Time to face up to emperor Bin Salman – He has no clothes

FNA – On Sunday, Saudi stocks endured their biggest fall in nearly four years over journalist Jamal Khashoggi who was murdered last week inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Western governments have threatened the Saudis with consequences and “severe punishment” if Riyadh is found to have been involved in the Washington Post contributor’s disappearance. And Riyadh has been quick to reject the threats, saying it would retaliate against possible economic sanctions. But the damage has already been done:

– Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 to get documents for his forthcoming marriage. Turkish officials and his fiancée, who was waiting outside, say he never came out.

– This is a perfect political environment for the international community to do the next best thing. Impose economic sanctions and arms embargo on Saudi Arabia. This could end the Saudi-led war on Yemen, which has turned that poor country into a failed state and triggered the biggest humanitarian crisis of the 21st century.

– There is a reason why the Saudi regime hits back and threatens to respond to any punitive actions with “a bigger one.” Together with regional allies and Western weapons, the mobster regime devastated Yemen, committed crimes against humanity, made a mockery of international law, and got away with murder of thousands of innocent civilians. It is still under the illusion that its “economy has a vital and influential role for the global economy” and the world cannot afford to sanction it over the dismemberment of just one journalist.

– The regime is so arrogant that it has ordered its media to launch a blame game and exonerate the Saudi government from accusations of involvement in the disappearance and murder of Khashoggi. They publish unfounded allegations and accusations, targeting international media outlets or specific individuals. Comments on social media networks with regard to the Khashoggi issue are also made via fake accounts that claim Iran, Qatar and Turkey are behind the ongoing global uproar against Riyadh, even accusing Western media submitting to Qatari money. Worse still, accusations have been leveled against Khashoggi’s fiancée Hatice Cengiz.

– According to filed evidence and remarks by Turkish officials, all evidence and documents showing the presence of Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate, including images of CCTVs at the diplomatic building, have been destroyed by security agents of the Al Saud regime. This clearly means someone is trying to hide the damning evidence against Riyadh. It makes no sense to claim that images of Khashoggi’s entrance into and leaving the building had not been recorded as the CCTVs were not working. This is not how a normal embassy operates – unless you smell a rat.

– This should all come to a head. The international outcry over the disappearance and murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a mild critic of the Saudi regime, is justified and should continue. As enemy of free speech and a free press, Bin Salman dislikes all types of criticism.

– Any illusions the Western democracies may have held about the true nature of Salman’s leadership – intolerant, divisive, confrontational and oppressive – were largely dispelled after he ordered the murder of Khashoggi in Istanbul. He mis-sold his so-called “reform” around the world by expensive PR spin.

As is, Bin Salman’s instinct is to crush moves towards democracy at home and across the Arab world, exemplified by the brutal Saudi military intervention in Bahrain and the murderous invasion of Yemen. He has cosied up to Trump, moved closer to Israel, and joined forces with both to stop Iran from helping Syria to defeat ISIL and Al-Qaeda. To this end, he launched the disastrous intervention in Yemen and it is Bin Salman who should be asked to answer for war crimes perpetrated there.

What the Khashoggi affair cruelly demonstrates is that the Saudi regime’s unaccountable, repressive political control of the public sphere has in fact been expanded, reinforced and emboldened. Bin Salman feels he can do whatever he likes, with impunity, and that the Western world, misled by Trump, will tamely acquiesce, primarily out of economic and strategic self-interest. After all, this is what has been happening for decades.

But this policy is a mistake and boycotting investment conferences is nowhere near enough. Selling weaponry used to kill Yemeni children, and ignoring the jailing of Saudi activists is morally insupportable. So, too, is the gruesome murder of a man whose only offence was to speak his mind. Khashoggi’s murder has to be a turning point and the world must recognize it as such. That recognition could bear fruit if the Western world stops selling arms to Saudi Arabia and helps to punish the regime with economic sanctions.

Emperor Bin Salman thinks he can still fool the world with his bogus reforms. He thinks he is wearing brand new special, fabulous reforms that can’t be seen by those who are incompetent or unfit for their office; but he is not. The despot is naked. The world has noticed that and is calling out.