Saudi Journalist’s Death Spurs Political Tension


U.S. Department of State

Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz and United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo converse at the Royal Court in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on October 16, 2018.

Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist for The Washington Post, was killed after entering the Saudi Arabia Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. On October 2, 2018, Khashoggi entered the consulate to pick up official papers when a team of 15 men allegedly sent by the Saudi government arrived on private jets to orchestrate his murder.

Throughout his career in journalism, Khashoggi was known for critiquing the Saudi government, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, and President Donald Trump. When Khashoggi criticized Trump in 2016, the Saudi royal family barred him from writing and from making public appearances. Khashoggi then entered self-imposed exile in the United States. Here, he continued writing. For The Washington Post, Khashoggi persisted in writing articles that criticized Saudi officials.

For nearly three weeks after Khashoggi’s murder, the Saudi government denied knowledge of his death and rejected reports from Turkish officials involved in investigating the case. On Friday, the government released a statement acknowledging Khashoggi’s death, stating that he died in a fistfight in the consulate. It also revealed that 18 people had been arrested and stated that Crown Mohammed bin Saladam had not been at fault.

There are a lot of stories out there about what has happened. We’re just going to allow the process to move forward.

Mike Pompeo

While Saudi officials deny responsibility, Turkish officials assert that Khashoggi was murdered by a team of Saudi agents and remain skeptical of Mohammed bin Salaman’s denials of involvement. Officials have stated that they have video recordings of the attack and murder, but they need to investigate what happened to Khashoggi’s body prior to releasing them. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated, “There are lots of stories out there about what has happened. We’re just going to allow the process to move forward.”

Gruesome details surrounding the murder continue to emerge, including a Washington Post report stating that Khashoggi’s body was most likely dismembered, placed in boxes, and flown out of the country. Alternate reports suggest that Khashoggi’s body was dissolved in acid.

 The murder could threaten the long-standing U.S.-Saudi Arabia partnership. However, Trump has maintained his adamant support for the Saudi government denies allegations that the Saudi government was involved. On October 15, Trump tweeted, “Just spoke to the King of Saudi Arabia who denies any knowledge of whatever may have happened ‘to our Saudi Arabian citizen.’ He said that they are working closely with Turkey to find answer.”

Trump sent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to visit Saudi Arabia on October 16, where he met with the Saudi King to discuss Khashoggi’s death. However, many Americans wonder if the U.S. will take action to address the events. Ian Gill ’19 said, “I don’t expect to see many developments, due to America’s long-standing support of the Saudi regime. It corresponds to a long history [of] both Republican and Democrat presidents [allowing] the Saudi government to engage in human rights abuses with little to no [response].”