Here’s a brief summary of what you need to know about the case of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi government critic who disappeared from the Saudi consulate in Istanbul:
■Who was Jamal Khashoggi?
Khashoggi, who would have turned 60 this weekend, is a prominent Washington Post columnist. He was in self-imposed exile from Saudi Arabia and was a permanent resident of the United States, with a condo in Virginia since 2008. He was seeking to become a US citizen, according to an op-ed by his fiancée in the Post. He was a critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, differing with Saudi policies on the country’s war in Yemen, its approach to Iran, its crackdown on critics, and its deep opposition to political Islamists.
■What happened to Khashoggi?
Khashoggi disappeared on Oct. 2 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Khashoggi was planning to marry his Turkish fiancée on Oct. 3. He was at the consulate to pick up his divorce papers, which were necessary to legalize his new marriage in Turkey, a friend told the Associated Press. His fiancée wrote that “he did not believe that something bad could happen on Turkish soil.” Khashoggi has not been seen since. He is feared dead.
■Was Khashoggi assassinated?
Turkish officials say yes — and tell a horrifying story. They say that they have audio and video recordings showing that Khashoggi was assassinated by Saudi agents. The Turkish president has demanded an explanation from the Saudis. Other Turkish officials have gone much further, saying 15 agents arrived in Istanbul that day, killed Khashoggi, and used a bone saw to dismember his body in order to remove it without being detected. The names and photos of the agents have been published in Turkish media. Saudi officials, for their part, tell a vastly different story. They have said Khashoggi left the building unharmed and have denied the allegations as “baseless.”
■What kind of reaction has the incident provoked?
The incident has caused a major outcry. The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday demanded that the Trump administration conduct its own probe of Khashoggi’s disappearance. Some are calling for sanctions against Saudi Arabia if the allegations prove true. “He’s a young guy,” Republican Senator Bob Corker, who chairs the committee, said of the 33-year-old crown prince, “and if you let him get away with killing journalists in his 30s, it’s only going to get worse, and so this has got to be nipped in the bud.” Major business leaders are backing away from the Future Investment Initiative “Davos in the Desert” conference being hosted later this month by Saudi Arabia.
■What is the Trump administration doing about it?
The Trump administration has been criticized for not taking a tougher stance on the incident. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is still attending the Saudi conference, as well as Trump confidant Thomas Barrack. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took six days to issue a statement calling for Saudi Arabia to “support a thorough investigation.” Observers have noted that Saudi Arabia is central to the administration’s plans in the Middle East and Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner has a personal relationship with Prince Mohammed. Former State Department adviser Aaron David Miller said the prince may feel he can take US support for granted. “My read on this is that the Saudis’ single greatest foreign policy success has been bamboozling the president,” Miller told Bloomberg News.
■What has Trump himself said about it?
Trump said on Thursday “a thing like that shouldn’t happen. It is a reporter with the Washington Post, and it’s — something like that should not be allowed to happen.” But he also noted that Khashoggi was a legal permanent resident, not a US citizen. And, when asked what the United States should do about the incident, he said he wouldn’t want to stop Saudi Arabia from an “investment of $110 billion into the United States.” He said there are “other things we can do” without specifying what they were. The Washington Post looked into the $110 billion figure and reported it is “not real and unlikely to come to fruition.”
Material from Globe wire services was used in this report.