The Khashoggi Connection: Mercenaries, al-Qaeda and the Washington Post
In late 2018, Jamal Khashoggi was captured on CCTV entering the Saudi embassy in Turkey. This was the last confirmed sighting of the journalist, who is believed to have been murdered shortly afterwards at the hands of Saudi intelligence. Afterwards, the general consensus was that the killing was strictly personal, ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in revenge for criticism of his supposed reform agenda. However, the Saudi regime has no shortage of critics, who have yet to be murdered in a brazen fashion which clearly links back to them and makes household names out of the victims. What made Khashoggi so special?
A couple months before he disappeared, a report by the Associated Press claimed that the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen had cut a deal with the local branch of al-Qaeda. One of the journalists who broke the story was Trish Wilson, who had taken up a job at the Washington Post a short time earlier, joining Khashoggi at the well-established American outlet. Whether or not he was actually the source, Khashoggi was a natural suspect as a former insider of the Saudi elite who had publicly rejected Prince Salman’s reforms.
In 1962, Republican forces in Yemen overthrew the country’s royal family with the support of nearby Egypt. Led at the time by the hero of the Arab nationalist cause, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt had already nationalised the Suez Canal in a previous conflict with France, Israel and the United Kingdom, successfully taking control of a vital stretch of world shipping. Pledging to support the newly formed Yemen Arab Republic in the face of a royalist uprising, Nasser would again square off against the UK, which was eager to exact revenge for the loss of the Suez. Under a deal brokered by Adnan Khashoggi, uncle of Jamal, arms were bought with Saudi dollars and distributed to anyone willing to fight against the Republic, trained by British “mercenaries” and covertly supported by MI6.
As a result, the UK was able to involve itself in the eight-year war without actually making an open declaration of hostilities. For his part in the deal, Adnan Khashoggi secured his big break in the covert arms trade, amassing an immense fortune off the back of his connections. In the 1970s, he would be caught up in the Lockheed bribery scandals, where it emerged that the American aerospace company had paid him more than $100 million in commissions for arranging sales to Saudi Arabia. In the following decade, he would be implicated in an even more wide-ranging controversy, regarding covert US support for the Nicaraguan contras.
In defiance of a senate resolution, elements of the American executive branch had acted outside the law to back the right-wing forces in Central America, including by protecting drug traffickers and arranging for the clandestine sale of weapons to Iran. It would be the latter operation that Adnan was involved in, which saw the US secretly break international embargoes to support a country fighting its official ally, Iraq. Facilitated by a complex web of front organisations, the Iran-Contra scandal proved deeply embarrassing for the Reagan administration, yet did little to actually convict those involved.
Afterwards, Adnan continued to operate at the highest levels of the global arms trade, with some of his money managed by a young trader named Jeffery Epstein, who would later become infamous in the 21st century. Meanwhile, Adnan’s nephew was also doing his part to further US interests in the Middle East. Having become a journalist, the junior Khashoggi traveled to Afghanistan, where he promoted a CIA-backed Mujahideen as noble guerillas who were fighting for their freedom against the godless Soviet Union.
During the conflict, Khashoggi managed to secure multiple interviews with another influential young Saudi, Osama bin Laden, who was turned into a battlefield celebrity by America’s propaganda apparatus. In 1984, bin Laden had co-founded the Maktab al-Khidamat group to raise funds for his holy war against the Soviets, with the United States proving a lucrative source of income. When the war came to an end in 1989, he would take control of the MAK group, renaming it al-Qaeda and engaging in a series of terroristic attacks on foreign targets.
We may never know if it was Khashoggi who leaked the details on Saudi Arabia’s deal with al-Qaeda. Certainly there is plenty of circumstantial evidence, given his relationship to Wilson as well as his familiarity with secret deals between the Kingdom and the former centerpiece of the War on Terror. Although al-Qaeda may have been somewhat usurped by ISIS in recent years, there is still more than enough name recognition to make them toxic.
While this circumstantial evidence might not be enough for a court of law, due process does not apply to the Kingdom of Saud. Therefore, it does not really matter if it had been Khashoggi, what mattered is that it might have been. As a result, his murder was authorised, likely with the complicity of an American state eager to prevent further bad press about the Yemen quagmire. As it happens, unnamed sources in the intelligence services have since contributed to the prevailing narrative, leaking information to the press in order pin the murder on the dictates of the Crown Prince. This does not mean Salman was not involved in Khashoggi’s death, but that its subsequent framing as his sole responsibility has likely obscured the true reality of why it took place.