So, according to U.S. intelligence, Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman whacked journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Confirmation of something we already knew. The crown prince is a cold-blooded killer.
Regardless of the evidence, he will walk of course. Dictators of various sorts, from the crown prince to Russia’s Putin to Rwanda’s Paul Kagame to Iran’s Ali Khamenei, execute troublemakers abroad with impunity. Who’s going to arrest them?
You may flee a tyranny but in today’s world it’s hard to escape the tyrant. That’s why, aside from finally admitting their good friend Saudi Arabia is run by a killer, the Americans came up with an idea with real merit.
Following the release of the report on the murder, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a new visa restriction policy aimed at those suspected of “suppressing, harassing or spying” on political dissidents abroad. Blinken referred to the policy as the “Khashoggi ban.” It will enable the State Department to “impose visa restrictions on individuals who, acting on behalf of a foreign government, are believed to have been directly engaged in serious, extraterritorial counter-dissident activities.”
This is a good start. People who flee brutal regimes to find sanctuary in free countries should be able to feel safe, including while they continue to oppose the regime.
We should go further, like stop selling arms to these regimes. Disappointingly, our Foreign Affairs Minister, Marc Garneau, reported that despite the murder report, Canadian armoured vehicles will continue to be shipped to Saudi Arabia. As for the U.S., the Saudis are their biggest arms customer, over $5-billion in sales in 2019 alone, which explains why the US didn’t sanction the crown prince. It isn’t easy to turn off a customer like that.
And it would help, at least look a little less hypocritical, if democracies stopped murdering folks in other countries. The U.S. and Israel are infamous for this. The Americans recently murdered one of Iran’s top military officers while Israel has assassinated an abundance of the country’s top scientists. And, of course, the C.I.A. tried to kill Fidel Castro at least eight times.
How we deal with this is quite another challenge. We can’t arrest them either. Perhaps all we can do is suggest that they stop acting like the bad guys, that they set a higher standard. It’s hard to be righteous when the good guys are murdering people, even if they’re murdering foreigners and not their own.
Nonetheless, the “Khashoggi ban” is a small but worthy step in the right direction. Canada should follow the American example.