January 15, 2019 Special Dispatch No. 7847

Jamal Khashoggi In The Arab Media – Articles, Statements Posted By MEMRI (2003-2016)

January 15, 2019
Saudi Arabia | Special Dispatch No. 7847

One hundred days following the murder of senior Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi embassy in Istanbul, below is a compilation of Khashoggi articles, statements and videos posted by MEMRI since 2003.

Khashoggi On Terrorism And Religious Extremism

Muslims Must Ban Suicide Bombings For Moral Reasons

Following the July 7 London bombings, Khashoggi, then a media advisor to the Saudi Embassy in London, called on the religious authorities in the Muslim world to firmly ban suicide operations: "The time has come for us to take a firm, clear stand that will come from the highest institutions of Islamic law and will ban, explicitly and without exception, all 'suicide operations.' Not because the West is demanding this of us, nor because the Arab governments have been burned by the fires of these operations, but because they run counter to the spirit and letter of Islam…

"We must return to the 'fundamentalist' position that adheres to the letter and spirit of Shari'a and not be influenced by politics or by interests. This is what the leading Saudi clerics, such as Sheikh Abd Al'-Aziz bin Baz and Muhammad bin 'Athamin, did when they ruled firmly that suicide operations were forbidden. Current [Saudi] Mufti Sheikh Abd Al'-Aziz Aal Al-Sheikh has continued in the same path. Their position [against suicide bombing] preceded the 9/11 attack – thus there is no room to claim that this was due to American pressure [on Saudi Arabia].

"The call to encourage and support suicide operations was strongest in the 1990s, when we finally discovered the weapon that makes the Israelis' blood flow and spreads among them the horror they have caused us. Frightening suicide operations the length and breadth of Israel, in clubs, coffee shops, and buses, have targeted soldiers and civilians alike.

"We did not care about the children, the elderly, and the women who were cruelly killed. We were angry, and we remain angry, and we did not notice the treacherous nature of the attacks, and [the fact] that they violated the clear religious law against suicide. We did not heed the Prophet's explicit instruction that the Muslims must kill only combatants, not women and children.

"Anger blinded us, and we enjoyed the analyses that claimed Israel was facing its most difficult challenge since the October [1973] war. The newspapers published news of the fear in Israel, and of emigration from [the country]. And we believed it…

"The two sheikhs, [bin Baz and bin 'Athamin] belong to the Salafi school that bases itself on the clear text [of the Koran]. Therefore, they paid no heed to all the political justifications, as others did who claimed to 'better understand the situation and the strategic interest,' and who refused to rule that suicide operations were permitted.

"Sheikh bin 'Athamin was clear, even tough, when he told a man who sought his jurisprudent opinion regarding these [suicide] operations: 'In my view, [he who perpetrates such acts] is committing suicide, and will be punished in Hell'…

"If only we could sketch out a diagram of the suicide operations since they became the weapon of choice of the Jihad warriors, we would see how they have degraded morally, to the point of blowing up children in Baghdad and peaceful passengers on London's transportation… How wise it would be for all those who permit suicide attacks to go back to the religious fundamentalist position that prohibits them – even if they are a respected cleric such as Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi, or a movement with a just cause, such as the Hamas movement. Turning to these operations was a great moral mistake, and turning away from them is a good virtue…"[1]

Al-Qaeda's Fingerprints On The 7/7 Bombings Are Clear

In a phone interview with Al-Arabiya TV after the London bombings, Khashoggi refused to play along with the suggestion that Al-Qaeda was not necessarily behind them. During the interview, he was asked: "Do you feel that people rush to point an accusing finger at Al-Qaeda, at extremist Islamic organizations, as happened... For instance, if you remember, in Madrid, people there were quick to accuse the ETA?" He answered: "So far, no senior British official has accused anyone. They just mentioned the statement that appeared on a website. But the fingerprints of Al-Qaeda are clear, particularly given what was said about a suicide bomber. Unfortunately, no one carries out these cowardly acts in their resistance... I mean, we Muslims admit this. Those who belong to Islam nowadays commit these suicide operations. This has been the case in Iraq, in Riyadh, and now we see them in London, after Washington, New York, and Madrid. Al-Qaeda's fingerprints are clear. Unfortunately, this is Al-Qaeda's agenda, but once again I want to say that this is the agenda of a minority, and not of the majority, and we cannot let them drag all of us into their agenda."[2]

"I Hope That Our Religious Scholars Will Lead Us In A Resolute Campaign Against Terrorist Ideology"

In April 2008 Khashoggi praised the Saudi religious establishment for coming out against religious extremism and urged them to step up their efforts in this direction, writing: "Our struggle against terrorism is primarily an ideological one. The position of a religious scholar takes precedence over that of a soldier, a journalist, a teacher, or an economist. We must re-erect the religious barriers that the extremists have torn down... By [creating] loopholes in religious law, they have undermined the basic tenets [of Islam] and have permitted the forbidden.

"Courageous religious scholars have come out against extremist ideology, foremost among them Saudi Grand Mufti Sheikh 'Abd Al-'Aziz Aal Al-Sheikh, who categorically prohibited suicide terrorist attacks, regardless of the intended target. The sanctioning of such attacks had been the greatest loophole allowing the Al-Qaeda ideology... to infiltrate [our society]... As long as terrorism and terrorists exist, we have not sufficiently fulfilled our obligations. I hope that our religious scholars will lead us in a resolute campaign against terrorist ideology..."[3]

The Perpetrators Of The Charlie Hebdo Shooting Do Not Represent Islam

Following the deadly shooting at the Charlie Hebdo newsroom in January 2015, Khashoggi tweeted that the attackers did not represent Islam: "The attackers at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper shouted 'We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad.' Allah will denounce you, do not use your terrorism in the name of my beloved Prophet Muhammad... [the] Prophet of mercy #Charlie Hebdo"

Khashoggi subsequently criticized those who justified the attack, tweeting: "Those who justify the killing and the takfir will try today to justify the #Charlie Hebdo attack... Our battle with terrorism is long, as long as some of us justfy it [i.e. terrorism]"[4]

