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COMMENT: Why Khashoggi & Not Yemen?

By Defence Analyst, Christopher Lee.

Yemen PA Images

The aftermath of a Saudi led air strike on Yemen. (Picture: PA)

What happened to Jamal Khashoggi, except for obvious personal reasons, is not important and who did it is not important and who ordered it to be done is not important.

What has happened to about 50,000 people in Yemen, including the 10,000 killed is important, who did it is important and who ordered the three years of massacre since 2015 is important.

And that is the simplicity of the paradox that is the global, or at least Western reaction to what happened to Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

One view is that 15 Saudis, arriving in Istanbul on two private jets from Saudi Arabia went to the consulate, confronted Khashoggi and then, either killed him deliberately or by mistake during interrogation.

Some said the man to blame is Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia. Others say that’s too easy and let us wait until we know more.  Anyone watching the events following the nerve agent attack in Salisbury might be wiser to follow the latter course.

The Crown Prince is widely known to have a reputation for firmness. He regularly orders the imprisonment of hundreds of dissenters in his country. 

He arrested busloads of princes accused of corruption. He locked up the Prime Minister of Lebanon, Saad Hariri, last year. There are reports of his men arriving in foreign capitals to beat up activists.

Of course, many Western countries support the Crown Prince or, at the very least, say nothing. Why? Apart from the arms contracts (the US has just signed one worth $350bn over ten years and the UK is the second biggest arms exporter to Saudi Arabia), there are two other main reasons why governments generally look away.

Saudi Arabia is fighting a constant war against Iran and Iran is an enemy (spreading terrorism etc) of many Western governments and, Saudi Arabia’s intelligence operation constantly feeds MI6, etc.

So back to the paradox. Why are governments making so much fuss about Jamal Khashoggi’s apparent murder? 

Just one man.

This week, the UN said that because of Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen, some 10 million people are starving or will be and the 50,000 casualty list is rising. Almost no reaction at all in Western capitals.

Why not a word about the war in Yemen? Could be, in the UK’s example, that the British personal advising the Saudis on training programmes and target acquisition has something to do with it. Perhaps it is to do with defence contracts.

The late Stephen Hawking used to lecture on the information paradox – oversimplified: information cannot be destroyed but what happens when it goes into a Black Hole? Hence the paradox. The irony is that the intelligence services of five countries: the US, UK, France, Spain and Switzerland plus of course, Turkey and Saudi Arabia do know what happened in Istanbul and do know what is still happening in Yemen.

The hopelessness of present international relations is that we chose to support Hawking’s paradox about disappearing truth and play the shock-horror game in Istanbul and condemn 50,000 men, women and children and the ten million in starvation into the black hole that is Yemen. 

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