At first glance the image, which encapsulates one of the most important and cataclysmic ruptures in the Middle East in 2018, could be dismissed as a standard Gulf photo op. Two men, one in a flowing thobe (an ankle-length Arab garment), the other in a glittering bisht (a traditional men’s cloak popular in Arab countries), shake hands in an opulent hall as a cameraman, centre-stage, captures the moment.
The picture, taken in October, is in fact just that: a photoshoot. Designed to silence a crescendo of allegations against the powerful Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the official photo went viral for all the wrong reasons. The image is of Salah Khashoggi, 35, the son of slain Saudi columnist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi, shaking hands with the crown prince, the very man believed to have ordered his father’s murder.
At the time it was three weeks after his father, a Virginia resident, had disappeared into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul: his body, according to the Turks, may have been dissolved in acid. Salah, under a travel ban in the kingdom, was summoned to the palace to receive “condolences” for his father’s death from Mohammad bin Salman who the CIA concluded orchestrated the murder, despite vehement denials from Riyadh.
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