"We Have Begun [to Hear] Saudi Clerics Who Wish to Exercise Independent Judgment"

In February 2016, the death of over 350 pilgrims in a stampede during the ritual of the "stoning of the Devil" in Mecca sparked harsh criticism of the clerics who had refused to allocate more time for the ritual, which would have reduced the crowding. Among the critics was Khashoggi, who condemned clerics that strictly follow the directives of ancient scholars even when they are unsuitable to this day and age and place people's lives in danger. He wrote: "We have begun [to hear the voices] of Saudi clerics who wish to exercise independent judgment in religious ruling - which will benefit the state and the believers - and who wish to liberate [themselves] from the outlook of one particular religious school. The Saudi leadership has been demanding this ceaselessly. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its leadership are strongly connected to Islam, but the state and its leadership have always been ahead of the formal religious establishment in their outlook regarding the future. The religious establishment has a place of honor, even if the state has had to deviate [from its recommendations] owing to its rigid positions on modern questions...

"Two recent issues of this kind were the issue of mobile phones with cameras - which almost turned us into a model of backwardness - and, more importantly, the issue of insurance. Had the state accepted the position of the [religious] establishment regarding the latter issue, Saudi Arabia would today not be a member of the World Trade Organization...[5]

"The issue of performing the stone-throwing ritual after midday exemplifies the religious crisis that exists in Saudi Arabia, [and that stems from] the insistence on strictly following books by ancient [religious authorities] - and not even all the ancient [religious authorities], but only a small group among them...

"Sheikh Abdallah Al-Mutlaq, member of [Saudi Arabia's] Council of Senior Clerics, was one of the few courageous clerics who voiced a different and reasonable position [regarding the Hajj rituals]... Two days before the disaster, he surprised the viewers on Saudi TV... by giving his religious opinion that the stone-throwing can be carried out throughout the entire day. Had the Council of Senior Clerics adopted this view, and had the Ministry of Islamic Affairs distributed it among the clerics... - who continued, with unbelievable obstinacy, to issue fatwas prohibiting the performance [of the ritual] before midday - the disaster might have been prevented. [This catastrophe] should not be made light of, as was done by one of the clerics: he took out a [pocket] calculator and calculated that the number of fatalities - 14 per 100,000 [pilgrims] - is not large compared to [similar incidents of overcrowding that have occurred] around the world...

"The position of Sheikh Al-Mutlaq, and those of other respectable clerics like Sheikh Saleh Al-Sadlan and Sheikh Abed Al-Muhsin Al-'Obikan, restore our faith in the [religious] judicial authorities of our country, and in their ability to meet the demand for renewal and change - which are required in these [modern] times - without violating the laws and principles [of Islam]..."[6]

Khashoggi Blasts Arab 9/11 Conspiracy Theorists

In a video posted on the Internet on July 26, 2013, Khashoggi blasted those who question Al-Qaeda's responsibility for the 9/11 attacks or suggest that Jews who worked in the towers did not come to work on the day of the attacks. Below is a transcript of excerpts from this video posted by MEMRI TV. To watch the MEMRI TV clip, click on the player below:

Member of the audience: Were the Jews involved in the events at the World Trade Center? It is true that many Jews did not show up to work that day? Was it really carried out by the so-called "Al-Qaeda"?

Jamal Khashoggi: Yes, it was carried out by Al-Qaeda, and the proof is that Al-Qaeda itself said so. Why should we deny these people their greatest achievement so far? They are proud of this, so why should we rob them of this "achievement," with which they made history?

As for the story about the 40 Jews [who did not show up to work], I recall that when I was working at Arab News, we received that news item, which came, I'm sad to say, from the Saudi news agency. I refused to publish it. I said that this item was illogical and that whoever sent it was irresponsible.

It is really preposterous to say that 40 or 50 Jews convened and agreed – [miming a phone call] "Menachem, don't go to work today because something is going down…" – yet this was discovered by no one but [Hizbullah's] Al-Manar TV.

Then we started to pass the story on from one to another, and it reached the point that even our news agency carelessly reported it, and some people wanted to run the story in our newspapers… This was a mistake. Even official bodies make mistakes.

The Notion Of Jihad In Syria Is Not Wrong, But Has Been Twisted By Al-Qaeda

It should be mentioned that, despite his harsh criticism of terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda and their religious ideology, Khashoggi, who was in Afghanistan in the 1980s as a journalist, also spoke positively of jihad, especially  jihad against the Assad regime in Syria, and even expressed a wish to join the war there, for example in an interview with the Arab channel Rotana in July, 2012.[7]

 On November 23, 2013, Khashoggi devoted his column in the London-based daily Al-Hayat to the topic of youths who are tempted to travel to jihad in Syria. He wrote that jihad, especially against the Assad regime in Syria, was a fundamentally legitimate and proper notion, but that people required guidance regarding it, because it had lost its true path and has been twisted by Salafi-jihadi movements like Al-Qaeda. He called to provide youths who wish to join the jihad in Syria with a "different address," i.e., a different ideological basis for jihad. He also suggested that jihadis who had fought in Afghanistan in the 80s but remained moderate and level-headed should hold a dialogue with the more moderate jihadis in Al-Qaeda, like the fighters of Jabhat Al-Nusra, in order to reform them and dismantle the organization's ideological framework.

Khashoggi in Afghanistan in 1989 (image: Sabq, Saudi Arabia, July 23, 2009)

He wrote: "So long as Bashar Al-Assad remains and continues his crimes, Syria will be a 'magnet' for a new generation of Arab jihadis. Naturally, the Arab security [forces] do not desire this, but must admit that they cannot stop the stream of those wishing to join the ranks of jihad in Syria. So what can be done? Before answering this, we must acquaint ourselves with these new jihadis. They are normative young people in their early twenties or even younger, still in high school, from all social classes, who are [still] living with parents and siblings. They are not necessarily devout, and their behavior does not [necessarily] betray their intentions. Moreover, they [themselves] do not expect to do what they do [i.e. set off for jihad in Syria].

