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MBS, Khashoggi and the making of a rogue state

Aljabri now claims that the Saudis and MBS had sent an assassination squad to Canada to try to kill him, and that members of the squad were part of the team that murdered Khashoggi.

Published: 08th August 2021 07:28 AM  |   Last Updated: 08th August 2021 10:00 AM   |  A+A-

Slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi (Photo | AFP)

Slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi (Photo | AFP)

We know the tragic story of Jamal Khashoggi. Lured into the Saudi embassy in Istanbul, the journalist-dissident was set upon and murdered on 2nd October, 2018 by a government hit squad hiding in the premises. The assassination, it emerged, was ordered by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed 
bin Salman.  

What we didn’t know till recently is Saudi Arabia, an important Pegasus spyware client of the NSO Group, had used the spyware to monitor a huge circle of Khashoggi’s friends and family. NSO denied it then. “I can tell you very clear. We had nothing to do with this horrible murder,” Shalev Hulio, the chief executive of the Israeli surveillance firm, told the US TV news programme ‘60 Minutes’ in March 2019.
This claim is now proving hollow. An investigation by the London ‘Guardian’ three weeks ago exposed how the spyware was used in 2018 to snoop on Khashoggi’s wife, Hanan Elatr, and fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, and possibly plot his murder. 

More evidence
In recent days there is more on Saudi Arabia. The US Justice department is currently opposing a court case by a bunch of Saudi government-controlled companies who are targeting Saad Aljabri, a counter-terrorism expert who had worked closely with the US and Saudi’s counter-terrorism chief, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. In the succession war for the throne, he fell out with the powerful Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS, and fled to Canada in 2017. However, MBS and the Saudis have been hounding him since with embezzlement cases. 

Aljabri now claims that the Saudis and MBS had sent an assassination squad to Canada to try to kill him, and that members of the squad were part of the team that murdered Khashoggi. He has also said two of his children are being held hostage in Saudi Arabia.

The term ‘rogue state’ has been at various times being used against North Korea and Kim Jong-un, Cuba, Libya under Moammar Gaddafi, Iran and many others who don’t fall in the US scheme of things. But if the above evidence against Saudi Arabia does not amount to a ‘Rogue State’ what does?

Various US presidents since Ronald Reagan in 1985 have used the term ‘rogue state’ to describe and bring sanctions against those regimes that defy international law, do not respect human rights, commit mass genocide and carry out terror operations. 

Sordid credentials
A close look at Saudi Arabia, and it satisfies all these credentials. The 2020 Amnesty International report says repression has been institutionalised in the country. Anybody known as a human rights defender, or an online critic of the government finds himself in jail after a quick kangaroo court trial. Special treatment is reserved for the Shia minority and migrants who have no citizen rights. 

Even members of the royal family who are seen as a threat to MBS or express liberal leanings are quickly disposed of. A Saudi princess, Basmah bin Saud bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, was arrested in March 2019 for the offence of trying to travel outside the kingdom illegally. She’s still in jail. In March last year, in a palace coup, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman detained three members of the royal family, including a brother of the king and a former crown prince who could challenge him in line to the throne. 

Beyond its borders, Saudi Arabia has been waging a genocidal war against Yemen, the poorest of the Arab countries. The transition of power from longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh to his deputy Adbdrabbuh Mansour Hadi went awry in 2011, triggering a civil war between the Shia Houti tribesmen and government forces. 

The Saudis have led the intervention on the Yemeni government side, with huge civilian casualties inflicted by the Saudi Airforce. The humanitarian crisis is huge. Thousands of civilians have been killed in the bombings. The charity, Save the Children, estimated that 85,000 children with severe acute malnutrition might have died between April 2015 and October 2018.

While there is derisive condemnation of North Koutocrat Kim Jong-un, and rapid intervention against Sadaam Husain’s imaginary Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs), the US has been propping up the Saudi regime. There is reason: It is the Middle-East’s policeman. Saudi Arabia also has one-fifth of the world’s known oil reserves; and with production of 10-12 million barrels a day, it has a determining influence on crude prices. No wonder, the widely expected sanctions by the US over the Khashoggi killing never came. 

In fact, knocking off people they don’t like — long-range — is something the CIA specialises in too. In January last year, an Iranian Army commander, Qasem Soleimani, was assassinated by a US-coordinated drone attack. This provoked distinguished Left Wing linguist Noam Chomsky to call out the US as a ‘rogue state’. 

As long as the big powers continue to support and use regimes like the Saudis, rogue states will continue to thrive. Unless Joe Biden keeps his word and calls for course correction.



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