Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz yesterday ordered an internal investigation into the unexplained disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. This step from the kingdom came as a joint Turkish-Saudi team was set to search the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where Khashoggi was last seen on October 2. Results of the joint Saudi-Turkish investigation will help the authorities in Riyadh with their own probe. King Salman has also made his concern for the missing citizen clear in his phone call with President Donald Trump.
Unfortunately, for the past two weeks, the case of Khashoggi has been used as a tool by media and political actors in the region and beyond to target Saudi Arabia. However, if proof was needed that the kingdom enjoys a unique place in the region, and indeed on the global stage, it came in the form of unequivocal support extended to Riyadh by its Arab and Gulf allies, and also international organisations like the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the Muslim World League. And the UAE has been the foremost among them.
It is clear that many of those who have come out vehemently against the kingdom have their own axes to grind. They are misusing the disappearance of an individual as a pretext to further their own agenda against Saudi Arabia. This, at a time when the Saudis themselves are probing the whereabouts of Khashoggi who, after all, is a citizen of the kingdom. At times like these, nations, media organisations, and individuals should exercise caution, and refrain from rushing to conclusions. Khashoggi’s case is, after all, a humanitarian issue. His family should be afforded the decency of not having to listen to wild speculation and unsubstantiated claims about their loved one.
Then, there is the issue of threats from other states. Saudi Arabia is not just another country. It is a regional powerhouse and exercises great influence over the global economy. Attempts to threaten or blackmail the kingdom is deplorable. Riyadh has reacted strongly; in a statement on Sunday, it warned that if it “receives any action, it will respond with greater action, and that the kingdom’s economy has an influential and vital role in the global economy”. Calculated and misleading leaks to newspapers from unnamed “security officials” are muddying the waters, and impacting the investigation. Despite the fact that the Turkish presidency is hoping for a positive outcome, other quarters in Turkey are “revealing” unsubstantiated titbits that are feeding into the wild accusations that are doing the rounds on social media. This disinformation campaign must stop if we are to reach the bottom of the issue, which is essentially that of a missing human being.