Khashoggi case triggers wider implications

Source:Global Times Published: 2018/10/22 22:48:40

The death of Saudi Arabian dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul is drawing increasing attention. Saudi authorities admitted on Friday that he was dead, saying he had been killed in a fistfight by agents and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was unaware of the operation beforehand.

Western opinion and Turkey do not accept Saudi Arabia's explanation and demand "truth." They also called on their governments to sanction Saudi Arabia.

The governments of Western countries are under pressure to chime in with public opinion, but they have shown no intention of harshly punishing Saudi Arabia. So far the harshest proposal is to suspend or cancel arms sales to the country. There is little likelihood that Western countries carry out concrete measures against Saudi Arabia.

This is a rare conflict between Western countries and their Middle East ally over human rights. Most developing countries do not get involved in this conflict. But an observation of the evolution of the conflict and an analysis of the situation will benefit all sides.

First of all, that Saudi Arabian agents killed the country's dissident journalist in its consulate has plunged the country into an unprecedented diplomatic whirlpool and caused serious damage to the country's reputation.

Second, after the incident, Saudi Arabia was pushed into a passive position. With its altering explanations, more damage has been done.

Third, human rights can generate intense debates among the public and can affect foreign relations in the West. Western opinion sticks to its values and refuses to change under any circumstances. Myanmar's de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi used to be an icon of human rights in Western opinion, but her image in the West was impaired by the Rohingya crisis.

Fourth, developing countries can debate with the West over which aspect of human rights should be prioritized and stick to their concerns about development. When conflicts occur, it's wise for developing countries to prevent them from escalating into confrontation.

Fifth, developing countries have room to explain to the international community that they prioritize the right to development. But the Khashoggi incident is a life-and-death issue beyond argument. The predicament of Saudi Arabia sounds an alarm for all countries.

Saudi Arabia may eventually get out of the predicament thanks to its alliance with the US, but part of the losses that Saudi Arabia is supposed to bear may be shifted to its patron. That is why the case is dragging on.

Will the US government compromise its insistence on human rights for geopolitical and economic interests? Perhaps yes. The US government has already indicated that the final stage for human rights is geopolitics rather than ideology.

Posted in: EDITORIAL

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