Robert Lacey wrote this Opinion article for The Telegraph about his friend and co-writer, the late Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi:
“Jamal Khashoggi would not kick a cat. The suggestion in the long-delayed Saudi admission of his death, that the shy and avuncular Jamal would throw a punch at anyone, let alone fifteen thugs flown from Riyadh to detain him, is ludicrous – and an insult to the memory of a cherished friend. Jamal Khashoggi’s ideas could be fiery. But his mien and manner were peaceable – diffident, even.
“Did those Saudis fly to Turkey merely to question Jamal, then take him back to the Kingdom (in itself, a matter of illegal abduction)? In which case, why bring along a blade saw and a forensic scientist skilled in body dissection, as Turkish sources have claimed? And where is the corpse resulting from this alleged scuffle-that-went-wrong?
“Correctly or otherwise, the world’s media has concluded that the short-tempered Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) was the man who inspired this whole attack. In which case, why has his father, King Salman, entrusted the murder enquiry to him?
“Shame is always in short supply in Saudi – it’s rare that the royal family will admit mistakes.
“But insiders were reporting encouraging hints of change from Riyadh. King Salman had selected one of the clan’s elder statesman, Prince Khalid Al-Faisal, the Governor of Mecca, to fly to Turkey to start the investigations of what happened in that now sinister consulate building – taking the investigation dossier away from MBS. Khalid Al-Faisal is exactly the type of senior prince who would make a respected new Crown Prince and future King.
“In a similar category is Prince Khalid bin Salman, 30, the King’s personable younger son, who has made a favourable impression as Saudi Ambassador to Washington. Among the young man’s admirers was Jamal himself, who met the prince and was reported to have enjoyed some friendly conversations, despite their differences. The week after Jamal’s disappearance, the King invited KBS home for consultations, prompting talk in the capital of some dynastic readjustment.
“One of these two Prince Khalids, older and younger, it was suggested, might be in line for promotion – or even the creation of some double act that might diminish the stifling powers of MBS. This would be a return to the traditional style in which the House of Saud has always operated – a collective that shared decision-making between the varying forces and families within the six thousand-strong clan.
“Since coming to power in June 2017, MBS, 33, has robustly overturned these collegiate mechanisms, concentrating power into his own hands to a much-resented degree. Was his father, people started wondering in the aftermath of Istanbul, planning to return to the old, more-evenly spread way of things?
“Not in the short-term, it would seem. Salman has taken back the Khashoggi dossier from Khalid Al-Faisal, placing it firmly in the hands of MBS – so the Crown Prince is once again investigator, judge and jury in his own case.
“But how long can this young man’s power endure? For the past year MBS has travelled the world to plaudits – but the murder of Khashoggi has changed all that, and as the House of Saud contemplates who will succeed Salman, they must consider the question marks that Istanbul has raised.
“Who do they want to represent their Kingdom in the decades ahead, for what democratic western country will ever receive MBS again with fanfares? Will any British prime minister, for example, ever again invite this Prince (or, in the future, King) to shake hands with them and stand on the steps of Downing Street – with the memory of Jamal Khashoggi and his fate?”
Read the full article on The Telegraph
Robert’s recent articles with Jamal
Washington Post: What Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince can learn from Queen Elizabeth II
Guardian: The crown prince doesn’t listen to Saudis – why would he listen to Theresa May?
Washington Post: Why Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince should Visit Detroit