"For the last two and a half years they have been undergoing a harsh trial: On news channels, in meetings, and on social networking [sites] they encounter the horrors being committed in Syria against youths like them, against young women like their sisters, and against honorable men and women like their parents. They also follow statements by Arab and foreign officials who condemn these crimes but do not stop them. They follow the summits, they follow U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who makes statements here and there, and U.S. president Obama, who forewent punishing Bashar Al-Assad at the last minute [even though] the latter crossed the red line that Obama himself had set, namely the use of chemical weapons. Bashar did this and killed some 2,000 Syrians, most of them children at the age of [the new jihadis'] younger siblings. They hear their grandmothers curse Bashar and say to themselves: 'We must do something in addition to cursing.'

"They remember what they heard from their teachers about the virtues of jihad, and repeat the hadith: 'He who dies without embarking on jihad or even considering it in his heart dies while in a state of hypocrisy.' One of them reaches for the iPad that his mother gave him several weeks ago and types into Google: 'I want to join the jihad in Syria.' The page fills with responses, and he spends an hour reading them. Some advise him to donate [the mujahideen money], since they do not need more men. Someone else says: Go to Turkey and travel to one of the southern cities, [then] find some Syrians there and look for a guide.

"From Google Answers he goes on to more specific websites like Minbar Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad ['The Pulpit of Monotheism and Jihad'][8] and finds deeper religious studies and answers to questions that trouble him, the most important of which is does he require his parents' permission [to join the jihad in Syria]. A sheikh he does not know, named Abu Mundhir Al-Shinqiti,[9] responds that he does not require [permission from his parents] if the jihad is 'individual duty jihad.' But what is 'individual duty jihad', the young man asks himself while everyone at home is already asleep, and researches the religious law concerning jihad on Google. He finds that the events in Syria [are considered] 'defensive jihad [i.e., a struggle against an occupier] whom every individual Muslim is obliged [to join] if he can.'

"Our friend continues to drift through jihadi fatwas, and, through this new term he has encountered – 'defensive jihad' – he becomes acquainted with the types and conditions of jihad, and delves into discussions regarding [the need] of a guardian's approval and the banner of tribal zealotry.[10] He becomes acquainted with [more] sheikhs he has never heard of before, like Al-Tartusi, Al-Naqib, and Al-Heweny,[11] and finds fatwas by senior Saudi religious scholars like Sheikh Saleh Al-Fawzan, which urge jihad and desire it, but condition it upon receiving permission from one's guardian, both parents and the ruler. However, he also finds those who object to this and who do not recognize the legitimacy of any guardian [in this context].

"The call for the morning prayer saves him from these contradicting thoughts and fatwas. He turns off his computer and shuts his eyes, and the call for prayer still surrounds and beckons him, and so do the images of the killing [in Syria]. Suddenly he [recalls] Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah telling his supporters that his forces and men will remain in Syria. This was the last thing he saw on the news with his father the last night. He feels angry, but he collects his thoughts, leaves his bed, and goes to purify before entering the mosque for morning prayers. The last time he did this was during Ramadan. At the mosque he meets his uncle, who is his neighbor, and smiles at [his uncle] and greets him. In the afternoon the uncle calls [the youth's] father and says: 'He came to pray with us this morning, which is unusual, so keep an eye on him!'

"Our friend will find his path to jihad. He may find the first lead [to jihad] in his own city, [or] he may embark on an adventure and try to find [the lead] in Turkey or Jordan. But he will eventually find it, since there is an active underground network, [which operates] via the internet and direct contact, and will lead him to one address – which is Al-Qaeda.

"The solution may be to create another address, since the notion of jihad and aid to the Syrian people is not a fundamentally wrong. It is Al-Qaeda's presence [in Syria] that has caused governments that identify with the Syrian people to ban their citizens not only from joining in the fighting [against Assad] but even from volunteering for aid activity, which could attract many enthusiastic youths. The experience in Afghanistan in the 1980s was successful, despite the attempts by some people to twist it today. I say this out of knowledge and experience. [This experiment] did not deviate from its path until the appearance of takfiri and jihadi streams that did an injustice to Salafi ideology by associating themselves with it.

"Most of those who took part in that stage returned to their homelands calm and moderate and gained a positive reputation. They are [certainly] jihad fighters, but, as befitting jihad fighters, they eschewed exaggeration and violations, [and] they respected their governments and public order. They matured into moderate and serious middle aged men, and they can take part in a project for containing these youths and protecting them from deviation and from falling into Al-Qaeda's trap. Moreover, with support from clerics, they may even succeed in starting a dialogue with the moderate forces in Al-Qaeda, such as Jabhat Al-Nusra, who has also realized the exaggerated extremism of the actions of ISIS, and restore them to the middle path that can contain us all. This will be another round of the war against terror via an ideological struggle that will help dismantle the ideological framework of Al-Qaeda.

"This program does not need to be [officially] declared and it does not require funding, since it can fund itself. It is enough to supervise it from a distance and divert attention away from it, and later supervise it like we did in Afghanistan. No one can tell us that this is an Afghanization of Syria, since Afghanization has already occurred in Syria. It is true that this is a crazy idea, but isn't everything that is happening in Syria crazy?"[12]

Khashoggi On Democracy

For Yemen And Other Arab Republics, Liberal Democracy Is Crucial; Saudi Arabia And The Gulf Can Afford To Defer The Transition To Democracy

In an October 4, 2014 article titled "Liberal Democracy is the Solution for Yemen and Other [Arab Countries]," published in the Saudi daily Al-Hayat, Khashoggi prescribed liberal democracy as the only possible cure for Yemen and other Arab countries wracked by civil war, and recommended that Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states sponsor their transition to democracy. Acknowledging that this smacks of contradiction, since Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states are not democratic themselves, he explained that these countries are not in a state of collapse and can therefore afford to defer their adoption of democracy.

