From Bezos to Khashoggi to Yemen, Saudi Arabia and MBS Revel in Their Impunity
Anthony Harwood * – Newsweek
It’s hard not to be astonished by Saudi Arabia’s arrogant
belief that it can do whatever it likes. It comes from being disgustingly rich
and having everyone suck up to you, I suppose.
But this week it’s the desert kingdom’s hypocrisy which I’m
more appalled by. Its sheer brass neck, if you like.
Consider the bombshell claim that the Amazon boss, Jeff
Bezos, had his phone hacked in 2018 by a WhatsApp message sent from the
personal account of the country’s de-facto ruler, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS).
Mr Bezos is also the owner of The Washington Post, whose
opinion pieces by one Jamal Khashoggi were proving to be particularly irksome
to the Saudi high command at the time.
Following the hack, in which spyware was allegedly installed
on the publisher’s phone, intimate details were printed in the supermarket
tabloid, The National Enquirer, including text messages Bezos sent his
The extraction of “large amounts of data” shows
the arrogance of the Saudis who, in the words of the former National Security Council staffer,
Andrew Miller, “have no real boundaries or limits in terms of what they
are prepared to do in order to protect and advance MBS.”
In other words, they don’t believe the rules about how to
behave which apply to the international community are something they need
Like locking up people for expressing views peacefully, such
as the women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul or the liberal blogger, Raif
Or putting to death pro-democracy protestors, who as
teenagers used WhatsApp to organize demonstrations in a part of the country
where a minority felt oppressed.
Or ambushing a dissident journalist as he arrives at one of
your consulates, killing him and chopping up his body—while his fiancé waits
outside for him to emerge with a piece of paper allowing them to wed.
Or bombing one of the poorest countries in the world back to
the Dark Ages, leaving 100,000 dead and 85,000 infants on the brink of
I could go on, of course, but it brings me onto the
hypocrisy of the Saudi foreign minister when confronted with his country’s
crimes and misdemeanors by the European Parliament on Tuesday.
“Stop lecturing us,” said Adel al-Jubeir, who seems to embody the kingdom’s
arrogance and entitlement.
The MEPs were concerned about the country’s legal system
after it let go free those who ordered the killing of the Washington Post
Al-Jubeir stormed: “We are a sovereign country, we are
not a banana republic, and we will respect the decisions of our court
Note the sanctimonious reference to corrupt and unstable
Central American plutocracies—as if this could never possibly be applied to
Well, I’m not so sure when you consider how a cross-party
group of British MPs’ led by former Conservative minister, Crispin Blunt, have
been consistently refused entry to Saudi Arabia to visit the prisons where
human rights activists are spending years behind bars, so they can speak to
them about their torture as well as to their jailers.
It’s not the first time the “banana republic”
comparison has been used by al-Jubeir, who trotted it out in September 2018
when demanding Canada apologize for calling for the release of those same
It’s his way of maintaining the pretense that, unlike places
like Honduras and Guatemala, Saudi Arabia is a fine, upstanding and law-abiding
member of the international community—when the truth is so very far from that.
Stop lecturing us! This from a country which in June 2017
issued a list of 13 demands to its neighbor, Qatar, which included closing down
the internationally respected TV station, Al Jazeera.
It also insisted the tiny Gulf state cut off all relations
with Iran, even though Qatar’s enormous wealth is based on a liquid natural gas
field it shares with Tehran.
But until Doha abides with these ludicrous demands—which
also include shutting a Turkish military base despite the fact that that Riyadh
was only prevented from invading Qatar in 2017 by the then US Secretary of
State Rex Tillerson—it will be subject to a boycott by Saudi Arabia, the United
Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
Stop lecturing us! The brass neck of a foreign minister who
claims his country is the policeman of the Middle East when really it’s just a
On Wednesday came the announcement of yet another UN
investigation into Saudi misbehavior which will again be ignored by Riyadh,
believing itself to be above the law and beyond reproach even by the
Last year the UN special rapporteur on summary executions
and extrajudicial killings, Agnes Callamard, concluded there was “credible
evidence” linking MBS to Khashoggi’s murder.
the turn of the UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression, David Kaye, who
in the wake of the Bezos hacking has said MBS should be investigated for
“continuous, direct and personal efforts to target perceived
But perhaps the last word should go to the British MEP,
Martin Horwood, who confronted the Saudi diplomat about the kingdom’s human
rights record, the jailed women’s rights defenders, the imprisonment of
intellectuals and the record number of executions in 2019.
“If you want to have people look at Saudi Arabia and
see a modern, inclusive, moderate society, then you simply will be
disappointed; that won’t happen until Saudi Arabia tackles these flagrant
abuses of human rights,” he said.
‘You have one of the worst records in the world, and if we
are to treat you as an ally and friend, then that has to change’.
Here endeth the lecture, as they say.
*Anthony Harwood is a
former foreign editor of The Daily Mail. The views expressed in this article
are the author’s own.?????
The Jeff Bezos hacking allegations destroy the
myth of a new Saudi Arabia: