The enigmatic case of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi

October 15, The Iran Project – During recent days, the fate of  Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi dissident  journalist missing presumed killed, caught world’s attention. everything about his fate still remained ambiguous. The only clear fact we know is: “Khashoggi walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and never walked out”.

Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post and a prominent critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, disappeared on October 2 after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. Turkish officials believe he was tortured and killed inside the building by a team of Saudi operatives who removed his dismembered body. Since then serious debates are underway over what Saudis did with Khashoggi’s body. Was it taken to Saudi in diplomatic bags?

His disappearance has drawn international condemnation and sparked warnings from activists, journalists and officials from around the word.

German, French, British FMs statement on Khashoggi’s disappearance

The Foreign Ministers of Germany, France and Great Britain have issued a joint statement on Sunday (Oct. 14), expressing their grave concern over the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and calling for a credible investigation into the issue.

“We encourage joint Saudi-Turkish efforts in that regard, and expect the Saudi Government to provide a complete and detailed response. We have conveyed this message directly to the Saudi authorities,” the statement reads.

Senators urge tough US response

On Sunday, two leading Senate Republicans threatened tough punitive action by Congress against Saudi Arabia, including a possible halt of military sales, if missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi was indeed killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Sens. Marco Rubio and Jeff Flake, members of the Foreign Relations Committee, said Congress was prepared to move quickly and firmly if President Donald Trump failed to adequately respond to the Oct. 2 disappearance of Khashoggi. Rubio said US-Saudi relations may need to be “completely revised” and stressed the US would lose credibility on human rights if the Trump administration remained silent.

Prominent figures pull out of Saudi investor conference

JP Morgan Chase & Co chief executive Jamie Dimon and Ford chairman Bill Ford are the latest US firms that cancelled plans to attend a Saudi Arabian investor conference later this month following the disappearance of the dissident journalist.

Uber Technologies chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi, Viacom CEO Bob Bakish and billionaire Steve Case, one of the founders of AOL, have also announced that they were no longer going to the three-day event, dubbed “Davos in the Desert.”

British billionaire Richard Branson on Friday suspended business links with Saudi Arabia.

In addition, major news organizations such as CNN, the Financial Times, the New York Times, CNBC and Bloomberg have pulled out of the conference. The Fox Business Network, the lone Western news outlet still heading to the conference, told Reuters on Sunday it was reviewing that decision.

A spokesman for the conference on Friday called the cancellations disappointing but said the Saudis were still looking forward to holding the conference.

Trump calls for ‘severe punishment’

US President Donald Trump said Riyadh would suffer “severe consequences” if it turned out that it was behind the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi.

Trump has not said what measures his administration would take if Saudi Arabia is found to be responsible, but he made clear any punishment would not involve suspending Washington-Riyadh arms deals.

Saudis retaliatory response

Shortly after Trump’s remarks, Saudi Arabia blasted US president for promising “severe punishment” if the royal court was responsible.

If Saudi Arabia “receives any action, it will respond with greater action,” the Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a statement, citing the oil-rich kingdom’s “influential and vital role in the global economy.”

Saudi Arabia “affirms its total rejection of any threats and attempts to undermine it, whether by threatening to impose economic sanctions, using political pressures, or repeating false accusations,” the Foreign Ministry declared.

“Reconciliation with Iran possible if sanctions imposed”

A new report says that Riyadh is preparing a list of countermeasures, including reconciliation with Iran, to push back against possible punishments.

Saudi Arabia’s al-Arabiya news network reported Sunday that the kingdom’s officials had thought of “over 30 measures” as part of their preventive plan.

The report, written by the network’s General Manager Turki Aldakhil, stated: “Imposing any type of sanctions on Saudi Arabia by the West will cause the kingdom to resort to other options.”

Turkish president, Saudi king discuss Khashoggi case

According to Saudi and Turkish media quoted by CNN, Turkish President Erdogan and King Salman of Saudi Arabia spoke by telephone and discussed the investigation into the disappearance of the Saudi journalist.

During the telephone conversation late on Sunday (Oct. 14), they said the leaders stressed on establishing a “working group” to discuss the Khashoggi case.

The working group, which does not yet have an official date, comes amid intense international pressure on Saudi Arabia.

It seems that with Washington joining the chorus of Riyadh’s critics, the negotiation over the Khashoggi case will be extremely difficult.