As anticipated, the reaction of the Saudi front to the U.S. administration’s release of the report last week regarding the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was met with anger. As for Riyadh’s response to Washington, we can see that the Kingdom has put forth a plan of action consisting of three legs: diplomatic, intelligence and religious.
Firstly, the Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying it “categorically rejects the abusive and incorrect conclusion” and denied the charges against Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS). Next, news was sent out to the capitals of regional countries which immediately published notifications that said “Do not interfere in Saudi Arabia’s internal affairs” loud and clear. Squeezing in “get well soon” messages for MbS, who underwent an appendix operation right before the report was published, they tried to create the perception that “The Arab world, as a whole, stands with Riyadh.”
Secondly, Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud, who has a strong relationship with especially the Republican wing and the Bush family in America, was wheeled out to the stage. Giving a long interview “evaluating the report,” Prince Bandar, with the confidence of having served in the U.S. as consular of his country between 1983 and 2005, defended MbS by reminding the U.S. of some examples in its near history. “After the invasion in Iraq, the lowly torture of prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison was done within some official’s knowledge at the White House. Does this situation make directly responsible President Bush and his aids? asked the Prince, and he answered his own question himself as he replied: “Absolutely not. However, since they were in power, they had to bear the responsibility for the incident.” He then brought the subject to Khashoggi, and defended his country: “As Saudi Arabia, our handling of this horrible event should be a model to the world, The crown prince transparently took responsibility. There was a trial that resulted in a conviction and other acquittals.” As the intelligence chief of Saudi Arabia between 2012 and 2014, Bandar is well aware of how the wheels of global system spin and basically says, “This is what America does, so why are we guilty?”
When Saudi Arabia wants to call upon global intelligence circles in a different fashion, they will wheel out another former intelligence officer and ambassador: this time Turki bin Faisal. For example, when Israel is to be criticized in the Palestinian cause Prince Turki dons his robes and addresses the Arab and Muslim world. Using the credit score his father King Faisal had with the people, he conveys the Saudi administration’s “anti-Israel” sentiments. Careful readers will remember the article I wrote in this column on December 9, 2020, on the role of Prince Turkî.
While we’re on the matter of King Faisal, it won’t do not to mention these interesting nuggets of information: Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the son of the former Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Sultan bin Abdulaziz (d. 2011), is married to King Faisal’s daughter Haifa. Following the assassination of Khashoggi, MbS sent another son of King Faisal, Prince Khalid, who serves as governor of Mecca to Ankara, to “persuade Turkey.” When the prince returned to his country, failing to convince Turkey to cover up this crime, media reports had stated that he said: “It’ll be a miracle if we get out of this.” it is thought-provoking that the first-degree relatives of King Faisal, who once won the great sympathy of the Muslim peoples with his piety and embrace of Islamic causes, are towing a different line today.
And finally, the religious faction of Saudi Arabia takes its bow. Globally renowned Saudi tele-cleric Aid el Qarni, who has close to 20 million followers on Twitter, sang the praises of MbS. “The great enemies of Saudi Arabia are ignorant of the place that Mohammed bin Salman holds in the hearts of the people. We are all Mohammed bin Salman!” he ended his message by saying, “May the cowards not sleep a wink!” This line, which is ingrained in the minds of those who have conducted an in-depth study of Islamic history, belongs to Khalid bin Walid against the enemies of Islam.” Thus, Qarni made very clear of his perception of MbS and whom he compared the crown prince to.
There is one thing that allows the Saudis to conduct an attack from all fronts: their confidence in the fact that the American administration will not and cannot directly punish Mohammed bin Salman. This becomes clear with the White House’s answer to the question whether MbS would be punished or not: “We do not sanction the leaders of countries that are our allies,” thus throwing the ball in the Saudi Arabian court.