On October 2nd, Jamal Khashoggi walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. He hasn’t been seen since. Khashoggi, a journalist for the Washington Post, is presumed dead by many, including Turkish officials, who claim to have audio and video evidence that he was lured to the consulate, then murdered and dismembered inside. Saudi Arabia denies any involvement in the disappearance and says he left the consulate that afternoon.
Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen, was attempting to get paperwork to clear his planned October 3rd wedding to his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz. When he entered, she was waiting for him outside with both his cell phones and instructions to call for help if he didn't reappear. She says she never saw him come back out. Khashoggi was a former Saudi insider and a vocal critic of the current Saudi government and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and he'd been living in self-imposed exile outside the country.
In trying to determine what happened to Khashoggi, the United States government is caught in the middle of the Saudi-Turkish rivalry. Both countries have political capital to gain by blaming the other. Close ties between the Saudi royal family and the White House—Mohammed bin Salman and Jared Kushner are especially close allies—make it a crisis of Saudi-American relations too: President Donald Trump told Fox & Friends that "it doesn't look like he came out" of the consulate, a denial of the Saudi story, but demurred on cutting off arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Khashoggi's potential death is chilling for Middle East relations and journalists across the globe, and his friends, family, and other activists are calling for an investigation into his disappearance.
Saudi Arabia's execution of Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr demonstrates that Riyadh is able to act with growing impunity in the Middle East. It also signals a potentially dangerous shift in American-Saudi relations.