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The Khashoggi affair upsets some, pleases others

Beirut (AsiaNews) – “He who lives by the sword shall perish by the sword”, said in Beirut Jibril, a Syrian Christian who fled from Raqqa, as he commented the news of the assassination of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi. “I reject the horrible crime committed against him, but his death does not make me sad. If it is true that he died decapitated, after having his fingers cut, he died exactly as hundreds of people did in Syria, victims of the Islamic State (IS), whom Khashoggi supported and led on behalf of his country, Qatar and Turkey”.

These harsh words lead to the million-dollar question: Who was Jamal Khashoggi? His murder might be deplored in the Western media and diplomatic circles, but the journalist’s support for the beheadings by Daesh (IS) in Syria was well-known: he himself, on Twitter, commented on reports of beheadings committed by Daesh in Syria writing that it was just “psychological warfare” and that the Jama’a, i.e. the armed groups, “know well what they are doing”.

A supporter of political Islam

So, who was Jamal Khashoggi? And why was he beheaded, a practice – according to Islamic fundamentalist logic – that is applied to those considered unworthy to live even as subhuman beings?

Contrary to his liberal language and Western clothing, Khashoggi is – or now possibly was – a fervent advocate of political Islam. He was proud of saying in public that his country, Saudi Arabia, “is the father and mother of political Islam”.

It is simplistic to say that Khashoggi was killed because he was a prominent journalist. The suspected instigator, Saudi Arabia, owns most of the Arab press and hold major shares in many Western media. This explains the total silence in the Arab press on the affair, except for the only two TV networks not dependent on Riyadh: Al Mayadeen and Qatar-based Al Jazeera.

To imagine that he lost his life because he opposed the heir to the Saudi throne Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) is just as reductive. His recent public criticism against MBS was only the tip of the iceberg of a long-term plan to reshape the future of the monarchy and the royal family. Before he vanished on 2 October, one of Khashoggi’s last secret actions was the final preparation for the creation of an “electronic army” of internet profiles to flood social media with confidential and scandalous news about the monarchy. A method he knew very well, given that he contributed to triggering the so-called Arab springs.

Riyadh’s friendly enemy

Khashoggi was eliminated because he knew a lot; above all, because he had begun to reveal timidly, a small part of what he knew. For years, he had been the man behind clandestine missions and thorny dossiers involving Saudi interventions in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Egypt, Libya, Turkey, Palestine and Iran.

Khashoggi knew everything that could be known about the genesis and evolution of the myriad of Islamist terrorist cells: from the Taliban and Al Qaeda to the Islamic State, up to the chameleon-like ramifications of Al Nosra and offshoots. Managing these secret agendas had brought Khashoggi into close contact with the main players of world politics: United States, Europe, Israel.

The other reason is that Khashoggi knew too many influential people, ready to listen to him and to believe him. The third reason – unacceptable for Riyadh – was the journalist’ obvious switch to the Muslim Brotherhood, Qatar and Turkey.

His elimination took place in Istanbul, Turkey, i.e. a Muslim Brotherhood stronghold, where Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates can play the local stock market up and down, playing the Turkish lira against the dollar every day (up to a point, a point and a half), thus drastically affecting Turkey’s overall GDP.

Why pick Turkey to get rid of the journalist? Was Riyadh so naive that it thought that a hostile country was the best place to settle scores? Saudi Arabia certainly failed to take into account Hadica Gengiz, Khashoggi’s enigmatic so-called Turkish “girlfriend” who, among other things, is totally unknown to Khashoggi’s family. As a Turkish national, she filed a missing person report allowing a Turkish prosecutor to investigate into an alleged crime committed in foreign territory, i.e. the Saudi consulate, against a non-Turkish national like Khashoggi.

Mohammed bin Salman’s last game

As the mystery gets murkier, what is clear is that the heir to the Saudi throne, Mohammed Bin Salman, has come to the end of his career. Not even the beheading of two American journalists in August 2014 by Daesh had threatened the Saudi throne as much, nor caused such a stink.

Couldn’t MBS realise this? He certainly could. Only last month, US President Donald Trump said 16 times that the kingdom had to pay for Washington’s protection. The last call to settle the bill came a little more than 15 days ago when Trump said that without US protection, the king could not remain in power even for two weeks.

In his displeased response to the US president’s statement, Mohammed Bin Salman said, “Actually we will pay nothing for our security. We believe that all the armaments we have from the Untied States of America are paid for, it’s not free armament.”

The Khashoggi affair has some winners, starting with Turkey, which can score some points and extend its hold over Sunni Islam and reach a truce from Saudi economic pressures that are affecting its economy.

Above all, it could end Saudi support for Syrian Kurds and Saudi interference in the commission drafting Syria’s new Constitution, as Riyadh suggested to the Syrian opposition.

Thanks to the affair and various compromises, Turkey will also be able to impose a truce on Riyadh and act as a mediator to end the crisis between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

A shadow will be cast over this political assassination, its mysteries and secrets, as it was for the killing of John F Kennedy or Rafiq Hariri.

The impact could be real for war-torn Yemen, after four years of genocidal violence amid world indifference – the handywork of none other than Mohammed bin Salman – who was until recently touted as Saudi Arabia’s great moderniser and reformer. Now all eyes are on Prince Khaled, his brother, the best candidate the royal family has to replace MBS.

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