Tags: Iran | Middle East | khashoggi | murder | qatar | saudi

Though Difficult, We Must Stay Out of Saudi Affairs

a protest vigil over the killing of journalist jamal khashoggi

An activist protesting the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Part of a candlelight vigil outside Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, on Thurs. Oct. 25, 2018. (Lefteris Pitarakis/AP)

By Friday, 26 October 2018 04:59 PM Current | Bio | Archive

"There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia." This columnist hammered former House Speaker Newt Gingrich for making that statement back in 2010, for the most basic reason: since when do we elevate Saudi Arabia to equal status with the United States?

We may not approve of how Saudi Arabia conducts itself, but that is their business.

The way to change them is not to interfere in their sovereign affairs, but do what we’ve always done: be the beacon of light for the world.

When America leads by example, such as being the freest and most forgiving nation in history, and respecting national sovereignty, others emulate those traits.

But when it imposes its values, hearts and minds harden, often with catastrophic results.

Given the media’s unwarranted coverage of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder inside a Saudi consulate in Turkey, and demands that the U.S. respond with severe punishments, it’s clear many have not learned that lesson.

Because of ego or self-righteous piety, our inability to keep our nose out of others’ business is astounding.

Let’s piece together this evolving Khashoggi situation:

1. First, is it too much to ask that the media correctly pronounce his name? It’s "Khashoggi" with a hard "G" — not a "J" sound. This author met the real-deal Khashoggi - — the late Adnan, billionaire arms dealer, and cousin to Jamal — and he used a hard "G," so let’s defer to his pronunciation.

2. Why is America being thrust into the driver’s seat instead of dealing with this situation at arm’s length like every other country? Yes, this is unfathomable for the Khashoggi family and Jamal’s fianc√©. And on a human level, we can be angry. But foreign policy cannot be built on sound bites and human emotions.

Khashoggi, self-exiled from Saudi Arabia, was a U.S resident — not a citizen. And that is critical. If he were an American, it would be completely different. Why? Civis Romanus ("I am a citizen of Rome") — if harm came to even one citizen, Rome’s retribution would be massive, as transgressions against citizens were seen as acts of war. America should employ the same policy, but only for its citizens.

The  U.S. should not be responsible for non-citizens traveling abroad. Compounding matters is that Jamal chose to be a harsh critic of the Saudi government.

Fine. That was his choice. But doing so carried risk.

So when he chose to enter sovereign Saudi territory overseas, as a marked man no less, all bets were off. Hands-down, Khashoggi’s decision to do so was the biggest mistake of his life. Given his worldly acumen, perhaps he should have known better.

That certainly doesn't mean Jamal deserved his gruesome fate. But just like one shouldn’t walk down a deserted street in a bad neighborhood, Khashoggi should have never entered that embassy.

3. There is speculation that the media and Democrats are making this an issue to force Mr. Trump into imposing sanctions, in the hope that gas prices would spike before the election.

Plausible enough, especially given historical inconsistencies.

Republicans made hay about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya where four Americans were killed, while many Democrats shrugged it off as doing business in a dangerous land. Likewise, there was minimal outrage when President Obama ordered drone strikes that targeted (and killed) American citizens (yes, citizens) allegedly working as al-Qaida operatives, despite no judicial review. So the same people who were silent about the targeted killings of Americans are now up-in-arms about a non-citizen’s murder in a foreign land.

How's that for consistency?

4. Israel aside, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are head and shoulders above all other Middle Eastern nations in political influence. And they don’t like each other. That mutual aversion is rooted in history (the Ottomans once ruled Arabia), and the present day, where they have been at odds over fighting in Qatar. Significantly, Turkey opposes sanctions on Iran, which both the Saudis and Americans strongly support.

So given that Turkey is having a field day facing off against Saudi Arabia (and that it has all but admitted bugging the Saudi consulate), its actions need to be viewed through the prism of self-interest. It’s great that Turkey is taking the moral high ground on the killing of a journalist, but, fact is, it has more journalists imprisoned than any other country in the world, according to the Stockholm Center for Freedom. Glass houses come to mind.

5. The president gets a thumbs-up for his handling of this situation.

First, he reiterated the oft-ignored innocent-until-proven-guilty principle, instead of immediately pointing a finger at the Saudis without evidence. Second, he has stated opposition to sanctions, understanding that a non-U.S. citizen’s death abroad does not remotely merit such penalties. Third, he also opposes halting weapons sales, since doing so would hurt American jobs and potentially de-stabilize the fragile Middle Eastern balance of power.

Love or hate the Saudis, they are invaluable, and not just because they keep the oil spigots open for much of the world (thankfully, America is now nearly energy-independent). Just as important, the Sunni House of Saud is the only reliable Muslim check on Shia Iran.

Any erosion of the Saudi-American relationship or hiccup in Saudi military procurement could motivate Iran to increase its subversive anti-Saudi, and anti-Western, activities. Since the Iranian nuclear program potentially threatens the world, keeping the Iranians hemmed in with sanctions and a powerful Saudi military are in virtually everyone’s interest.

Unquestionably, alienating the Saudis would be cutting off our nose to spite our face, since it would push them right into the arms of China and Russia.

The Saudi Royals aren’t angelic, but they are infinitely better than the alternative — ISIS, al-Qaida, and their ilk. The goal of these entities is the overthrow of Muslim governments they view as being Western collaborators, starting with Saudi Arabia. If they succeed, it will be ten dollar a gallon gas, worldwide depression, and a radical terror threat with unprecedented global reach.

That doesn't mean we should condone Saudi practices, and we can urge reforms, especially with women’s rights, but in the end, world security should trump human rights violations. Failure to heed that lesson could prove an Achilles’ heel of catastrophic proportions.

Whether insulated by their unimaginable resources, or failure to understand Western thinking, the Saudis were sloppy. They viewed Jamal Khashoggi as a threat to the Kingdom, and it appears that extreme measures were taken. The whole truth will never be known, with one exception: Jamal Khashoggi’s death was a tragedy.

America should await the investigation results, condemn the culprits, and move on. Otherwise, we’ll lose an ally who has a leg up on our adversaries, and once again find ourselves bent over a barrel where crude prices will be anything but sweet.

Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, Freindly Fire Zone Media. Read more reports from Chris Freind — Click Here Now.

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Any erosion of the Saudi-American relationship or hiccup in Saudi military procurement could motivate Iran to increase its subversive anti-Saudi, and anti-Western, activities.
khashoggi, murder, qatar, saudi
Friday, 26 October 2018 04:59 PM
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