"For The Arab Republics Democracy Is Not A Choice, But A Necessity... That Can Save Them… From Civil Wars And Complete Disintegration"

Khashoggi wrote: "It was only natural for the Gulf interior ministers to meet in Jeddah last Wednesday to discuss the situation in their backyard, Yemen; in fact, they left it quite late. What has happened in Yemen are the result of non-intervention that has been going on for years, and of settling for the famous Gulf initiative[13]  without addressing its details. The meeting yielded a general [closing] statement that warned Iran against intervening [in Yemen], [expressed] support for the collapsing Yemeni government, and condemned the use of arms. However, it provided no magical recipe [for solving the crisis in] Yemen.

"The truth is that the only magical recipe for Yemen and other Arab republics is democracy, but I do not expect either the Gulf Cooperation Council or even the Arab League to propose this explicitly, for most Arab countries have problems with democracy that must be addressed by decision-makers before being addressed by the intellectuals and the political elites, which have collapsed as part of the general collapse of many Arab countries. No one in the Arab world has presented an alternative project instead of war, military confrontations, pleas, condemnations and wishes.

"The Gulf states said they 'would not stand idly by in the face of sectarian foreign intervention in Yemen,' and the meaning of this is clear: [they are referring] to Iran. However, Iran will not take over Yemen completely unless the Houthis consolidate their control over it. Preventing this via direct intervention means either war, which nobody wants, or supporting some other [Yemeni] party against them, which means civil war in Yemen. Civil war will not benefit the Gulf states or the [Saudi] kingdom or their stability.

"Therefore, only the magic wand of democracy will prevent the Houthis from taking exclusive control of Yemen and protect it from sliding into a civil war that will destroy everything and will have a negative impact on Yemen's neighbors, especially on Saudi Arabia, which shares the longest borders with Yemen."

"Some might say [this is] a suggestion full of contradictions, for Saudi Arabia [itself] is not democratic, and the Yemeni people [likewise] does not know how to practice democracy and government turnover. However, for the Arab republics democracy is not a choice, but a necessity. It's the only cure that can save them - not from the state of backwardness, corruption and tyranny… but from the much greater danger of civil wars and complete disintegration. It's [a choice between] democracy or civil war. The autocrats who ruled Yemen, Libya, Syria, Iraq and Egypt under the false guise of democracy, and used their security services to enforce [false] stability in their countries, will not return after being toppled in the genuine popular revolutions of 2011. Clear evidence of this is the internecine fighting that is currently destroying Syria, Iraq and Libya… These three countries would have avoided this fate if they had only accepted liberal democracy, willingly or by force..."

Saying That Arabs Are Not Ready For Democracy Is An Excuse That Means Evading The Only Solution Left To Them; Learning Democracy Will Be Painful, But Avoiding It Will Be Worse

"As for the excuse that the people are not ready for democracy, it means evading the only solution left to the wretched people. The truth is that, even if the people were not well-versed in democracy (which is the fault of the corrupt regimes that governed them), they have rapidly learnt it. Proof of this was the high voter turnout [in the elections that took place] in the Arab countries that freed themselves of tyranny in the 2011 revolutions. Even better proof is post-Saddam Iraq. The ones who failed and proved to be unready for democracy are the political elites and intellectuals, who didn't accept the results [of the elections] and [instead] incited strife in their societies, mobilized the masses [in support of] their selfish desires, emptied democracy of its essence and advantages, and sought shelter [beneath the wings of] the very tyranny they once complained of, be it military, sectarian or tribal [tyranny]. They are the ones who need to learn democracy, not the citizens whom they call 'mobs' just because they did not vote for them.

"Yes, we lack a culture of awareness when it comes to democracy. This is an old-new crisis that is linked to the problem of the balance between 'proper governance' and the [principle of] not coming out agaisnt the ruler, which is [part of] the Islamic shari'a. This is what caused incompatibility with democracy, despite the early [democratic] approaches, from the Ottoman state[14] to the Khedivate of Egypt,[15] attempts that failed until the advent of the 2011 revolutions and that continue to fail, and there are still some among us who say that democracy does not suit us. This culture of rejecting or disparaging democracy gave birth to people who not only regard democracy as heresy, but also accuse people of heresy and kill them for accepting or practicing it. Our crisis with democracy is greater than we think. Learning it and accepting it will be painful, but fleeing from it [and choosing] civil war will be even more painful.

"Lest we give up and capitulate to those who advocate postponing democracy until the people learn it, we must remember that, [even] in Europe, democracy did not crystallize in its current form until the 19th century, and stabilized only after decades of struggle…"

Saudi Arabia Is Not In A State Of Collapse That Necessitates The Cure Of Democracy

"The other contradiction [has to do with the question of] how Saudi Arabia can sponsor a transition to democracy in Yemen and other wretched Arab republics when it itself is not democratic? The contradiction here is theoretical and philosophical, but in practice there is no contradiction, for Saudi Arabia is not in a state of rot and collapse that necessitates this 'medicine'… However, for the [Arab] republics, this 'medicine' is a must. It's the only solution the various sides can agree on [despite] having different programs for the country. Democracy means struggle and competition, but without arms, or at least without civil war, [though] no one can guarantee that the sides in Yemen will not resort to arms from time to time…

"The Houthis will not complete their takeover of Yemen except through civil war, and their rivals will not be able to get rid of them except through civil war. Libya’s General Haftar will not be able to eradicate the [Muslim] Brotherhood in the country except by continuing the current civil war, and the Brotherhood will not be able to eliminate him except by winning this civil war. The same goes for Iraq, Syria and other countries. The only solution is for them to sit together under the sponsorship of a big brother – if not the stable Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries then the United States or the European Union (as happened in Libya) – and under a banner saying 'disagree all you want, but avoid war and killing.' Then they will lay down sound foundations for elections, government turnover, and commitment to democracy. The alternative is war, as is happening now."

