Watch: Khashoggi criticizes Saudi prince’s “impulsive behavior” in 2017 interview
Missing Saudi writer and Washington Post columnistcriticized Saudi Arabia’s crown prince in a CBSN interview last year, calling his behavior in foreign policy “impulsive.”
Khashoggi vanished Oct. 2 while trying to pick up paperwork at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul to get married. Turkish officials have said Khashoggi was killed inside, which Saudi officials have denied.
Khashoggi, a prominent critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was speaking to CBSN anchor Reena Ninan about Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. The November interview took place just days after Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri abruptly announced his resignation in a TV appearance from Saudi Arabia, which was accused of holding him hostage. The resignation made Lebanon the focus of tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran and raised concerns about a possible conflict.
“The Saudi prince there, Mohammad bin Salman, who recently moved to the No. 2 position there over the summer — he’s making a lot of power moves,” CBSN’s Ninan said. “You know, they’ve faced some recent foreign policy failures. They’ve tried pushing Yemen. They’ve tried with a failed siege of Qatar. They tried to overthrow the Syrian government.”
“Why does Saudi Arabia feel right now that they could potentially be successful in Lebanon? And can they really?” Ninan asked.
“We argue about that,” Khashoggi said. “Is it the ‘Trump effect’ that made Prince Mohammad bin Salman feel empowered to this impulsive behavior in foreign policy? It is dangerous. It is dangerous for Saudi Arabia, for the region.”
Khashoggi also criticized the prince, known by many as MBS, in a Washington Post opinion piece published around the same time last year.
“The impulsivity of MBS has been a consistent theme — from the war in Yemen to the wave of arrests of constructive critics, royals and senior officials accused of corruption,” he wrote. “The severity of Saudi Arabia’s action against Lebanon mirrors the blockade of Qatar in June — abrupt, with no room for negotiation.”
Khashoggi wrote that while Saudi Arabia has historically tried to influence politics in Lebanon, Hariri’s sudden resignation was “a clear sign” the prince “no longer favors back-channel pressure” on the county.
“This pivot could in part be due to the ‘Trump effect,’ particularly the U.S. president’s strong bond with MBS,” he added.
Henri Barkey, an adjunct senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, described the “Trump effect” referenced by Khashoggi as “the sense that many … I should say authoritarian leaders can act with impunity knowing very well that Trump is not going to criticize them, is not going to … impose sanctions.”
He said it’s much broader than Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, and extends to countries including Hungary and Egypt.
Khashoggi said in his CBSN interview that President Trump “encouraged some of this aggressive behavior” by the Saudis.
The journalist also said the U.S. needs to have more interest in bringing peace and stability to the Middle East “because the Arab world is in total crisis and there is no single country in the Arab world that is immune from it nor is it trying to put an end to those crises.”
“There is no vision in the Arab world,” he said. “We are going through maybe the most difficult time of our lives since a century ago.”
When asked what he was watching for “in the coming weeks,” he said, “Everything. Everything has become possible in my country.”
“I’m worried for a war to break out between Saudi Arabia and Iran, even though I rule it out,” he said. “I anticipate also more tension within the Saudi economy and many fleeing out of Saudi Arabia. There’s so many things that are happening in the country altogether, all at once.”
You can watch the full interview with Khashoggi in the video player above.
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