Jamal Khashoggi’s long shadow | Middle East Eye1 Ottobre 2019
.year ago on Wednesday, Jamal Khashoggi stepped into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to get a paper that would allow him to marry his fiancee Hatice Cengiz.There was a spring in his step. The paper declaring his divorce was a formality. His closest Saudi friends had warned him the previous week not to step foot inside the consulate, but Jamal brushed them aside, relying instead on his inside knowledge of how Saudi embassies worked. A year on from Khashoggi’s murder, the Saudi crown prince finds himself in a very different placeHis future in Turkey and Washington was ahead of him. After months of indecision, homesickness and loneliness, Jamal had made up his mind. He did not get back in touch with his friends when he returned to Istanbul from London. He went straight to the consulate.Within seven minutes he was dead, the victim of a medieval act of butchery.The death squad did not just answer the question of who would rid Mohammed bin Salman of a “troublesome priest” – words attributed to Henry II about the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket. Khashoggi’s murder changed the course of Mohammed bin Salman’s rule itself. A year on, the crown prince finds himself in a very different place.In retreat on all frontsThe oil-for-security alliance with America is over. Two of Saudi Arabia’s biggest oil terminals were attacked in what Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, called an “act of war” by Iran, and US President Donald Trump walked away – for entirely realistic and pragmatic reasons.Bin Salman’s brutal campaign in Yemen is in tatters. His main ally, the Emiratis, have deserted him. .
They are content to divide Yemen in two and leave the Houthis where they were in the north. A few weeks ago, the Houthis launched a mass attack in which they claimed to have captured 2,000 pro-alliance soldiers, including Saudis.Far from bringing the battle to the heart of Iran, as he had promised to do, the Saudi crown prince has wrought havoc in the heart of his kingdom. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani revealed that he had received a letter from Saudi Arabia, through an intermediary – the Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi.We do not know what the letter said, but one can surmise it was not a declaration of war.A year on, the crown prince is in retreat on all fronts. Mohammed bin Salman still reigns at home with an iron hand.
The continued prosecution of religious scholar Salman al-Odah, for charges that would lead to a death sentence, is testimony to that.Hatice Cengiz, fiancee of Jamal Khashoggi, sits next to her book named Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul on 8 February (AFP)But his charm offensive in the West is over. Bin Salman is no longer courted as an extremely rich moderniser, the young prince in a hurry, the reformer who cuts corners, lauded by columnists such as the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman.His name is toxic to US brands. Consultancies are deserting, not queueing up to join. No one is talking anymore about flying taxis, robots and cities rising in the desert.For much of this, Khashoggi is personally responsible. He, by the way, initially supported Mohammed bin Salman’s reforms. He recognised that Saudi Arabia had to change radically. What he criticised was how those reforms were being done.