The most important question in the case of Jamal Khashoggi is whether Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, will be held accountable for what his regime acknowledges was a premeditated act of murder. Much of the available evidence points to the prince. We cannot find a Middle East expert who believes the official story that the 15-member assassination team sent to Istanbul, including five probable members of the prince’s security detail, was a rogue operation.
Yet the Trump administration appears to be cooperating with Riyadh in protecting the crown prince.
The administration has not announced its conclusions about the murder, even though Turkish authorities shared their evidence with CIA Director Gina Haspel. It has taken no punitive action, other than suspending travel privileges for the low-level suspects the Saudis have rounded up. Like the Saudi regime, the administration has gone silent about the Khashoggi case — in the evident hope that demands for justice will fade.
The Washington Post reported that Mohammed bin Salman falsely smeared Khashoggi as a Muslim Brotherhood militant in a call to the White House. In fact, the journalist’s allegiances were to democracy and free expression.
Mohammed bin Salman’s advocates argue that holding him accountable would risk turmoil. There is a fundamental illogic to this. The crown prince has already done much to destabilize the region, by leading a military intervention in Yemen, launching a boycott of Qatar and kidnapping the Lebanese prime minister. If he is allowed by the U.S. to get away with murdering a journalist inside a diplomatic facility in a NATO country, what will he be emboldened to do next — and what license will other dictators take?
Those who seek genuine stability in the Middle East should be insisting that the truth about Jamal Khashoggi be disclosed — and that all who played a role in his murder be punished.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE WASHINGTON POST