Several European countries are pushing for a joint Saudi-Turkey investigation into what happened to Jamal Khashoggi. France, Germany, and the UK released a statement on Sunday encouraging the two countries to work with each other (they already are) to probe his disappearance.
Joint statement by Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian of France and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas of Germany:
Defending freedom of expression and a free press and ensuring the protection of journalists are key priorities for Germany, the United Kingdom and France. In this spirit, light must be shed on the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whose family has lost contact with him since October 2nd.
Germany, the United Kingdom and France share the grave concern expressed by others including HRVP Mogherini and UNSG Guterres, and are treating this incident with the utmost seriousness. There needs to be a credible investigation to establish the truth about what happened, and – if relevant – to identify those bearing responsibility for the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, and ensure that they are held to account.
We encourage joint Saudi-Turkish efforts in that regard, and expect the Saudi Government to provide a complete and detailed response. We have conveyed this message directly to the Saudi authorities.
The keywords are obviously “credible investigation,” meaning the Europeans won’t accept a probe just run by the Saudis or primarily composed of Saudi detectives. It will be curious to see if UK, Germany, and France end up pushing for a UN investigation (which would probably end up ineffective because it’s the UN) into what happened to Khashoggi.
Of course, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are working together – or appearing to be – regarding the Khashoggi’s disappearance. Daily Sabah suggested all was pretty rosy, at the moment, between the two nations.
Saudi King Salman called President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, thanking him for the recently formed joint Turkish-Saudi working group to investigate the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who is feared to have been murdered by a team of Saudi agents in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate.
Salman also affirmed the kingdom’s “solid” ties with Turkey, saying no one could undermine the relationship between the two countries, the Saudi foreign ministry said.
The joint team will investigate the disappearance of Khashoggi upon the kingdom’s request, Presidential Aide Ibrahim Kalın said last week.
Kalın told Anadolu Agency, “Within the framework of a close cooperation between Turkey and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and upon the suggestion of the kingdom, a joint working team between Turkey and Saudi Arabia will be formed to investigate the case of Jamal in all its aspects.”
Obviously, all this was before the Saudis promised it would do “eye for an eye” diplomacy if some sort of action was taken against it for Khashoggi. Via Al Jazeera:
“The kingdom confirms that if any action is taken against it, it will respond to it by a greater action,” SPA quoted an unnamed official as saying.
“The kingdom confirms its categorical rejection of any threats and attempts to harm it by threatening to impose economic sanctions or the exercise of political pressure,” the official continued, adding that the Saudi economy is “vital and influential” in the global economy.
On Saturday, US President Donald Trump vowed “severe punishment” for the Saudis if evidence arises proving they had a role in Khashoggi’s disappearance, though he said he would not stop billion-dollar arms sales to Riyadh.
It sounds like another sanctions war is possibly on the horizon (Great Britain is planning their own sanctions) – if Trump does his “severe punishment” edict. He’s been pretty adamant on keeping the arms sales going – a plan he’s reiterated multiple times since it became a bit more obvious the Saudis were more than likely involved in Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Of course, Congress could have something to say about what might happen between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. There’s currently a hold on the munitions kits America wants to send the Saudis and both Republicans and Democrats told CNN they’re not really interested in moving forward with the planned sale anytime soon.
“Right now, it’s not moving forward because I’ve stopped it through our procedures,” [New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez] told reporters in the Capitol. “If I were to clear it and it were to move to the floor, I think there’s a growing sense that there has to be a message to the Saudis.”…
“There’s been a hold for a long time,” Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, of Tennessee, told CNN. “I told the defense contractor who was in my office a few weeks ago don’t even attempt to make this happen right now because it will get voted down. Now with (the disappearance of Khashoggi), obviously that’s the case.”
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, of Texas, said “it’s premature” to say whether Congress would move to block arm sales to the Saudis, saying “we just need to make sure we know what the facts are before deciding how to act.”
This begs the question: just why is the U.S. government involved in arms sales? Yes, I know it’s because of federal law but why? Shouldn’t it be up to individual companies to decide whether or not they want sell arms to the Saudis or not? Can you imagine the protests at Boeing or Northrop Grumman if they did business with the Kingdom? The free market is already reacting to the Khashoggi disappearance with plenty of fury with everyone from Richard Branson to (maybe) WWE deciding to hold off on doing appearances in Saudi Arabia because of the controversy. There’s much more accountability with private companies than there are with governments when it comes to responding to bad press.
As for the Saudi-Turkey investigation into Khashoggi, I expect it to go along national lines. Turkey will probably blame Saudi Arabia more for the killing – while the Saudis will say they weren’t directly involved. Whether the Europeans will get a more detailed probe is anyone’s guess.