The White House / Flickr trump saudi...
The White House / Flickr

The Saudi government has finished investigating the torture and murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of Saudi government agents and has concluded that it was a very unpleasant thing that his royal highness Prince Awesomeness had, cough, absolutely nothing to do with. Accordingly, the monarchy shall now proceed with murdering the underlings who got themselves found out.

[The government’s public prosecutor] said that 11 suspects have been indicted and that authorities are seeking the death penalty for five of them. None of the suspects were named.

According to the public prosecutor’s official report, the team was sent to Istanbul to bring Khashoggi back alive but instead (accidentally) went there (with a bone saw, forensic specialist, and Khashoggi body double), and then the team’s leader decided to murder Khashoggi instead (because reasons) and that was very, very unfortunate all the way around, but rest assured that nobody any higher in the government than the people you already found out about had anything to do with that.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir described the killing as a “mistake” and denied any involvement on the part of Mohammed. “His royal highness the crown prince has nothing to do with this issue,” Jubeir he told reporters in Riyadh.

And rest assured, the foreign minister isn’t just saying that because someone will hack him up with a bone saw if he says otherwise. Nope, absolutely nothing to see here.

At the risk of also getting murdered with a bone saw, I’m going to predict that absolutely nobody, with the possible exception of JARED FREAKING KUSHNER, is going to buy this explanation. It does not explain why the local team was confident they could catch the next flight back after murdering the man they were supposed to retrieve and not face too many questions back home about that. It does not explain why the Saudi prince in charge of all this had underlings that could somehow be confused as to whether or not they should be murdering dissenting journalists they had been dispatched to merely kidnap, or why kidnapping U.S.-resident journalists on foreign soil was considered to be a reasonable foreign policy move to begin with. It does not explain the bit about the bone saw.

The takeaway here is that the Saudi government is feeling enough pressure that they feel obliged to start murdering more people to make up for the original murder, but is not feeling so much pressure as to require any further, non-murder-based action. This is roughly what regime-watchers expected, but is unlikely to dull U.S. lawmakers’ demands for ratcheting up sanctions.

So what’s next? Probably, yes, another round of sanctions. The Trump administration has been pretending at being dimwitted through this whole affair, or perhaps not pretending, but lawmakers in both parties are livid about the murder and likely to be made more so by the news that the Saudi government has attempted to pin the whole thing on overzealous (and unnamed) underlings. It may have been better for them to have issued no report at all.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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