With the Biden administration releasing an intelligence assessment claiming de facto Saudi leader Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) approved the grisly 2018 murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the political-media class is once again shedding crocodile tears over his death. Its purpose is more than performative. It is signaling the dawn of the rebooted Obama-Biden administration project to Make the Middle East Great for Islamists Again, aided by the Iran Deal–Muslim Brotherhood echo chamber that is reassembling in real-time to amplify such stories.
We know the outrage over Khashoggi’s murder, which the Biden administration has re-stoked, is disingenuous on account of two things: First, the political-media class has always been at pains to lionize Khashoggi as a highly sympathetic, muckraking, dissident journalist, while airbrushing out the more unsavory details of his life. Such details include his Muslim Brotherhood support and mourning of Osama bin Laden’s death, apparent anti-Semitism, the backing of his Saudi-critical work by rival Qatar, and past service as a Saudi government mouthpiece. Second, the political-media class has, by contrast, ignored the fates of the scores of journalists who fit the idealized Khashoggi profile, from China, to Turkey, to Iran.
To mention these omissions of Khashoggi’s views and associations is not to diminish his murder. But it is to call into question the circumstances surrounding it, which matter if there are to be consequences for our national security and foreign policy—as our political-media class has long demanded.
The facts suggest that contra the Official Narrative of Khashoggi as a freedom-fighting regime critic-in-exile, it might be more accurate to describe him as an Islamist political operative who was participating in a high-stakes geopolitical game involving dangerous players—among them competing factions of the House of Saud, Qatar, and Turkey.
The political-media class’s feigned outrage over L’affaire Khashoggi betrays its true purpose: To leverage his death as part of a broader information operation aimed at justifying the return to the Obama-Biden administration’s Middle East policy. Reason and facts are not on the side of this policy, so propaganda will have to do. The policy requires reorienting America away from the burgeoning partnership between Israel and several relatively secular strongmen Arab regimes, and towards the Iranian mullocracy, and other Islamist entities.
The Trump administration fostered the former relationship in a bid to build a bulwark against the region’s Islamic supremacists. This would allow America to reduce its footprint in a part of the world marked by chaos and violence, while ensuring our vital interests were protected. It would also allow America to turn towards greater threats, such as Communist China.
The Biden administration is seeking to re-establish the latter relationship, with much of the same personnel in command. While the ground has shifted over the last four years, making it more difficult to effectuate such a reversal—as the Biden administration’s lip service to a Saudi-Israeli pact suggests—it once again seeks to make Iran, its Shia proxies, and Sunni Islamist partners the regional strong horses, under the twisted belief such dominance would somehow be good for America. The Biden administration evidently views Iranian partner China as a party to be engaged in this regard.
The Biden administration’s release of the aforementioned report on Khashoggi’s murder, consisting of less than two pages of substance, adding little if anything to the public’s knowledge of what transpired, and revealing a frankly weak basis for its primary claim about MBS’s culpability, must be seen in this context.
Former Trump administration Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell’s take that the report reads like a “gratuitous repackaging of intel and therefore a manipulation of intelligence for political gain,” holds true. The political gain is greatest for America’s sworn enemies, who benefit by seeing our partners browbeaten for the kinds of acts they themselves routinely engage in.
This is in keeping with the Biden administration’s Middle East agenda, which requires downgrading the partners that the Trump administration had elevated, while appeasing the adversaries the Trump administration had confronted.
Consider that before the release of the report, the Biden administration asserted it was “recalibrating” its relationship with Saudi Arabia—the Arab nation most critical in countering Iran, and thus the linchpin of the Trump administration’s effort to bind similarly threatened Arab regimes and Israel—generally, and away from de facto leader MBS specifically, snubbing and isolating him. This recalibration includes not only imposing sanctions, like the visa restrictions the State Department has slapped on 76 Saudi officials, but freezing arms sales both to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates—undoing in part a key plank of the Abraham Accords.
The ripple effects of this move go beyond Riyadh (and Abu Dhabi). Such a “recalibration” likely sends a chill down the spine of other Sunni Arab authoritarian regimes because it may foretell a turn against them as well. And to whom? If past is prologue—and considering, perhaps not coincidentally, Khashoggi’s sympathies—to the Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist offshoots that threaten said regimes’ survival. These were the very forces the Obama-Biden administration embraced from Egypt to Libya and beyond, to disastrous effect. For their part, Muslim Brotherhood affiliates—just like the Iranian regime—reportedly celebrated Biden’s presidential victory.
It bears noting, such Sunni Islamist groups, and Iran, while theologically at odds, partner strategically to take on common enemies. Iran’s historic arming and funding of Muslim Brotherhood-tied Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and support for Al-Qaeda, are a testament to this fact.
With respect to Iran, the Biden administration has already signaled that like the Obama administration before it, it will reward the mullocracy’s aggression. In just one short month, with Iran again openly enriching uranium to purity levels well in excess of Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) caps, putting it on the path towards a nuclear bomb; with its alleged proxies having attacked American servicemen and killed a civilian contractor in Erbil; and with the Houthis stepping up their attacks on Saudi Arabia, what has the Biden administration done?
It asked Iran to come back to the JCPOA negotiating table without preconditions—in service of its desire for a “longer and stronger” Iran Deal—after withdrawing the snapped back United Nations sanctions—and revoked the Houthis’ foreign terror designation.
The Biden administration’s Middle East policy, simply put, is to punish our partners, and reward our Islamist adversaries.
That Khashoggi is being used in death as part of the information effort that buttresses this policy, seems like a perversely fitting way for the administration to honor him.
Ben Weingarten is a fellow of the Claremont Institute and co-host of the Edmund Burke Foundation’s “The NatCon Squad.” He is the author of “American Ingrate: Ilhan Omar and the Progressive-Islamist Takeover of the Democratic Party,” and is currently working on a book on U.S.–China policy and its transformation under the Trump administration.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.