"The only side that is not invited to partake in democracy is the Salafi takfiri [stream], currently embodied by the Islamic State [ISIS]. ISIS rejects democracy in principle, accuses those who accept it of heresy, and allows their killing. I mentioned them here as a reminder that they are another ugly alternative to democracy, besides civil war."[16]

Khashoggi On Syria, Iran

As evident from the above article, Khashoggi was a critic of the Bashar Al-Assad regime in Syria. He was  also a firm opponent of the Iranian regime.

Syria is no longer regarded as the northern part of the Arabian Peninsula and of the Arab [region], but has been forced to become part of the [Shi'ite] continuum

On December 16, 2007 he responded to statements made several days earlier by Syrian Vice President Farouq Al-Shar'. The latter said that Syria's supporters in Lebanon were in a better position than they had been when Syrian forces were in Lebanon, since they constituted a "real force on the ground." Khashoggi wrote in response that Saudi Arabia might increase its pressure on the Syrian regime by tightening its relations with "influential circles" inside and outside Syria, in order to accelerate the change that must take place within the country. He also condemned Syria's close ties with Iran.

He wrote: "Are the Syrian homeland and people about to return to the Arab fold? There are clear indications that this may be so, [among them] the historical forces that are at work within [Syria], the climate of openness towards the world, the fall of totalitarian regimes, and the rise of a market economy – as well as the mistakes of the [Syrian] regime.

"Mistakes are never a good thing, but they are worse when they come at a bad time. The Syrian regime has made many such mistakes, some of them so severe that they are on a par with the sin of Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. Time has passed, and Saddam Hussein has paid [for this sin], despite his numerous maneuvers [in an attempt to avoid it]... Other mistakes [by the Syrian regime] have been less grave, but they come on top of [Syria's] greatest sin [namely, the Al-Hariri assassination], which should not be spoken about until the international tribunal [for the Al-Hariri assassination] completes its task. I am referring to the careless remarks by [Syrian] Vice-President Farouq Al-Shar' against the Saudi government and people – remarks that increase the isolation of his [already] isolated regime. But since history works in mysterious ways, [these statements] may be precisely the factor that tips the scales as far as the hesitant attitude towards Syria's future is concerned.

"The strongest force in the region [i.e. Saudi Arabia] is likely to increase its pressure [on the Syrian regime], and formulate a new policy of strengthening its mutual ties with the influential forces inside and outside Syria, thereby accelerating the wheels of history and [hastening] the crucial change that must take place [in Syria] – until it reaches its ultimate end.

"Farouq Al-Shar's statement of a few days ago, [namely] that the partition of Iraq may bring about the partition of the Saudi kingdom, are a provocation not only to the Saudi [state] but also to the Saudi citizen. Had some mercenary journalist written this in a paper of unknown affiliation, it would not have been a problem... But [it is a different matter] when this statement is made by a man with considerable experience as foreign minister, who is supposed to be wise and meticulous in protecting Syrian's foreign relations – especially [its relations] with the strongest and most influential country in the region, which is closely monitored by the Syrians for every signal regarding their country and possible changes within it.

"Such a man undoubtedly harms the interests of his regime; on the other hand, he may [ultimately] help tip the scales, and serve the interests of the Syrian homeland and people by accelerating the slow progress of history, in light of the circumstances and tensions currently prevailing in the region, which Syria and its security apparatuses can proudly count among their achievements – if their actions in Iraq and Lebanon can, in fact, be regarded as 'achievements.'

"Syria has been living under emergency [law] for several decades now – a situation that has gradually worsened and has alienated this Arab and Muslim [country] from its natural environment. Syria is no longer regarded as the northern part of the Arabian Peninsula and of the Arab [region], but has been forced to become part of the [Shi'ite] continuum.

"[My words] should not be taken as an objection to friendship between Syria and Iran. After all, Saudi Arabia itself maintains good relations with Iran, as well as economic and cultural openness towards [this country]. But Syria is flesh of our flesh, and we are flesh of its flesh, and nobody has the right to force a relationship upon it that is alien to its natural historical, national, and religious [identity].

"Let us be frank – Syria's history and origins are not Persian, and it is not Shi'ite in its [religious identity]... It is a Sunni [country]: Its history is interwoven with our own, and the clans [that inhabit it] are related to those living in Saudi Arabia. Syria is the land of Salah Al-Din and Ibn Taymiyya,[17] and its future therefore lies with us – the Arabs of the Arabian Peninsula, Syria, and Egypt."[18]

Unless Saudi Arabia Acts Immediately To Remove Assad From Power, 'Nightmare' Of 'Shi'ite Crescent' May Materialize

In his June 15 column in the London-based Saudi daily Al-Hayat, Khashoggi was much more direct in his criticism of the Syrian and Iranian regimes. He painted a frightening picture of what the Middle East might look like if Bashar Al-Assad wins the war in Syria. He wrote that if that happens, the "nightmare" of the Arab Sunnis will materialize, namely the emergence of a "Shi'ite Crescent": a continuum of Shi'ite-ruled countries stretching from Iran through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon. This, in turn, will strengthen Iran in the regional and international arena, and cause an outbreak of sectarian tension in Saudi Arabia and the spread of religious extremism, and thus pose a real threat to Saudi Arabia's national security.

In light of this, Khashoggi stated that Saudi Arabia must prevent an Iranian victory in Syria at all costs. To this end, it must form a coalition of countries under its leadership that will return Syria to the Arab fold. He stressed that Saudi Arabia must do this even if the U.S. does not join this coalition, because its security is at stake.

He wrote: 

"When the concept 'the Shi'ite Crescent' was coined, years ago,[19]  it was out of [fear] of a [possible] Iranian expansion through the Arab East. Currently, following the major defeat sustained by the countries of the region in the battle for [the Syrian city] of Al-Qusayr… the [Shi'ite] Crescent is about to become an ambitious political axis extending from Tehran to Beirut, via Baghdad and Damascus."

