The death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi will not pass without repercussions on both the regional and international level. Such repercussions may be in the best interest of Arab citizens and at the expense of Arab rulers. These repercussions can be summarised as follows:
Weakening the Saudi royal family
First, killing Khashoggi has weakened the Saudi royal family and put it under the entire world’s microscope. Those who believed that the royal family were respected and convincing rulers are now rethinking such convictions.
Saudi Arabia had many friends at a global and regional level, but the Khashoggi incident has led to a decline in relations with most democratic countries. It has also led to many questions being raised in the Arab countries. While some countries, like the US, saw Saudi Arabia as fighting against terrorism, they have now been shown that there is no worse terrorism than that exercised by Saudi Arabia against its own citizens. Even Daeshs’s terrorism has not reached the level of that which occurred in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October. Saudi Arabia has harmed its image and reputation in many ventures – such as the war on Yemen and the siege on Qatar – but it caused even more harm by killing Khashoggi.
Saudi Arabia has been severely morally weakened, and with it has weakened many Arab regimes, because the practices of tyrannical Arab countries are one and the same. How many Arab intellectuals, scholars, journalists and academics have faced such a fate in their countries? How many were persecuted, arrested, imprisoned, tortured, killed or forced to flee their country in search of security and safety?
However, this may be useful to Arab activists, as they can increase their activity in Western countries, pressuring them to stop their support of Arab tyranny and to condemn Arab leaders. Arab writers and activists needed a major shock to awaken the world media and the world’s conscience – this shock came at the expense of Khashoggi.
Weakening the Sunni axis
Secondly, if Saudi Arabia is weakened, all its allies will also become weak, including what it calls the Sunni axis confronting Iran and its allies. It is unfortunate that Saudi Arabia and the likes have forced Arab writers to divide into Sunni and Shia, something we would not condone under any circumstance. It is worth noting that Iran and Hezbollah have stood by and watched the decline of Saudi Arabia and the developing attitudes of other countries towards what has happened. Saudi Arabia’s credibility in the Arab arena is becoming even weaker and this will reduce its support from Sunni parties.
The issue is similar to its actions against Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri – detaining him reduced support for Saudi Arabia from Sunnis in Lebanon and its actions were reflected in the Lebanese elections. A state may gain public and media support, but it must ensure that it is loyal to those who support it. Saudi Arabia has not respected its supporters in a number of instances, such as its support for Daesh and the likes, its war on Yemen and its siege on Qatar.
The resistance axis will win
The axis that calls itself the “axis of resistance” will gain from the weakness of Saudi Arabia and will gain more if the Western countries impose a siege, sanctions or economic sanctions against it. Iran’s terrorism rhetoric will also become weaker on the regional level and its rhetoric regarding the region’s security will take on stronger momentum than before Khashoggi’s death. Now the US president cannot talk about Iran’s terrorism without talking about Saudi Arabia’s terrorism and cannot claim to the world that Saudi Arabia is fighting against terrorism.
Of course, one cannot count on the position of the US president or the positions of the colonial powers in general, because these parties are always ready to disregard principles in favour of gains and interests. These countries supported Arab tyranny and enabled Arab rulers to control the masses, thwarting attempts for Arab unity and looting Arab wealth.
Thirdly, Saudi Arabia’s actions have encircled Saudi Arabia and the US president together. The US president has always maintained good relations with Saudi Arabia for mutual interests: protecting the Saudi regime in exchange for money for the USA. Current president Donald Trump is in a state of shock at what happened, because his statements about the US-Saudi friendship have declined and diminished to a large extent. Saudi Arabia has become, at least for now, a burden on him not an asset.
Members of the Republican Party are sharply critical of Saudi policy and have criticised the President for his lenient remarks regarding what happened at the Saudi consulate. Saudi Arabia has weakened its allies in America and the more it weakens them, the more it weakens their confrontation of their number one enemy – Iran.
More daring intellectuals
Fourthly, Khashoggi’s death also weakens Arab regimes in their confrontation of academics, intellectuals and thinkers. Intellectuals and thinkers will now be more daring and will be more vocal about the injustice and tyranny of Arab regimes because of the global interest in Khashoggi’s case. Arab intellectuals will now feel some sense of security, as they expect the region and the world more broadly to stand with them.
The campaign against Saudi Arabia also frightens the Arab regimes, which have always eliminated intellectuals and those with an opinion. Therefore, they will lessen their crackdown on them, hence harming the repressive Arab regimes.
Harming of Israel
Fifthly, Israel will also be harmed, especially if Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) disappears from the Saudi political scene. The Saudis are now trying to distance the royal family and Bin Salman from the circle of accusations, but the world seems convinced that such an act cannot take place in the consulate from the initiative of anyone other than one the ruling family. If Bin Salman is absent, then all of the measures taken towards a Saudi-Israeli rapprochement thus far will be dealt a harsh blow. Likewise, any decline in Saudi-Israeli relations will lead to a decline in the relations between Israel and a number of other Arab countries. This means that the normalisation and coordination achieved by Israel with a number of Arab countries will decline.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Arabi 21 on 25 October 2018.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.