【明報專訊】JAMAL Khashoggi, a Washington Post reporter of Saudi Arabian descent, was missing for a number of days. Now the Saudi Arabian authorities have finally admitted that he was killed in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey. The official explanation of the incident, however, was grossly dubious, and the fact that Khashoggi's body has yet to be found has fuelled rumours that he was dismembered alive. The murder of Khashoggi is redolent of the murder of Chiang Nan in the 1980s, which shocked Taiwan, and the assassination of Kim Jong-nam last year. The murder has shattered the moderate, liberal image consciously cultivated by Saudi Arabia in recent years and exposed its authoritarian and dictatorial nature. With his soft criticism and the absence of "maximum pressure", US president Donald Trump is actually offering a great help to Saudi Arabia, which accentuates the superiority of political interests in the international arena. The so-called moral high ground is only for political spinning. The case of Khashoggi is another ugly chapter of international politics with cover-ups by the powerful, who try to play down the matter. Such being the case, it is difficult to unearth the truth.
The Saudi Arabian government first blamed Khashoggi's death on a botched operation of rogue agents, stressing that it had nothing to do with the prince. But the explanation was highly suspicious. Why was a team of agents sent simply to persuade Khashoggi to return to his country? Why did an argument turn into an assassination? There were not any convincing explanations for all this. What confounds people most is why Khashoggi died without his body found. The Saudi Arabian authorities claimed that Khashoggi's body was handed over to a "local cooperator" before it went missing. If Khashoggi had died of suffocation, the person who disposed of his body would have had no reason to ask for trouble by dismembering Khashoggi's body. It is certain that the Saudi Arabian authorities know the identity of the local cooperator. If Khashoggi was not dismembered alive, the Saudi Arabian authorities should be able to find the place he was buried to scotch rumours of his dismemberment. The Saudi Arabian government's explanations change every day. The manner in which it is dealing with the matter is woeful, only making the outside world doubtful that it was making up stories to obfuscate matters in an attempt to sit out the crisis. A country whose government subscribes easily to such a theory must be quite problematic.
Saudi Arabia is, in essence, a dictatorial monarchy. It is also the only country that beheads people on death row. However, Saudi Arabia is also a main ally of the Western world, whose petroleum in abundance is of the utmost importance. The White House has always helped Saudi Arabia profoundly with its mild criticism over human rights matters, which was the same way as how it handled US-friendly dictatorships in Latin America. The so-called "international opinion" is dominated by the Western narrative. The media is more interested in hearsay about "execution by dogs" and "execution by cannons" than Saudi Arabia's imprisonment and execution of dissidents. Saudi Arabia is a hotbed of Islamic extremism, and is related to Al-Qaeda, a terrorist group, and ISIS. However, the Western world is obviously more tolerant towards Saudi Arabia, regarding Iran as the real villain. Even though Saudi Arabia has interfered in the Yemeni civil war in recent years and carried out bombing with reckless abandon and is said to have detained the prime minister of Lebanon to force him to resign, Western countries mostly treat these incidents lightly. Iran, in contrast, has often been accused by the US of sponsoring terrorism and threatening its neighbours.
It remains to be seen how the White House will handle the case of Khashoggi. However, given the fact that the White House has turned a blind eye to Saudi Arabia's reckless bombing of civilian facilities in Yemen, it is very doubtful indeed whether Trump will take a strong stand against Saudi Arabia because of Khashoggi's case.
hearsay : things that you have heard from another person but do not (definitely) know to be true
hotbed : a place where a lot of a particular activity, especially sth bad or violent, is happening
abandon : if someone does something with abandon, they behave in a careless or uncontrolled way, without thinking or caring about what they are doing