If Assad Wins, Iran Will Build The Tehran-Damascus Railway And The Abadan-Tartus Oil And Gas Pipelines

"The Iranian Petroleum Ministry will [now] pull out maps from its drawers in order to lay the Iranian Abadan-Tartus oil and gas pipelines, and the Iranian Railway Authority will pull out other maps in order to build a rail line from Tehran to Damascus or even Beirut. Why not? This will be their [golden] era… It would be quite natural for [Iran] to consolidate its victory on the ground by solidifying this triumphant axis into a joint political-economic-military system [under its control].

"The [Supreme] Leader of the [Iranian] revolution, the Jurisprudent Ayatollah Khamenei, will fulfill his dream of delivering a sermon from the pulpit the Ummayad Mosque [in Damascus],[20] and will announce [from that pulpit] that he has united [the world of] Islam just as he long promised to do. He will dramatically descend from the pulpit to pat the head of some poor Damascene boy in order to demonstrate the 'tolerance of the strong,' and then he will stand alongside some white-robed and white-turbaned Syrian Sunni clerics... take their hands in his own and raise them skywards, to a storm of flashing cameras that will capture this historic moment for posterity. [Supreme] Leader [Khamenei] will then promise that his next prayer, or that of his successor, will take place in Jerusalem...

"That very day a major ceremony will take place in the recently restored Damascus Palace – still bearing the scars of war – to mark the signing of a joint defense pact between the leaders of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, while the [Supreme] Leader will stand behind them, smiling in acknowledgement of the greatness of the moment and perhaps also [sensing] the presence of the long-awaited Hidden Imam conferring his blessing upon the pact."

Assad Will Be Nothing But A Representative Of Khamenei

"Let us return southwards, towards Riyadh. [It will be] quiet and gray but apprehensive over the victory of [Bashar] Al-Assad and his allies, knowing that it is a victory of Iran and of Khomeini's old plan, rather than a victory of Bashar [Al-Assad], who will have become nothing more than a representative of the Jurisprudent [Khamenei] in Damascus. [Riyadh] will also be concerned about the growing Iranian activity in its vicinity: it will fear for the fate of Bahrain and be alarmed that the Houthi [rebels] have [managed to] take over half of old North Yemen without meeting any opposition, while South Yemen, whose residents have [always] been Saudi Arabia's traditional allies, is [also] being eaten away by Iran.

"The plans for Gulf unity will vanish, and some of the Gulf states will even begin making efforts to appease Tehran in order to preserve the little sovereignty they will have left. The idea of the Arab Common Market and the Fertile Crescent Plan will be shelved, and likewise the idea of reviving the Hijaz Railway stretching from Istanbul to Mecca via Syria and Jordan. Even the Europeans will forget their old sanctions [against Iran] and begin purchasing Iranian oil, which will reach them via the Abadan-Tartus pipeline. [In fact,] they will begin talking with Iran about linking the European gas network to the Iranian network – for people always prefer to maintain ties with the victors.

"And in the domestic [Saudi] arena, young people will be filled with anger, sensing that the governments of the region have failed to check the Iranian plan, and this will spark a great deal of sectarian tension. The economic pressures only pour more oil on the fire. [Moreover,] extremist [religious] ideas will spread and preoccupy the security apparatuses..."

Saudi Arabia Must Form A Coalition To Prevent This Scenario – With Or Without The U.S.

"A nightmare, wouldn't you say? Therefore I believe that Saudi Arabia in particular will in no way allow an Iranian victory in Syria. The Iranian presence there has been massive ever since the signing of the pact between [former president] Hafez Al-Assad and the Islamic Revolution, immediately following the triumph [of the latter] 40 years ago. However, [while] the might of the Syrian regime [under Hafez Al-Assad] allowed a modicum of [Syrian] balance and independence, his son [Bashar], who owes a debt of gratitude to the Iranians and Hizbullah for the fact that he's still alive and rules even over a devastated country, has become a subject of Tehran and is no [longer] an equal partner [to it]. This is the moment where the Iranian presence in Syria and Lebanon has become a clear threat to both Saudi and Turkish national security.

"The security of Saudi Arabia is currently in the balance, and therefore it has no option but to take action, even [if it has to act] alone. It would be best if the U.S. joined a coalition headed by Saudi Arabia, whose objective would be to depose Bashar and restore Syria to the bosom of the Arab [world], but this should not constitute a precondition for action. Saudi Arabia should lead anyone who is prepared to join it. Let's put aside all concerns about the repercussions of the Arab Spring, the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and Turkish ambitions, and let us set ourselves the objective of rapidly ousting Bashar [Al-Assad]. This objective guarantees the rallying of the diverse forces [around it] – from the Al-Anbar tribes in Iraq, to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, in Tunisia and the Gulf states. If this happens, Turkey will find the courage to join this alliance, and in its wake will come France. The U.S. may join or not, but this is no consideration, for we are talking about our war and our security, not their security."[21]

Iran Must Pay the Price for Rejecting Saudi Arabia's Overtures of Friendship

In September 2010, against the backdrop of the frenzied diplomatic activity over Iran's nuclear dossier and the possibility of additional Security Council sanctions against Iran, Khashoggi wrote an article lambasting the "evil" Iranian regime, and stating that its intense hostility towards Saudi Arabia was preventing any understanding between the two countries. He added that Iran must pay the price for rejecting Saudi Arabia's overtures of friendship, implying that the Saudis should support the imposing of sanctions on Iran.

"Can We Trust Iran?"

"Those who believe in [drastic measures] have suggested, as the ultimate solution, replacing the regime in Tehran and [letting] the world stop the evil that emanates from there. They argue that Iran's [behavior is characterized by] maneuvering, hypocrisy and lies, and that there is no chance it will ever change. [However,] ask any Saudi official about solutions of this sort, and he will surely answer that 'Saudi Arabia always upholds the principle of non-interference in the affairs of others, and it refuses to take part in any plan that involves interference of this sort...'

"[But tell me,] can Saudi Arabia's cultural project, which is founded upon [principles of] moderation, good neighborliness, Islamic solidarity, and dialogue with the world co-exist with Iran's Islamic Revolution and its established ideals? To put it more briefly – can we trust Iran?

