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Thursday, April 15, 2021

Khashoggi: A Victim of Royal Politics and His Own Short-Sightedness

Atef A Gawad PHD
Is a long-time Washington-based broadcast journalist and author who hosts a radio talk show in the U.S. Born in Egypt he is a regular commentator and news analyst on several TV channels beaming to the Middle East.

Khashoggi: A Victim of Royal Politics and His Own Short-Sightedness

The last time I met Jamal Khashoggi he was on a panel in Washington discussing terrorism and I was covering the discussion for an Arab TV channel. During a brief break I asked him for a short interview to explain his relationship with Osama bin Laden and Khashoggi’s photo that shows him holding a machine gun in Afghanistan in the 1980s when Bin Laden and his Mujahideen were fighting the Soviets. Khashoggi, whose Turkic name means the spoon maker, said he would see at the end of the panel discussion. Mr. Khashoggi’s murder at his country’s consulate in Istanbul was brutal. His Turkish fiancée had been waiting for him outside while he sought to get a document that he needed to marry her. I wanted to call him from Washington to warn him not to return to the Saudi consulate but couldn’t reach him. When he first went to the consulate, he was told to come back in a week’s time to pick up his document. He probably never expected they would kill him. After all he was a loyal royalist but his allegiance was to a different faction of the royal family. I was not a close friend of Khashoggi but we talked briefly several times on the phone and met in person a couple of times. His closest friends all had Islamist leanings but disapprove of violence or terrorism. Before he returned to the panel discussion that was held at a Washington hotel, he talked briefly about the new TV channel he was setting up and asked me if I could be their Washington correspondent or at least a news analyst for them. I never worked for the new channel, The Arabs, because it survived only for six hours.

Royal Politics

Khashoggi may have been murdered because of his Washington Post articles. He was not in total opposition to the Crown Prince. For example, he had supported Mohamed Bin Salman’s 2030 plan to diversify the Saudi economy. But Khashoggi belonged to the King Abdullah faction within the royal family. Before his death King Abdulla sought to change how succession works by creating a position for Deputy Crown Prince. That position went initially to Prince Moqrin bin Abdel Aziz who deputized for Prince Salman, the current Saudi king who took over upon the death of King Abdullah. But Moqrin soon gave up his position “voluntarily.” King Salman’s Crown Prince was Prince Mohamed bin Naif, a grandson of the founder of Saudi Arabia. And Mohamed bin Salman soon became the Deputy Crown Prince. In a short time, Bin Naif was removed, and MBS became the Crown Prince who will rule the kingdom after his father’s death. Moqrin was a younger brother of Salman and there was still Ahmed bin Abdel Aziz, the youngest brother of Salman. King Abdullah was fearful from the beginning of such a scenario, when he created the position of Deputy Crown Prince. He had predicted that Moqrin, Naif and Ahmed would be bypassed and that MBS would be Crown Prince.

Jamal Khashoggi was a permanent traveling companion with the late King Abdullah’s team. He had worked at the Saudi Embassy in Washington for a long time and was an assistant to Prince Turki bin Faisal, who was ambassador to Washington and before that the Intelligence Chief. Khashoggi was a loyal supporter of the faction in the royal family that had opposed MBS jumping to the throne.

Islamist Leanings

Khashoggi, a graduate of American schools, had Islamist leanings sympathizing with the Muslim Brotherhood and with Osama bin Laden as a personal friend. When Bin Laden was killed by U.S. Special troops in a raid on his home in Pakistan Khashoggi posted a tweet eulogizing him and calling him Abu Abdullah, an affectionate name. (In Arab culture a person is affectionately called father of his oldest son, which is Abu Abdulla in Bin Laden’s case.)

Short Sighted?

Khashoggi’s new TV channel, based in Bahrain, was ordered closed after being on the air only for six hours. The reason is that Khashoggi interviewed a Bahraini dissident or opposition leader from the Shia faction. The channel was Saudi funded and hosted by Bahrain. But that was not all.  He innocently believed the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul would not dare harm him even with his Washington Post anti MBS articles and his affiliation with the King Abdullah faction within the royal family.

How MBS is Guilty?

Saudi Arabia is a patriarchic society. Nothing could take place in such a society without the knowledge, consent, approval or direct order of the patriarch, who could be the father of a family, a tribe chief, a governor, a crown prince or the King. When the CIA says with a moderate to high degree of confidence that MBS was behind Khashoggi’s murder the U.S. Intelligence community is probably correct.

A  Royal PR Escort

As I waited for Khashoggi to emerge from his panel discussion he walked past me and my cameraman escorted by a young lady provided him by one of the Public Relations firms that have contracts with the Saudi Royal family/government to offer PR services. He was not going to talk about his relationship with Osama Bin Laden. But he was taking advantage of his links to the Royal Family by using the services of their PR firm in Washington.

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