Vanished Saudi journo: The truth is starting to emerge

World

Vanished Saudi journo: The truth is starting to emerge

Diplomats believe the Saudi-Qatari rivalry was behind his disappearance. These are the reasons why

Con Coughlin



The key to understanding the disappearance of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi may lie in the increasingly rancorous dispute between the Saudi royal family and the tiny Gulf state of Qatar.
That, at least, is one of the theories gaining credence among Western diplomats as agencies across the globe try to fathom precisely what transpired when Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week, apparently never to be seen again.
The disappearance of the high-profile Saudi journalist has spawned a number of lurid allegations, including claims by Turkish officials that he was murdered after entering the Saudi consulate, with his body being disposed of by a 15-man hit squad.
The Saudis have vehemently denied any wrongdoing, saying Khashoggi left soon after arriving. But with no sightings of him for more than a week, discussion of possible motives for potential foul play by the Saudis include their bitter rivalry with Qatar.
Relations between Riyadh and Doha took a turn for the worse last year when the Saudis organised a four-nation boycott of the Gulf state following allegations that the Qataris were supporting and financing Islamist terror groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood.
Senior members of the Saudi royal family were reportedly angered by the pro-Qatari line Khashoggi adopted in some of his articles for The Washington Post, such as blaming the Saudi-led coalition for Yemen’s humanitarian disaster rather than acknowledge the role of the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in the conflict.
There is now concern that the timing of his disappearance may be linked to an appearance Khashoggi was due to make at a Qatari-funded conference in Washington next week.
According to the influential Washington magazine Foreign Policy, the Gulf International Forum think-tank was established in February as part of Qatar’s multimillion-dollar lobbying campaign to gain influence in the American capital.
Khashoggi was to be a guest speaker at the Gulf International Forum’s inaugural conference, and there are concerns that the Saudis may have been prompted to act against him as part of a damage limitation exercise.
The other aspect of the deepening controversy over Khashoggi that needs to be taken into consideration is the increasingly fraught relationship between Saudi Arabia and Turkey, two of the region’s leading Sunni Muslim superpowers. They may share concerns over Syria, but there are significant tensions between Ankara and Riyadh.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a staunch supporter of an Islamic political agenda, but the Saudis are committed to their more conservative monarchical system.
It could well be, therefore, that the unfortunate Khashoggi has become the victim of the region’s dangerous and conflicting currents.
– © Telegraph Media Group Limited (2018)

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