"We have tried many [different] ways of dealing with the [Islamic] Revolution regime. At first, [this regime] was openly hostile to Saudi Arabia, its history and its leadership, inciting against it and calling to topple its regime. During the Khomeini era, the hostility between the two countries peaked, to the point of bloodshed in Mecca, and Saudi planes shooting down Iranian planes over the Arabian Gulf.

"All this ended when [the Iranians] turned to reconciliation. King 'Abdallah, who was still crown prince at the time, did not hesitate to turn over a new leaf with [Iran, because] Saudi Arabia's [policy] has always been founded upon good neighborliness, dedication to maintaining stability, and hatred of war. Then came several good years in which high-level visits were exchanged, security agreements were signed, and trade fairs [were held]; the two countries exchanged [their staple export products], dates and pistachios, and Iranian pilgrims became welcome guests [in Mecca]. This was in the era of [former Iranian presidents] Khatami and Rafsanjani.

"[But then] came Ahmadinejad, who wreaks vengeance even on his own people. He has divided Iranian society to the point of clashes in the streets. The rhetoric of revolutionary [notions] and conspiracy [theories] has returned, and relations between Sunnis and Shi'ites in Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen have become tense. Hatred has mounted to the point of the shedding of innocent blood, and ancient enmities have reemerged.

"The revolutionary rhetoric has returned [to Iran]. If Saudi Arabia's discourse is grounded in 'good neighborliness, dedication to maintaining stability, and hatred of war,' is Iran's discourse founded upon 'revolution and a striving for hegemony?' [Apparently so, because] the speeches of Supreme Leader [Ali] Khamenei brim over with this kind of rhetoric..."

"We Must Refrain from Thinking Well of the Iranians"

"Ahmadinejad and his cronies prove that Iran has failed to embrace [moderation], and, moreover, that it is willing to fight its own people, to kill them in the streets of Tehran, to prosecute them, to degrade them, and to execute them – even those who played an honorable role in the Revolution or in [ruling] the state. If that is [how they treat] their own people, how will they treat those who do not share their [Shi'ite] faith, and whom they regard as an obstacle to their expansionist dreams and their Mahdist mission?

"Here is [an example of] an honest revolutionary Iranian position, neither obscured nor disguised by taqiyya.[22]  The number two man [sic][23]  in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps [was born] during the era of [Iranian] moderation. His father, guided by Allah in the correct path, named him Mir Faisal, perhaps in honor of [Saudi] King Faisal, who based his political plan for inter-Muslim cooperation upon [the principle of] Islamic solidarity. But now the son has had enough of moderation, and a few days ago he announced, in an official statement in the Iranian media, that he had changed his name to Seyyed Mohammad, in order to avoid any connection to the House of Saud [the Saudi royal family]. His announcement also included a series of allegations, [accusing] Saudi Arabia of waging war against Islam and its sanctities, of being in league with the imperialists, and of sowing division and dissent among the Muslims who are combating heresy and polytheism!

"[And] this man does not belong to the [Iranian] lunatic fringe, nor is he an imam in a neighborhood mosque. He message is well within the framework [of the accepted Iranian ideology]. Even his president could not denounce it or tell him that his announcement was unacceptable, let alone fire him for sowing dissent and harming a sister-country. In fact, even the leaders of the opposition did not condemn him, but said only that [his statements had been] 'inappropriately timed.'

"After all this, can we trust [this] regime whose leaders boast [that they can] topple our regime, and who even conspire to do so? We must always refrain from thinking well of [the Iranians] and from treating them gently – [especially] in the upcoming days that may bring developments that will cut them down to size and bring them to their senses. This is a fateful war not with our neighbors, the Iranian people, but with the revolution that refuses to mature. Saudi Arabia extended its hand in brotherhood, but they rejected it, and now they must pay the considerable price."[24]

The Iranians Do Not Want To Change

In late 2013, responding to the growing rapprochement between the U.S. and Iran, Khashoggi took a milder tone. He rejecting some Saudis' automatic objection to any warming of U.S.-Iran relations, stating that reconciliation with Iran could benefit both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. At the same time, he warned that Iran does not really mean to change or to stop its nuclear program.

He wrote:    The many articles condemning the rapprochement and the Iranian regime led journalist Jamal Khashoggi to criticize the negative Saudi discourse. He wrote: "Whenever American-Iranian political rapprochement looms on the horizon, we panic... Some of us might go to the extent of thinking a 'conspiracy' is being hatched; others might believe that there is a hidden alliance and cooperation between the two countries... at the expense of our interests and rights. I believe that we all need psychotherapy sessions and lessons in realpolitik so we can recover our self-confidence... Reconciliation with Iran is in the interest of everyone and we should look forward to it more than the Americans. Reconciliation... with Iran is now more possible than ever, but the problem is the Iranians because they are the only ones who do not want to change. They want to exploit all the previous changes to promote their policy; for instance, negotiating on their nuclear project means that we will continue to negotiate and they will continue with their project..."[25]

Jamal Khashoggi Discusses Editorial Policy Of Al-Arab TV, Criticizes Saudi Treatment Of Raif Badawi

In January 2015, on the eve of the launching of Al-Arab TV, a Bahrain-based Saudi channel owned by Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, Khashoggi, who was to be the channel's chief editor, discussed the channel's editorial policy. He said that it would stick to journalistic standards of objectivity and refrain from using terms like "martyrs." He also criticized the harsh treatment of liberal blogger Raif Badawi by Saudi authorities. One day hours after its launching, the channel went off air following an interview with Khalil Al-Marzooq, a member of the Bahraini opposition. Al-Arab TV claimed that the channel was closed due to "technical reasons." The following are transcripts from the Rotana Kalijiyya TV interview, which aired on January 30, 2015.

For a MEMRI TV clip of the interview, click the player below:

Interviewer: Let's talk about terminology and your editorial policy. Some people say "killed," while others say "martyred." Some say "ISIS," while others talk about the "Islamic State." Some use the term "aggression," while others say "attack." How will you deal with this?

