Alwaght – After 18 days of speculations about the disappearance of prominent Saudi journalist, the Saudi Attorney General Saud al-Mojeb finally in early Saturday admitted that the critic of the crown prince was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
“Discussions that took place between him and the persons who met him … at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul led to a brawl and a fist fight with the citizen, Jamal Khashoggi, which led to his death,” the attorney general’s statement read.
The Saudi explanation looked implausibly like a fantasy story or a deeply naïve scenario unbelievable by anybody in his right mind. A set of questions challenge plausibility of the Saudi account: How the journalist died. Why Riyadh did not take responsibility upon his disappearance. Why they rejected that Khashoggi was killed at the consulate in early days. Where his body is. And why they claim the king and crown prince were unaware of the assassination. Except for Trump administration, the world almost unanimously rejected Riyadh’s account and called for an independent investigation.
White House profit-seeking logic justifying bin Salman’s naïve account
After the statement was published, the US, a traditional ally of the Saudi ruling family and a major benefiter of the relations with the oil-rich kingdom, unsurprisingly decided not to disparage Riyadh. The US President Donald Trump’s stances came mixed. He said he was not yet satisfied with the story. “Obviously there have been deception and lies,” he was quoted as saying by media. He, however, praised the Saudi measure that 18 people were arrested in connection to the case, adding “this is a great first step.” He went on to say that “I want to get to the answer.” He then defended Saudi Arabia as an ally and that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s innocence was not unlikely.
The president has been pushing back against public pressure to cancel weapon sales to Saudi Arabia, arguing that weapons contracts with Saudi Arabia will keep millions of American jobs and that it will be “foolish” to cancel them. Last year, the US sealed a deal for a $110 billion worth of arms to Riyadh during Trump’s visit to the kingdom. Trump also said that the absolutely-ruled Arab monarchy promised billions of dollars in investment in the US economy.
The US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Sunday that the Saudi measures are “good first steps but not enough”, adding it was premature to discuss sanctions against Riyadh over the incident. He also ruled out the speculations that Saudi Arabia may decline to respond to the oil market demands once Iran oil is cut from the market in early November as a result of re-imposed sanctions.
The US officials’ remarks, the analysts suggest, have two points: First, the Americans do not want to spare a chance of milking the Saudis while Riyadh is in trouble and will be happy to pay in exchange for removed pressures. Second, the Americans are worried about turbulence in the oil market after Iran ban. So, they are mercantilistically trying to shield the Saudis against world pressures for answers.
What did the senators say about Saudi statement?
Despite the unchallenging remarks of the White House officials about the Saudi account, the senators have been sharply critical of Riyadh. Republican US Senator Lindsey Graham, who has been sharply critical of Saudi Arabia after the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, said on Friday in a Twitter post that he was highly skeptical of the Saudi explanation for Khashoggi’s death
“To say that I am skeptical of the new Saudi narrative about Mr. Khashoggi is an understatement,” his post read.
Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, on the other side, has accused the Saudi leaders of buying time and called for a probe with the presence of the US investigators and use of all audio and video evidence available to Turkey.
“The Saudis very clearly seem to be buying time and buying cover, but this action raises more questions than it answers,” the Connecticut Democrat told CNN.
Democratic Senator Robert Menendez also joined the anti-Saudi voices, calling for using Global Magnitsky Act, a bill for sanctioning foreign governments, to punish Riyadh for the assassination.
Senator Rand Paul also censured crown prince saying: “There’s no way 15 people were sent from Saudi Arabia to Turkey to kill a dissident without the approval of the crown prince… I feel certain that the crown prince was involved and that he directed this. And that’s why I think that we cannot continue to have relations with him. In a post on Twitter, he said that the US should discontinue arms sale to the kingdom.
Turkey insists all evidence will be revealed
Turkey is also directly involved in the case because the assassination was carried out on its soil. President Erdogan on Saturday disparaged the behavior of the Saudi consul general Mohammad al-Otaibi, indirectly linking him to the killing. The Turkish leader on Tuesday briefed the parliament on the case and said that a day before the crime, a team of Saudi consulate staff carried out a reconnaissance mission in a forest in Istanbul outskirts.
Turkish Justice and Development Party’s spokesman Omar Chilk said Ankara would not accept anything hidden in the case of the death of Saudi journalist. In an interview with Turkish Anadolu news agency, Chilk said that his country would use all means to uncover the circumstances of the incident. He added: “We do not accuse anyone in advance, but we are not satisfied to keep anything hidden in the case of Jamal Khashoggi.”
UN condemns the killing
The United Nations also expressed condemnation. Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Guterres “stresses the need for a prompt, thorough and transparent investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Khashoggi’s death and full accountability for those responsible.”
EU wants further explanation from Saudis
The Europeans also were in the circle, strongly criticizing Saudi Arabia. Federica Mogherini, EU foreign policy chief, called for comprehensive and apparent investigation. She said that the Saudi action was a “shocking violation” of the 1963 Vienna Convention on consular relations.
The German Chancellor Angela Merkel, talking to her party in a meeting in the east of the country on Saturday, said that Khashoggi case showed that the democratic values are gravely at stake across the world. Condemning the assassination, she called for further explanation by Riyadh.