The murder of Jamal Khashoggi was a horrible crime. It should not have happened. However, some of the misleading reporting of the event is now coming to light. The first thing to remember when viewing this crime is that alliances in the Middle East are complex, sometimes illogical, and often hidden. All three of these elements play a role in this crime.
Breitbart posted an article by John Hayward on Wednesday with the title, “Hayward: Washington Post Admits Khashoggi Let Qatar ‘Draft Material’ for Columns.”
The new Post article conceded that Khashoggi was a political activist and admitted his writing may have been “shaped” by the government of Qatar, including an executive linked to that government “drafting material” for Khashoggi’s columns.
Before diving into the Washington Post’s revelations, it is sadly necessary to restate for the record that nothing disclosed in the piece justifies his murder by Saudi agents at the consulate in Istanbul in October. Being honest about who Khashoggi was, and taking a closer look at connections he preferred to keep secret, is not the same thing as blithely accepting his murder.
The Washington Post reported on December 22:
Among Khashoggi’s friends in the United States were individuals with real or imagined affiliations with the Islamist group the Muslim Brotherhood, and an Islamic advocacy organization, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, regarded warily for its support of the public uprisings of the Arab Spring. Khashoggi cultivated ties with senior officials in the Turkish government, also viewed with deep distrust by the rulers in Saudi Arabia.
After leaving the kingdom, Khashoggi sought to secure funding and support for an assortment of ideas that probably would have riled Middle East monarchs, including plans to create an organization that would publicly rank Arab nations each year by how they performed against basic metrics of freedom and democracy.
Perhaps most problematic for Khashoggi were his connections to an organization funded by Saudi Arabia’s regional nemesis, Qatar. Text messages between Khashoggi and an executive at Qatar Foundation International show that the executive, Maggie Mitchell Salem, at times shaped the columns he submitted to The Washington Post, proposing topics, drafting material and prodding him to take a harder line against the Saudi government. Khashoggi also appears to have relied on a researcher and translator affiliated with the organization, which promotes Arabic-language education in the United States.
Breitbart further reports:
Reaboi (David Reaboi at Security Studies Group) found it shocking the Washington Post would suddenly disclose these details and complicate the Khashoggi narrative unless the paper was trying to get out in front of even more damaging revelations to come.
“Rumors have floated inside the Beltway about the contents of Khashoggi’s text messages and, potentially, evidence of wire transfers from Qatar found at his residences in Turkey and in Virginia,” he noted.
To me, the following paragraphs are the most important in the Breitbart article:
If carefully chosen facts, heavily promoted narratives, and strategic falsehoods are the artillery of information warfare, then suppressed details are its stealth fighters and commando squads. Reaboi found the Saudis incredibly clumsy and perhaps breathtakingly arrogant to go radio-silent for a few days after Khashoggi’s death and leave the information warfare battlefield wide open for Turkey and Qatar, which effortlessly seized control of the Western media narrative.
Turkey effectively controlled the entire Western media apparatus with strategic leaks about the case, with some wild stories “confirmed” by anonymous Arab officials Reaboi suspects of being Qatari.
The story behind the death of Khashoggi may continue to unfold.