WEATHER AUTHORITY : Flood Advisory View Alerts

Khashoggi's murder hurt the business ties Saudi Arabia needs most

One month later and the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi continues to grip international ...

Posted: Nov 1, 2018 7:02 PM
Updated: Nov 1, 2018 7:02 PM

One month later and the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi continues to grip international headlines. But for all the Western commentary, this story has a lot less to do with press freedom than it does about power: who has it and how it can be used. The perpetrator (or perpetrators) made a critical mistake in assuming that having the power to reach across borders and permanently silence a well-known critic meant they were free to do so without fear of repercussions. It's a miscalculation that will haunt Saudi Arabia for years.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had staked much of his political legitimacy on transforming the Saudi Kingdom from sleepy petrostate into a modern and diversified economy as part of his ambitious Vision 2030. But to do that, Saudi Arabia had to fundamentally reform and become a country that companies and governments in the West wanted to partner with. After all, selling oil and buying arms would only get Riyadh so far. Hence the social reforms, like the decision to allow women to drive and pushing them to take a more active role in the Saudi workforce. Yes, there are practical economic reasons for wanting higher employment for Saudi women, like expanding the country's talent pool. And in a world where an increasing number of women are key decisionmakers across both businesses and governments, the country's refusal to allow women to drive was an unnecessary millstone around Saudi necks.

Business and industry sectors

Business, economy and trade

Continents and regions

Freedom of press

Human rights

International relations and national security

Jamal Khashoggi

Journalism and news media

Media industry

Middle East

Middle East and North Africa

Misc people

Saudi Arabia

Crime, law enforcement and corrections

Crimes against persons

Criminal offenses

Homicide

Murder

But more than all that, the reforms were intended to deliver a clear message to the West that Saudi society is changing. The response: a sudden surge of interest in investment in Saudi Arabia. And for a while there, this story of a new Saudi Arabia — more open and transparent, willing to play by Western rules — seemed to be taking hold. That narrative was so strong that it withstood a Saudi-backed humanitarian disaster raging in Yemen, a postponed IPO of Saudi Arabia's oil giant Aramco, and a crackdown on women activists who began demanding more freedoms. The world proved willing to overlook plenty to protect the investment gold rush — until the Khashoggi murder (and the political drama Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan masterfully drew out) made it impossible to do so any longer.

Riyadh's saving grace is that countries with significant geopolitical interests in the Middle East will have a hard time breaking financial ties with the Saudis, given the Kingdom's outsized importance in the region. Germany may have decided to freeze arm sales to Riyadh for the time being, but no other major power has followed suit thus far (and Germany was drawing down its arms sales to Riyadh over human rights concerns long before the Khashoggi murder). Given its own geopolitical calculations, the US government is frantically attempting to give the Saudis the benefit of the doubt at every turn, even as each turn leads down a darker and darker path. It's a testament to Saudi Arabia's continued international influence.

But geopolitical necessities are no replacement for genuine enthusiasm for doing business with the Kingdom, which is what the Saudis will need if Vision 2030 is to be successful.

The Khashoggi killing has made deals with the Saudis a lightning-rod issue, particularly for companies looking to cultivate a more socially responsible image for themselves. Thorny issues of human rights could be overlooked so long as Saudi Arabia's trajectory was pointing in the right direction, which was why the narrative of "Mohammed bin Salman as reformer" was critical to the Kingdom and its investors. Make no mistake, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is as much a reformer today as he was six months ago. It's entirely possible to be a strongman and genuine reformer simultaneously.

But more important than the reforms is the narrative, and no matter its final resolution, the Khashoggi killing has shattered that storyline. Many governments have little choice but to deal with the Saudis, but that's not true of increasingly reputation-conscious Western companies. And the Crown Prince will need both if he's to transform Saudi Arabia, as he knows he must.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 308737

Reported Deaths: 7139
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto20931250
Hinds19961410
Harrison17562303
Rankin13369277
Jackson13156243
Madison9950212
Lee9890170
Jones8310161
Forrest7542148
Lauderdale7221237
Lowndes6289144
Lamar613384
Lafayette6072117
Washington5291133
Bolivar4776129
Oktibbeha457197
Panola4458103
Pearl River4437141
Warren4299119
Marshall4286102
Pontotoc417572
Monroe4062132
Union404675
Neshoba4005176
Lincoln3886109
Hancock373385
Leflore3471124
Sunflower331589
Tate325384
Pike3215105
Scott311472
Yazoo305069
Alcorn299465
Itawamba297877
Copiah293965
Coahoma290479
Simpson289586
Tippah285168
Prentiss276659
Marion266279
Leake261773
Wayne261541
Grenada256484
Covington255280
Adams246982
Newton245761
George238547
Winston226081
Tishomingo222567
Jasper220048
Attala213673
Chickasaw205457
Holmes187172
Clay183254
Stone179733
Clarke177776
Tallahatchie176140
Calhoun165431
Yalobusha160136
Smith159334
Walthall131043
Greene129633
Lawrence126623
Noxubee126534
Montgomery125742
Perry125238
Carroll120926
Amite120741
Webster113832
Jefferson Davis105532
Tunica103225
Claiborne101330
Benton97525
Kemper95628
Humphreys94632
Franklin82923
Quitman78916
Choctaw73917
Wilkinson65128
Jefferson64828
Sharkey49817
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 521623

Reported Deaths: 10739
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson754061493
Mobile39067799
Madison34040496
Tuscaloosa25367444
Montgomery24019567
Shelby23186239
Baldwin20701302
Lee15589165
Calhoun14342311
Morgan14158271
Etowah13685346
Marshall11995220
Houston10404278
Elmore10011200
Limestone9852147
Cullman9503189
St. Clair9463234
Lauderdale9265228
DeKalb8757181
Talladega8115171
Walker7139275
Jackson6756110
Autauga6750103
Blount6519134
Colbert6229130
Coffee5424113
Dale4772111
Russell430038
Franklin420782
Chilton4101109
Covington4061114
Tallapoosa3907146
Escambia390174
Dallas3525149
Chambers3514122
Clarke347060
Marion3072100
Pike306176
Lawrence295995
Winston273172
Bibb256059
Marengo248361
Geneva246075
Pickens233259
Barbour226455
Hale218575
Butler212967
Fayette209460
Henry188044
Cherokee182644
Randolph177241
Monroe172540
Washington165238
Macon155648
Clay150155
Crenshaw149457
Cleburne146741
Lamar139734
Lowndes136553
Wilcox124427
Bullock121640
Conecuh109428
Perry107626
Sumter103232
Coosa99428
Greene91434
Choctaw58824
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Cloudy
56° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 56°
Columbus
Cloudy
55° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 55°
Oxford
Cloudy
52° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 52°
Starkville
Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 54°
Some spotty showers will move through our area this morning but should clear out by the afternoon. We should see some breaks in the clouds and temperatures reaching the mid to upper 60s.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather