Khashoggi case: Trump stands by Riyadh

The US has sided with Saudi Arabia in the Khashoggi case. Trump said that he had talked to the king and crown prince and both had assured him that they had no knowledge and nothing to do with the alleged murder of the journalist in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. How long can the allies remain loyal to Riyadh?

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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.”