While Saudi Arabia continues to deny that it had any role in the disappearance of regime critic and Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi, Turkish media outlets on Wednesday reportedly ran CCTV footage purporting to show a team of Saudi intelligence officers entering the country the day of Khashoggi’s disappearance. Turkish authorities say that the team came into the country, killed Khashoggi, and then removed his body.
A senior Turkish official has also told The New York Times that Turkish authorities believe Khashoggi “was assassinated in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on orders from the highest levels of the royal court.” As the Times report notes, whatever the truth of the matter, this is likely to “increase the pressure on both sides of the dispute.”
The paper has also published a timeline of the events surrounding Khashoggi’s disappearance, which involves two charter flights arriving with Saudi officials, and multiple movements between the consulate and the Saudi consul’s residence.
Writing in The Washington Post Tuesday, Robert Kagan argued that the apparent murder in Istanbul is another sign of the decline of U.S. influence and the crumbling of the liberal order:
Saudi Arabia is a small nation that cannot defend itself without the support of the United States, and therefore no Saudi leader would have made such a brazen move without confidence that Washington, once the leader of the liberal world order, would do nothing.
There have been many other similar warning signs: China’s arrest of the head of Interpol; the Burmese military’s campaign of genocide against the Rohingya; the systematic and deliberate slaughter of civilians in Syria, including by outlawed chemical weapons; the Russian invasion of Ukraine and seizure of Crimea. Nor is the rise of right-wing nationalist forces in Europe and elsewhere unrelated to the loss of strength and vitality among the democratic nations. Doubts about America have been reverberating across the globe for more than a decade, and others have been responding accordingly. ... So welcome to the breakdown of the liberal world order the United States once upheld. You’re seeing just the beginning.
Update: The Washington Post is now reporting that U.S. intelligence may have had knowledge of a Saudi plan to “capture” Khashoggi. Two anonymous sources appear to have told the Post that the U.S. had intercepted intelligence to this effect. “It is not clear whether the United States warned Khashoggi that he was a target, the people said.”