The West Marks Anniversary of Khashoggi's Murder By Resuming Business as Usual with Saudi Arabia | Opinion

If ever the phrase "Do as I say, not as I do" should be applied today it would be to describe those politicians heading to Saudi Arabia next week for the financial summit dubbed "Davos in the Desert."

A year ago the ruling class—along with many business leaders—largely stayed away from the event such was the worldwide revulsion at the murder and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi just three weeks earlier.

"These individuals who targeted and brutally killed a journalist who resided and worked in the United States must face consequences for their actions," said the US Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, one of those who pulled out.

Fast forward twelve months. The cloud of suspicion for the killing hangs over the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), more than ever. There has been no "Justice for Jamal": a court hearing with 11 people on trial is not being held in public, none of the suspects are named and the whereabouts of ringleader Saud al-Qahtani remains a mystery.

Even more damning for Mr Bone Saw were the conclusions by both the CIA and the UN Special Rapporteur that he most likely ordered the killing.

And yet, despite the apparent growing culpability of MBS, many politicians have now decided it's somehow all right to turn up at the financial summit on Tuesday.

Maybe they feel enough time has passed. But does the revulsion we feel at a crime of this magnitude really diminish over time? Do we become so inured to cold blooded murder that we cease to care?

Or are politicians just different to us, reaching a point when they judge the benefits outweigh the risk of engaging with someone who has become a pariah on the international stage.

Among those now beating a path to Mohammed bin Salman's tent are not only that same Mr Mnuchin but also Donald Trump's son-in-law and foreign policy adviser, Jared Kushner, and the former prime ministers of no less than four countries.

Kushner's own view is that while he does not "dispute" American intelligence's conclusion that MBS was behind Khashoggi's death, the important thing to do now is to prioritize America's foreign policy interests.

In other words, yes, MBS did a bad thing but, hey, life goes on and we need to look after Number One.

The same morally dubious view is presumably shared by the former prime ministers of Britain, France, Italy and Australia, who will also be there.

Quite what David Cameron, Francois Fillon, Matteo Renzi and Kevin Rudd think they're gong to achieve apart from banking a nice cheque and helping Saudi Arabia with its PR ahead of its hosting of the G20 Summit in 2020, I do not know.

Hosting the G20 summit? It's been less than a year since that famous G20 gathering in Argentina—two months after Khashoggi's murder—when MBS was so toxic that none of the leaders would be seen shaking his hand—apart from Vladimir Putin, of course, who was all hugs and grins.

And now The Toxic One is hosting the next G20.

So much for those "serious consequences" that politicians like the-then British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said Saudi Arabia should face for Khashoggi's murder.

Only Germany stuck to its guns, cancelling arms deals with Riyadh—much to the anger of Britain and France whose own deals were damaged because they relied on German parts.

Just as Donald Trump said he didn't want to fall out with the Saudis over Khashoggi's murder because the arms deals provided jobs at home, so too are these leaders' hands tied whereby they cannot afford to take a moral stand.

Amnesty International's Allan Hogarth put it bluntly when he said the West "needs to seriously re-appraise its entire relationship with Saudi Arabia, breaking free of overly-cosy relations which have previously seen ministers unwilling to publicly criticise human rights abuses in the country."

And while the politicians continue to be in hock to their Saudi paymasters they cannot claim to be the moral arbiters of the world, calling the press "fake and corrupt," when it's they who are turning a blind eye.

At least the media has been consistent in decrying the slaying of Khashoggi AND continuing to boycott "Davos in the Desert."

Fox Business Network, CNN, CNBC, Bloomberg Media, the New York Times, the Financial Times have all declined to act as media partners for the event. But, as well as the politicians, there will still be more than 40 senior executives from US firms including Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup and Blackrock, looking for new business.

This week a member of the Saudi royal family, Prince Turki Al-Faisal, had the nerve to tell congressional representatives in Washington they should get off their "high moralistic horses" for the "horror" and "disdain" they express for his country.

How many congressional leaders "have deigned to pay a visit to the kingdom?" he demanded. "Should they visit Riyadh they may learn something about universal health care, which the kingdom has provided for its citizens."

And while they're there how about a visit to one of the prisons where the women's rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul and her fellow campaigners are being tortured and detained in the most brutal way? I know a group of British MPs have been trying to do just that for months.

The Saudi authorities just don't get it.

Anthony Harwood is a former foreign editor of the Daily Mail.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.​​​​​