For Khashoggi, a Tangled Mix of Royal Service and Islamist Sympathies

Jamal Khashoggi landed in Washington last fall, leaving behind a long list of bad news back home.

After a successful career as an adviser to and unofficial spokesman for the royal family of Saudi Arabia, he had been barred from writing in the kingdom, even on Twitter, by the new crown prince. His column in a Saudi-owned Arab newspaper was canceled. His marriage was collapsing. His relatives had been forbidden to travel to pressure him to stop criticizing the kingdom’s rulers.

Image result for Jamal Khashoggi, photos

Then, after he arrived in the United States, a wave of arrests put a number of his Saudi friends behind bars, and he made his difficult decision: It was too dangerous to return home anytime soon — and maybe forever.

So in the United States, he reinvented himself as a critic, contributing columns to The Washington Post and believing he had found safety in the West.

By Ben Hubbard and David D. Kirkpatrick
The New York Times

Members of the Turkish Human Rights Association demonstrating in front of the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last week.CreditErdem Sahin/EPA, via Shutterstock

But as turned out, the West’s protection extended only so far.

Mr. Khashoggi was last seen on Oct. 2 entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, where he needed to pick up a document for his wedding. There, Turkish officials say, a team of Saudi agents killed and dismembered him.

Saudi officials have denied harming Mr. Khashoggi, but nearly two weeks after his disappearance, they have failed to provide evidence that he left the consulate and have offered no credible account of what happened to him.

His disappearance has opened a rift between Washington and Saudi Arabia, the chief Arab ally of the Trump administration. And it has badly damaged the reputation of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 33-year-old power behind the Saudi throne, who this time may have gone too far for even for his staunchest supporters in the West.

The possibility that the young prince ordered a hit on a dissident poses challenges for President Trump and may turn once warm relationships toxic. It could convince those governments and corporations that had overlooked the prince’s destructive military campaign in Yemen, his kidnapping of the Lebanese prime minister and his waves of arrests of clerics, businessmen and fellow princes that he is a ruthless autocrat who will stop at nothing to get his enemies.

While the disappearance has cast a harsh new light on the crown prince, it has also brought attention to the tangled sympathies throughout Mr. Khashoggi’s career, where he balanced what appears to have been a private affinity for democracy and political Islam with his long service to the royal family.

His attraction to political Islam helped him forge a personal bond with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, who is now demanding that Saudi Arabia explain his friend’s fate.

The idea of self-exile in the West was a blow for Mr. Khashoggi, 60, who had worked as a reporter, commentator and editor to become one of the kingdom’s best known personalities. He first drew international attention for interviewing a young Osama bin Laden and later became well-known as a confidant of kings and princes.

His career left him extraordinarily well-connected, and the tall, gregarious, easygoing man seemed to know everyone who had anything to do with Saudi Arabia over the last three decades.

But settling in Washington had advantages. A friend invited him for Thanksgiving last year and he shared a photo of himself at dinner with his 1.7 million Twitter followers, tucking into turkey and yams.

When his turn came to share what he was thankful for, he said: “Because I have become free, and I can write freely.”

According to interviews with dozens of people who knew Mr. Khashoggi and his relationship with the Saudi leadership, it was his penchant for writing freely, and his organizing to push for political reform from abroad, that put him on a collision course with the crown prince.

While Saudi Arabia has long been ruled according to the consensus of senior princes, Crown Prince Mohammed has dismantled that system, leaving his own power largely unchecked. If a decision was taken to silence a perceived traitor, it likely would have been his.

In Afghanistan in the 1980s, Mr. Khashoggi had his photo taken holding an assault rifle, much to his editors’ chagrin. But it does not appear that he fought there.

Mr. Khashoggi’s first claim to fame was his acquaintance with Osama bin Laden. Mr. Khashoggi had spent time in Jidda, Bin Laden’s hometown, and, like Bin Laden, he came from a prominent nonroyal family. Mr. Khashoggi’s grandfather was a doctor who had treated Saudi Arabia’s first king. His uncle was Adnan Khashoggi, a famous arms dealer, although Jamal Khashoggi did not benefit from his uncle’s wealth.

Mr. Khashoggi studied at Indiana State University and returned to Saudi Arabia to report for an English-language newspaper. Several of his friends say that early on Mr. Khashoggi also joined the Muslim Brotherhood.

Although he later stopped attending meetings of the Brotherhood, he remained conversant in its conservative, Islamist and often anti-Western rhetoric, which he could deploy or hide depending on whom he was seeking to befriend.

His newspaper colleagues recalled him as friendly, thoughtful and devout. He often led communal prayers in the newsroom, recalled Shahid Raza Burney, an Indian editor who worked with him.

Read the rest:

NYT:https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/14/world/middleeast/jamal-khashoggi-saudi-arabia.html

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