It has been one year since the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, and Yemen continues to be a strategic failure and a moral stain on the global conscience–especially on that of Saudi Arabia: the callous disregard for Khashoggi’s life is multiplied across the 24 million facing death in Yemen.
Khashoggi’s prophecy has been at least partly fulfilled: that the conflict would trap Yemenis in a geopolitical maelstrom, become more devastating the longer it was allowed to continue and sour the kingdom’s relations with the world and its allies permanently. The conflict validates voices that what MBS and his allies are doing in Yemen is what Assad and his allies are doing in Syria.
It is quite true that the world’s worst humanitarian crisis is only getting worse. The death channel into which the country has been plunged sees no end, held hostage by political and military deadlock. While a military solution to the conflict is impossible, newly-inflamed regional rivalries risk doubling down thereon. The Houthis have not been dislodged; Iran is stronger than at the beginning of the conflict. The ceasefire in Hodeidah is near-compromised. There has been a tremendous uptick in violence in many areas of the South, making it too dangerous for IRC programs to continue their life-saving work. Still one million more have been displaced from Hodeidah in the past year alone, two million more are in dire humanitarian need and civilian casualties are at their highest since Khashoggi’s murder in October of last year.
Khashoggi was only wrong about the permanent reputational price Saudi Arabia would have to pay. Having survived the initial heat, MBS is no longer a global pariah. The Saudi economic conference, snubbed last year, is set to be well-attended, thanks especially to Western concerns about global oil supply. US and UK arms sales continue unabated; the Trump administration bypassed Congress to authorize an additional $8 billion in sales earlier this year. The warmongers continue undeterred. The arrogance of power of our age of impunity– exemplified by the gleeful high-five between MBS and Putin at the G20 a mere few weeks after Khashoggi’s death– grows unchallenged by fear of consequence. All while the Group of Eminent Experts alleges war crimes on the part of KSA and its Western allies. In this sense, Khashoggi was not wrong: MBS is more akin to Assad now than ever before.
Before his murder, Khashoggi wrote that KSA can end the war on favorable terms if it changes its role from warmaker to peacemaker. MBS- along with its allies in the West – should heed his final words.