- - Tuesday, October 16, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Arabian justice has never been regarded in the West as a model, and it has not improved its reputation with the disappearance and likely death of Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul. The case has taken a remarkably grisly turn.

The kingdom is losing all its friends in the West, which operates under a different moral code, based on ancient Jewish morality tempered with Christian mercy. The Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, apparently — based on what we now know — approved the slaying and dismemberment of Mr. Khashoggi’s body simply for the “crime” of opposing the royal family.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has been one of the kingdom’s most loyal friends, appears to have given up on them. “This guy is a wrecking ball,” he says of the crown prince. “He had this guy murdered in a consulate in Turkey, and to expect me to ignore it — I feel used and abused,” Mr. Graham, a close ally of President Trump, told Fox News Tuesday night. “There’s a difference between a country and an individual, but Mr. bin Salman is toxic and he can never be a leader on the world stage.”

Each day the story grows more macabre, as if a movie made for broadcast on Halloween night. Turkish and Saudi investigators are working together, which is a hopeful sign that the official plot will be uncovered. The Turks are particularly angry that the Saudi slaying and dismemberment was carried out in Turkey. Diplomatic niceties were waived to enable Turkish investigators to enter the consulate, which is sovereign Saudi territory, accompanied by a cleaning crew with mops, sponges, trash bags and bottles of bleach, just the items such a crew would need if they were there to clean up after a massacre.

There was a swirl of rumor, conjecture and no doubt fancy swirling through the Middle East as night fell on Tuesday. The New York Times reported that the Saudi royal court would soon put out the story that an official within the kingdom’s intelligence services, a close friend of the crown prince, was assigned to carry out the killing. The crown prince had approved an interrogation or even the rendition of Mr. Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia, but the interrogator was both incompetent and ambitious, and wanted to impress the crown prince. The interrogation went badly wrong.

President Trump floated the idea of rogue killers Tuesday when he stopped to talk to reporters at the White House as he left to inspect hurricane damage in Florida and Georgia. He said he had talked to King Salman and “the king firmly denied any knowledge of it. I don’t want to get into the king’s mind, but it sounded to me like these could have been rogue killers. I mean, who knows? We’re going to try to get to the bottom of it.”

The Saudi government is clearly trying to come up with a story, even if barely believable (or believable at all), that it can use as a fig leaf. The Saudi government has already changed its original story, that it didn’t know where Mr. Khashoggi might be. Subsequent stories, meant to reassure, particularly in the wake of the Turkish account of hideous screams heard inside the consulate on the day that Mr. Khashoggi dropped from public sight, are likely to be anything but reassuring.

Demands are growing louder in Congress that if the grisly stories are true Saudi Arabia must pay. There were calls to suspend arms sales to the kingdom. Others demanded that the Saudi crown prince, if he is credibly implicated in such a hideous deed, must be rendered a pariah. The kingdom’s honor depends on it. So, too, the honor of the rest of the civilized world.

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