Jamal Khashoggi: We held discussions about this, and I was very much in favor of adopting the same professional standards to which all independent newspapers and news agencies adhere. Killed or martyred? It is up to Allah to decide…

Interviewer: So we will not hear talk about martyrs?

Jamal Khashoggi: They are martyrs in the eyes of the Lord.

Interviewer: So we will not hear the word "martyr"?

Jamal Khashoggi: No, because it is a matter of perspective. Why should one person be "martyred" and another "killed"? Am I supposed to call a Saudi soldier who is killed a "martyr," but when the casualty is Egyptian, I should only say "killed"?

Interviewer: When Saudi soldiers are killed like the ones killed by ISIS in 'Arar – won't you call them "martyrs"?

Jamal Khashoggi: An independent TV channel should not call anyone a "martyr" in the news. The legal term is "killed."

Interviewer: What about people killed in Palestine, to whom the entire nation refers as "martyrs killed by Israeli aggression"?

Jamal Khashoggi: Perhaps we will call them "victims of an Israeli attack," but I would prefer to refrain from using the term "martyrs." It is very difficult to maintain one's neutrality, as one should, although I cannot be entirely neutral when my country or my Palestinian brother is attacked.

Interviewer: What will be your position regarding crises involving Saudi Arabia? Will you defend Saudi Arabia and its interests, or will you just broadcast the news as is? At the end of the day, your cannel is owned by a Saudi, with a Saudi CEO, and a Saudi editor-in-chief and general manager, which is you.

Jamal Khashoggi: Saudi Arabia has official TV channels that do all that. Given that the channel's owner and manager are Saudis, our sentiments will naturally lie with our country if, God forbid, it is attacked…

Interviewer: What will the viewers see on their screens?

Jamal Khashoggi: They will see the news, but we will always try to avoid propaganda.


There are some good people who support reform in Saudi Arabia. They did not take up arms and did not harm anybody, yet they found themselves in prison and received [harsh] sentences. It is my hope that the king will review their cases. Saudi Arabia does not need to be cited by the world as a country that holds prisoners of conscience.

Anyone who takes up arms against the country or the regime deserves to be tried in a court of law, but a person who loves this country but holds reformist views – we should accept him. Take, for example, the mistake… Let's not say "mistake"… Take, for example, the story of Raif Badawi. Look what damage has been done to the reputation of Saudi Arabia for something that should not have happened in the first place.

Interviewer: According to the official statement, he was involved in affronts against Allah and the Prophet Muhammad. Don't you think that in this case, he deserves the sentence?

Jamal Khashoggi: This is what the official statement said, but he said in his defense that he was the administrator of a website, and could not be held responsible for everything posted there. They could have done things differently, while still holding him accountable. 1,000 lashes?! The Prophet Muhammad said that no one should receive more than 10. We could have done without this.

Interviewer: Do you hope that the king's amnesty will include Raif Badawi?

Jamal Khashoggi: Yes. We can do without this and similar cases, which take their toll on us. Some say: "What do we care what the rest of the world thinks?" So why did we care so much when Obama visited Saudi Arabia? We are a part of this world, and we interconnect with it. The world is important to us. We have allies in the world.


Interviewer: Will your channel agree to air an interview with Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, for example?

Jamal Khashoggi: If Al-Baghdadi agreed, we would interview him first thing tomorrow morning.

Interviewer: You would?

Jamal Khashoggi: Yes, I would deal with him professionally, as a journalist. That would be a scoop. Everybody would be talking about us.



[5] In October 2004, the Mufti of Saudi Arabia issued a fatwa forbidding the use of mobile phones equipped with cameras. However, after such phones were smuggled into the country and sold there, several government ministries recommended that their use be permitted, and the recommendation was accepted. Insurance is quite new in Saudi Arabia. Motor vehicle insurance was introduced in 2002, and health insurance bylaws were approved in July 2003.

[7] Sabq (Saudi Arabia), July 23, 2012.

[8] Minbar Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad was a leading Salafi-Jihadi website. The site's Shari'a committee, led by Sheikh Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi, was a primary source of authority for extremist Salafis around the world.

[9] Abu Mundhir Al-Shinqiti was a member of the Shari'a committee of Minbar Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad, and published dozens of fatwas on various topics over the years, many of which deal with calls for jihad and encouraging terrorist attacks, including suicide bombings.

[10] Referring to a hadith that states that one who dies fighting for the banner of tribal zealotry dies an infidel.

[11] Abu Basir Al-Tartusi is an exiled Syrian Salafi-jihadi sheikh living in Britain; Ahmed Al-Naqib and Abu Ishaq Al-Heweny are Egyptian Salafi sheikhs.

[13] The Gulf Cooperation Council initiative, proposed in April 2011, called for President Ali Saleh to transfer his powers to Vice President Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi in return for immunity from prosecution. Saleh signed the deal in November of that year, but it ultimately failed to bring quiet to the country.

[14] Khashoggi is apparently referring to the Tanzimat reforms promulgated by Sultan Abdülmecid in 1839 as the Ottoman Empire's belated response to the American and French Revolutions and European liberalism. The reforms were intended to protect the citizen's life and property from governmental arbitrariness.

[15] Isma'il the Khedive, viceroy of Egypt between 1863-1879, attempted to reform the country culturally, economically and politically including by forming a representative assembly.

[17] Salah Al-Din Al-Ayyoubi (1138-1193) is the founder of the Ayyubid dynasty in Egypt and Syria; Ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328) was a prominent Sunni Islamic scholar who lived in Harran, today a region in Turkey near the Syrian border.

[19] The term was coined in 2004 by Jordan's King 'Abdallah II in an interview with the Washington Post. In this interview he warned of an Iranian attempt to form a "Shi'ite Crescent" stretching from Iran through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon, which would upset the traditional balance of power between the Sunnis and Shi’ites.

[20] This is the fourth largest mosque following those in Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem.

[22] Taqiyya is a Shi'ite principle of hiding one's true beliefs in the company of non-Shi'ites.

[23] The officer in question is an IRGC official, but not the number two man in the organization.

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