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Frontline report leaves little doubt about who was behind killing of Saudi journalist Khashoggi

The piece pretty much nails down the case that Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia known as MBS, was behind the brutal murder of Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post. 

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
REUTERS/Jorge Silva

I highly recommend the PBS Frontline documentary that premieres tonight at 8 p.m. (and runs again at 2 a.m., if that’s how you roll).

It pretty much nails down the case that Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia known as MBS, the current leading figure in the kingdom and heir to the throne, was behind the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a brave Saudi journalist who broke with the Saudi establishment and used his gig as a Washington Post columnist to expose the fraud of Prince Mohammed’s reforms.

MBS managed for a while to pass himself off as a modernizer and liberalizer in the oil-rich kingdom. He is now in line to officially rule when his father dies.

The Frontline piece, titled “The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia,” is deeply reported by the excellent Martin Smith, who quadruples as reporter, writer, producer and correspondent. 

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Smith does little editorializing in the film. He quotes the prince’s denials of any involvement in the murder. Still, Smith’s report leaves little room for doubt. Like the United Nations and the CIA, Smith believes MBS ordered the murder. 

But guess who is inclined to take MBS at his word that he didn’t do it? President Donald Trump.

Well, maybe that’s not fair. Trump, who enjoys a wonderful relationship with the Saudis, says the CIA has “nothing definitive” to prove that MBS did it.  (The CIA says it has “medium to high confidence” that MBS ordered the killing. Trump characterizes that as “not sure.” And Trump adds: “We stand with Saudi Arabia.”)

According to the film, as Khashoggi, in his last years, stayed out of Saudi Arabia, MBS told associates that if they couldn’t get Khashoggi back to Saudi to face MBS’ wrath, his agents should find him somewhere else and “should show him a bullet.“ 

Anyway, I’ve given away the ending, and I should warn you that the film is two hours long. So you’re forewarned. You’ll learn a lot about Saudi society ( it’s not very pretty) and a little about the current Oval Office incumbent (none of which is encouraging or surprising).

Khashoggi’s last Washington Post column was headlined “What the Arab World Needs Most is Free Expression.” It was published September 28, 2018.

He was cut to pieces four days later at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. He had fallen in love and wanted to get married and needed some Saudi paperwork. He feared MBS would have him killed if he set foot in Saudi Arabia, but he hoped to acquire the necessary papers at the consulate in Turkey. He was never seen again.