A prominent journalist from Saudi Arabia entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 and hasn’t been seen since.
Turkey has concluded that the journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, was murdered in a preplanned attack. Although this is far from the first time that Saudi Arabia has faced international criticism for human rights violations, the attack indicates increasing boldness outside the kingdom's borders. It is a reminder that a U.S. policy of “sovereignty,” as championed by Trump at the United Nations, must not become carte blanche for authoritarian leaders.
Khashoggi previously held positions in the upper echelons of Saudi leadership but became critical with the rise of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his crackdown on dissenters. His insider criticism put him in the crosshairs of the government he once worked for, and prompted him to tell friends he feared for his life.
On the day of his disappearance, Khashoggi had entered the consulate in order to obtain a document that would allow him to marry his fiancee, who was waiting outside. When he failed to return after several hours, she called the police.
Khashoggi’s disappearance and likely murder has gained international attention and drew outrage in the United States and elsewhere, as he was a contributor to the Washington Post’s global opinions section, frequently appeared on international television, and was a legal U.S. resident.
Saudi Arabia, a close ally of the United States, has been criticized for increasing crackdowns within the kingdom even as its leader, Crown Prince Mohammed, makes a show of pushing for modest reforms. The murder of a well-known critic at the consulate in Turkey, however, is something new for a regime that once exercised more caution beyond its borders.
Already, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have demanded an explanation as well as video footage from the Saudi consulate after Khashoggi’s disappearance. Sen. Bob Corker, R- Tenn., the chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, has pushed the issue with the Saudi ambassador is continuing to efforts to call out the kingdom. Sens. Marco Rubio, R- Fla., Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Chris Coons, D-Del., have all also called out the murder.
Trump and his administration must also push back on countries that violate international norms in this way. A policy of sovereignty must not simply mean a loss of U.S. interest. Instead, Washington must make clear that these actions are unacceptable and that there will be consequences for this sort of thing.