While evidence mounts that Saudi theocrat Mohammed bin Salman ordered the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by a hand-picked death squad in Istanbul, the Australian government is hoping we’ll forget all about the incident.
After pretending Khashoggi’s murder was a non-issue for weeks, on October 20 the government was forced to ditch Australia’s diplomatic representation at the Saudis’ Future Investment Initiative after regime officials admitted Khashoggi had been “killed” in the Istanbul embassy in a “fistfight” — one of many lies from the Saudis, who had initially claimed Khashoggi left the embassy safely. Within hours of the “fistfight” story, Saudi officials changed it to claiming he died in a choke-hold during an abduction attempt. A day later the story changed again to an admission he’d been murdered, but it was a “rogue operation”.
Further evidence released by the Turkish government — which has consistently outwitted the Saudis in releasing a steady drip of information that demolished each of the kingdom’s lies in turn — now shows bin Salman ordered the murder.
Despite the Saudi government repeatedly being demonstrated to be lying about the murder, the Australian government has done nothing in the three weeks since its October 20 announcement. When queried as to what further steps the government had taken since then, DFAT told Crikey:
The investigation into Mr Khashoggi’s death is still underway. Once the results of the investigation have been released, the Australian Government will take a decision on the appropriate response. The Foreign Minister has encouraged the Saudi Government to cooperate fully with this investigation. On 5 November, the Australian Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva raised Australia’s concerns about Mr Khashoggi’s death in the UN’s Human Rights Council as part of Saudi Arabia’s Universal Periodic Review.
But it’s unlikely the “investigation” into Khashoggi’s murder — ostensibly a joint Turkish-Saudi operation — will find definitive proof the regime ordered the murder. Saudi officials sent to “assist” with the investigation in Istanbul in fact helped destroy evidence. An independent inquiry is impossible anyway given the deep loathing of the brutal Erdogan regime for the Saudis and the Turks’ determination to use the incident to humiliate bin Salman. Former senior Saudi officials have said the kingdom will never permit an independent investigation anyway.
That’s very handy for the government, because despite the wealth of evidence this was a crime ordered by the very top of the Saudi government, Australia can go along with the lie that it was a “rogue operation” and take no further action against a country it is desperate to sell weapons to. That is, it can go back to its default position of hoping everyone ignores Saudi Arabia’s monstrous human rights abuses for economic considerations, and because the Saudis are notionally on our side in the war on terror — despite all that Saudi funding that flowed to Islamic State, and Saudi involvement in 9/11.
And there still remains the question of how safe Australians and Australian residents are from Saudi death squads in its diplomatic facilities in Australia. This is a country that readily engages in the most sadistic violations of civilised norms. There’s no reason why anyone else would be safer than Jamal Khashoggi.