor's office has launched an investigation and all the security forces are working diligently. ... At the same time Turkey is trying to find a strategy for how to proceed if the murder is confirmed. If it is, the authorities will have to react seriously and with resolve. Because this is an attack that damages the credibility, image and responsibility of the Turkish state vis-à-vis foreigners. ... Khashoggi's death already looks like an operation carried out to put Turkey under pressure and end the relations between the two countries anyway.”