"BRING YOUR ALIBIS" RE: Jamal Khashoggi




Pressing headlines have overtaken international media coverage of the horrible murder of Jamal Khashoggi, yet its impact remains in bilateral relations, within Saudi Arabia, and constant maneuvers to place the actual blame. While vehemently condemning the manner and fact of that tragic crime, certain observers wondered why other tragic deaths did not receive similar wide-coverage.

One explanation was that The Washington Post columnist had gained valuable contacts in the U.S. Capitol building on his earlier contacts as attaché in the Saudi embassy there and in London. His former insights were of special timely interests, with deep connections inside the U.S. establishment.

Jamal Khashoggi's tragedy was a criminal violation of international principles of freedom of speech and a glaring offense on human dignity. Its tragic consequences mobilized international public opinion, raised questions within the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and obviously presented a formerly beleaguered Turkish President, Mr. Tayyip Erdogan, with varied opportunities -- potential deals with Saudi Arabia, including a backchannel deal to accommodate Qatar, and prospects of his own relations with the current U.S. administration.

A world-wide media maelstrom was accompanied by discreet contacts between key officials. In addition to the highly covered issues, the murder of Jamal Khashoggi also has an internal and regional impact. He belonged to a prominent family in Mecca/Medina. As the official title of the Saudi King is the "Custodian of the Two Holy Sites," assaulting rather than protecting a distinguished citizen from that particular area could obviously erode a claim to the throne. Another aspect is the traditional competition for claiming Muslim-Sunni leadership between Riyadh and Constantinople. A highly visible case of a critical Saudi from Medina in "Ottoman Sultan" Erdogan territory would signal a glaring shift in longheld beliefs.

There are still many pending questions as Mr. Khashoggi's family continues efforts to find his body to bury it graciously in Medina.

Eventually governments of various countries will seek a balance between their pronounced human values and actual vested interests. Incidentally, an investment summit in Riyadh was overshadowed by boycotts from key business figures, though attended by others who sought business opportunities.

Ironically, those who arranged that conference may somehow have provided their adversaries with a satirical moment. The song played in the background during the conference was "Hotel California." Given that the conference was at the Ritz hotel, the same place where recently a number of princes and businessmen were held for weeks until they ransomed their freedom, we offer a reminder from the Eagles:

"You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave."
"What a nice surprise, bring your alibis."