The Failed Covert Killing of Jamal Khashoggi


Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation cuts most of its $5 million pledge to Saudi Arabian charity

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a charitable organization based in the United States. It is by all accounts, the biggest private foundation in the United States, with an endowment of roughly $50.7 billion. Recently The Gates Foundation has made headlines after making a decision to cut most of its $5 million pledge to the Saudi Arabian charity, The Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Philanthropic Foundation, or, the MiSK foundation for short.

The decision was not without cause, of course. It comes in the wake of the October 2 murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Khashoggi was a columnist for the Washington Post, and had been a harsh critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Just this past week, Turkey called for an international investigation into the murder which occurred in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where Khashoggi had gone to get the required documents for his upcoming marriage.

In a statement to Fortune magazine, The Gates Foundation said, “Jamal Khashoggi’s abduction and murder is extremely troubling. We are observing current events with concern, and we do not plan to fund any subsequent rounds of the Misk Grand Challenges program.”

On October 19, after many prior denials, the Saudi Arabian state finally addressed the incident. They claimed that the reporter had died in an altercation with 15 rogue operators. Spokesmen for the kingdom denied that the crown prince had any involvement in the murder.

Turkish government officials have remained vigilant in the case. The Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, claims that Turkey has audio recordings of the killing and has shared them with other governments, “We gave the recordings, we gave them to Saudi Arabia, we gave them to Washington, to the Germans, to the French, to the English.” On November 12, our own Prime Minister Justin Trudeau claimed that although he hasn’t, members of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service have listened to the tape.

From the United States, mixed signals. Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a conversation with Mohammed Bin Salman “emphasized that the United States will hold all of those involved in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi accountable, and that Saudi Arabia must do the same.”

In a seemingly contradictory fashion though, U. S. National Security Advisor John Bolton has stated that the tapes do not implicate the Crown Prince’s involvement in the murder.

For an interview with NPR, Mary Louise Kelly spoke with Shadi Hamid, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Hamid noted some curiosities about the case, “So the interesting thing about him is that he wasn’t always a dissident, and he was actually a consummate insider with close connections to the Saudi royal court. That’s what makes this different.”

Further in the interview, Hamid added some speculation as to possible cause for the killing, “I think we can say that he had become the most prominent Saudi dissident... I think he was the one person who could credibly and effectively cast doubt on Mohammed bin Salman’s vision for Saudi Arabia at a time when Mohammed bin Salman, or MbS, as he’s called, was really trying to portray himself as this young reformer and the young reformer that America should hitch its wagon to… You know, if I criticize Saudi Arabia for something, that’s one thing. But if Jamal Khashoggi did that, then it’s different because he’s speaking from within the family.”

Though European nations have been highly critical of the Saudi regime, not all world leaders have shared their view. In the Middle East, leaders including Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have recently been urging the White House to continue its support for MbS.

Israel’s support of Saudi Arabia comes as a surprise to many, Saudi Arabia has yet to give diplomatic recognition to the state of Israel. Nonetheless, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu said to the White House in a phone call that although, “what happened in the Istanbul consulate was horrendous, and should be duly dealt with... it’s very important for the stability of the world... that Saudi Arabia remain stable.” Likely, Netanyahu has decided to support the Saudi Arabian crown prince, in light of their shared enemy, Iran.

Despite the appeals from Egypt and Israel, and the differing perspectives of certain officials of the United States, The Trump Administration recently made their stance clear. On November 15, the U. S. placed sanctions on the 17 Saudi officials accused of involvement in the murder. The sanctions pertain to freezing all the assets of the suspects and blocking American citizens from doing business with them.

In the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the story has changed again since the original October 19 statement. Now, their official story is that a team dispatched to Istanbul to retrieve Khashoggi made an impromptu decision to kill him. Of the 17 Saudi officials accused of involvement, the kingdom has threatened five with the death penalty.

Although more than one month has passed since Khashoggi was last seen alive, his body has not been recovered. After admitting to the involvement of at least some state officials in the murder of Khashoggi, Saudi Arabian officials confirmed that his body was dismembered by the killers. Turkish officials believe that the murderers then dissolved Khashoggi’s body in acid and poured the remains down the drain of the Saudi consulate.

U. S. President Donald Trump called the incident, “The worst cover-up ever.”