As every country across the Mideast does with its leaders, it’s hard to escape posters and laudatory fawning over Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the kingdom.
For activists, opponents and others willing to speak out against the 33-year-old heir apparent in the world’s largest oil exporter, it looks increasingly like it’s hard to escape his reach either at home or abroad.
The kingdom long has been known to grab rambunctious princes or opponents abroad and spirit them back to Riyadh on private planes. But the disappearance of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi, who Turkish officials fear has been killed, potentially has taken the practice to a new, macabre level by grabbing a writer who could both navigate Saudi Arabia’s byzantine royal court and explain it to the West.
The disappearance also peels away a carefully cultivated reformist veneer promoted about Prince Mohammed amid the kingdom allowing women to drive, instead exposing its autocratic tendencies.
“I’m not Gandhi or Mandela,” the prince told CBS in March when describing his personal wealth.
Saudi Arabia insists the allegations it faces over Khashoggi’s disappearance are “baseless,” but has not offered any evidence over the last week to support their claim he simply walked away and vanished into Istanbul though his fiancée waited just outside. Nor has Turkey fully explained why officials fear Khashoggi has been killed.
Prince Khalid bin Salman, the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., sought to convey sympathy with carefully moderate criticism in a note to friends in English the embassy shared with reporters.
“I would normally prefer not to address such outrageous claims, especially when it concerns the wellbeing of a missing citizen who dedicated a great portion of his life to serve his country,” Prince Khalid wrote. “It goes without saying that his family in the kingdom remain gravely concerned about him, and so are we.” Read more
Related news: Erdogan asks Riyadh to ‘prove’ journalist left consulate. Read more