Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman being granted immunity from prosecution in US reassuring dictators around the world that they are safe in America.
In September, as a lawsuit was proceeding against him in a federal court in the United States, Mohammed bin Salman abruptly became Saudi Arabia's Prime Minister, a role with several rights that he had not enjoyed previously as the country's Crown Prince.
That dubious move paid off on Thursday, November 17, when the US State Department said that bin Salman enjoyed head of state immunity in US courts effectively dooming the lawsuit filed against him for his role in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
How bin Salman escaped punishment
Khashoggi was a loyalist turned dissident who lived in self exile in the United States and wrote articles critical of Bin Salman for The Washington Post.
In late 2018 he traveled to Turkey to obtain papers he needed to marry his Turkish fiancée from the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
On October 2, he entered the diplomatic building. He never left, not on his own feet. A hit squad flown in from Saudi Arabia had been waiting for him inside the consulate where they tortured him to death, and then dismembered his body, taking his limbs outside in suitcases.
Khashoggi's fiancé, Hatice Cengiz, waited for hours outside the consulate for him to emerge, when he didn't she alerted the Turkish police.
Soon, the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a personal friend of the couple, joined the fray with full force and hardly a day went by without President Erdogan, or the Turkish Government, commenting publicly on the case, thus directing international attention to the Saudi government, or dropping hints that bin Salman, the Crown Prince, may have been personally involved.
Plenty of evidence, no prosecution
Turkish security agencies even released audio tapes from inside the consulate with people yelling and Khashoggi screaming, effectively detailing the grisly murder and keeping the international community focused.
And only a month and a half after the murder, The Washington Post, which had been Khashoggi’s publication of choice, dropped a bombshell. The CIA had concluded that Mohammed bin Salman had personally ordered Khashoggi murder. The CIA never spoke publicly about their findings on the matter.
Already the world had learned of an earlier princely gambit whereby Mohammed had become Crown Prince through what US media described as a coup d'etat, purging his rivals and holding the then Crown Prince in custody until he agreed to step down.
To learn that the prince had become so emboldened as to order the murder of his critics in a foreign country was seen to have been a step too far, and it seemed that the prince was finally going to be held to account.
There was reason to believe that since President Erdogan was unrelenting in his public admonishments of Saudi Arabia.
Years later, both before and after he assumed office, US President Joe Biden was openly critical of Saudi Arabia. At one point during a presidential debate when he was asked about the Khashoggi case, Biden said he would make the Saudis "pay the price and make them in fact the pariah that they are".
All of that angry moral posturing went down the drain of history when the US State Department said that the Saudi Prince had legal immunity in the United States of America as Prime Minister, Saudi King Salman, MBS's father, had already bent over backwards to make that possible, but even he himself couldn't believe that the Americans would fall for his scheme that easily.
Legally the prime minister himself as King of the country, King Salman acted against Saudi law by delegating that position to his son in late September just as Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi's fiance, was doing everything she could to have justice served in a court of law.
President Biden's rhetoric, and his anger over a move by OPEC+ to limit output at a time of energy difficulties for the US and Europe had given further hope even though the Turkish denunciations had already died down years ago.
Fraught as it is with behind the scenes jockeying, betrayals and other moral failures, world politics took away not just one woman's hope for justice, but the entire world's faith in the willingness of the US and other governments to stand up to tyranny, despite all the rhetoric to the opposite effect, killing Hatice Cengiz's hope for justice and perhaps closure.
The US and others had one message for all murderous dictators in the world: You're safe in America.