A tense stand-off appears to be taking place in the aftermath of the brutal murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The incident, the first glimpse of a ruthless streak in a self-proclaimed reformer Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, has the world on tenterhooks wondering what punishment, if any, will be placed on the planet’s leading oil producer.
Surprisingly, it is one of Saudi Arabia’s biggest partners, the US, which has come down harshest on its oil producing ally. US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, told reporters on Tuesday suspects had been identified and those perceived to have taken part in Khashoggi’s killing will have their visas taken away or monitored, stating that “these penalties will not be the last word on the matter from the United States. We’re making it very clear the United States does not tolerate this kind of ruthless action to silence Mr. Khashoggi, a journalist, through violence.”
US President Donald Trump added that Mr. Khashoggi’s killing amounted to the “worst cover up ever”, going on to say “they had a very bad original concept. It was carried out poorly and the cover up was one of the worst in the history of cover ups.”
President Erdoğan of Turkey, leader of the country in which the Saudi Embassy murder took place, made a wishy-washy statement to lawmakers at parliament in Ankara. He stated that Khashoggi’s killing was a “savage murder” and went on to say the disposal of the Saudi journalist was a “planned operation”, calling those who gave the orders to be “held accountable”. However, he omitted many juicy bits of the Khashoggi puzzle, refraining to reveal whether Turkish intelligence indicated that Prince Mohammad ordered the killing of Jamel Khashoggi, whether there was an alleged audio tape that proved Mr. Khashoggi was tortured, and that Saudi Arabia had been lying about his death all along.
G7, the trading syndicate made up of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United States, United Kingdom and the European Union, released a statement calling for a “thorough, credible, transparent and prompt investigation by Saudi Arabia, in full collaboration with Turkish authorities,” while UK Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, warned those responsible for the killing “must be held to account. Saudi Arabia must put in place measures to ensure something like this can never happen again.”
All sides of the world seem to be placing a veil of pressure over the Middle East’s premier principality. However, Mohammad Bin Salman, nicknamed MBS, cut a relaxed figure at the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh, hyperbolically known as ‘Davos in the desert’. In MBS’s key headline speech, he sent the murderers a message saying, “they will not be able to do that as long as there is a King called Salman Bin Abdulaziz and a Crown Prince called Mohammad Bin Salman and a president in Turkey called Erdoğan.”
But in a bizarre turn of events, MBS was also seen laughing and joking in the face of a public relations crisis that could have serious consequences on his country. He sat himself next to the Lebanese Prime Minister-designate, Saad Hariri, whom the Crown Prince has previously been accused of kidnapping in a disagreement over growing Iranian influence in Lebanon, and joked that he hoped no rumours would be spread during Prime Minister Hariri’s brief visit to Riyadh.
This blasé behaviour along with the vague accusations posed by the international community raises further questions as to what the true fate will be for Saudi Arabia and its exceptionally ambitious leader. US president Donald Trump has already began to digress from the situation directly, stating that it will be as much the Senate and his administration that will deal with the consequences of Saudi’s actions. And, while receiving a relatively strong worded reprieve from the G7, politicians aren’t best known for following up their own words.
MBS’s energy minister, Khalid Al-Falih, has acknowledged that these are “difficult days” for the country, which is “going through a crisis”, but Crown Prince Mohammad still left his ‘Davos in the desert’, considered the jewel in the crown of the Prince’s Vision 2030 masterplan, to a standing ovation, reiterating that his transformational economic plans will “restore the Middle East to its past glory.”
The story continues…
Story by Harry Feraydon
Featured Photo Credit: Business Insider