According to news reports, Saudi Arabia’s leaders might be preparing to announce that journalist Jamal Khashoggi was indeed killed inside the country’s consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. Apparently they plan to explain away his death as a botched abduction attempt carried out by “rogue” killers – an extremely unlikely scenario, given the ruthlessly centralized structure of the Saudi regime.
Whatever happens next, it is already clear that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and de facto ruler, Mohammed bin Salman, has gone a ghastly step too far in his ruthless pursuit of absolute power.
Khashoggi, 59 at the time of his reported death, was far more than an excellent reporter and analyst of his beloved kingdom. As one of its leading critics (a role that included his stint as a Post columnist), he became a high-profile symbol of the daunting struggle for media freedom throughout the Arab world today. Most ironically, he had respect for the reforms being undertaken by the very Saudi prince who probably gave the orders for his suspected extrajudicial murder.
Khashoggi’s unpardonable sin was to call for debate not about the crown prince’s social reforms, which he wholeheartedly supported, but about the crown prince’s stifling intolerance for anyone who cast even a speck of dirt on his highly polished image as the kingdom’s long-awaited savior. [Continue reading…]