“I have three thoughts on the Jamal Khashoggi saga.
First, I can’t shake the image of this big teddy bear of a man, who only wanted to see his government reform in a more inclusive, transparent way, being killed in some dark corner of the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul by a 15-man Saudi hit team reportedly armed with a bone saw. The depravity and cowardice of that is just disgusting.
Second, I do not believe for a second that it was a rogue operation and that Saudi Arabia’s effective ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is very hands-on, had no prior knowledge, if not more. And therefore, not as a journalist but as an American citizen, I am sickened to watch my own president and his secretary of state partnering with Saudi officials to concoct a cover story. The long-term ramifications of that for every journalist — or political critic in exile anywhere — are chilling. By the way, I don’t think they will get away with it.
This leads to my third point: How should America think about balancing our values and our interests going forward? The best way to answer that, for me, is to go back to the basics. I always knew that M.B.S.’s reform agenda was a long shot to succeed, but I was rooting for its success — while urging the Trump administration to draw redlines around his dark side — for a very specific reason. It had nothing to do with M.B.S. personally. Personally, I don’t care if Saudi Arabia is ruled by M.B.S., S.O.S. or K.F.C.
It had to do with how I defined our most important national interest in Saudi Arabia since 9/11. And it is not oil, it’s not arms sales, it’s not standing up to Iran. It’s Islamic religious reform, which can come only from Saudi Arabia, the home of Islam’s holiest cities, Mecca and Medina.”
David Lindsay: Thomas Friedman, thank you for this excellent sorting of the conflicts. The most popular comments tear you apart for apparently being too pro Mohammed bin Salman in years past, and I have no idea if they are right. I do note that they are attacking what you have not written about here, instead of addressing what you have written about. I try to read all your columns, and I do not remember thinking you were a Pollyanna about Mohammed Bin Salman, but a cheerleader for reform. Of that sin, I stand as guilty as you. Should we have invaded Saudi Arabia instead of Iraq? That should be an intesting topic, should you choose to analyze it for us. Or, are we competent to invade anywhere intelligently, after WW II? Sun Tsu wrote thousand of years ago, that invasion should be the absolute, last resort, after trying everything else, and is proof of failure of military intelligence and espionage.