Jamal Khashoggi was honest in his criticisms of the Saudi government but underplayed some of the complexities in the kingdom and the challenges that the crown prince had to overcome. He was also an apparatchik in the system—the editor of a newspaper owned by the royal family—but was not a threat. His murder was a criminal overreaction by elements within the kingdom’s security apparatus. The government is taking the investigation into his killing seriously but has not received cooperation from the Turkish government. For example, the kingdom has opened the trial to foreign ambassadors even though publicizing the names of defendants is not permitted under Saudi law unless they are convicted. The interrogation and return of Jamal Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia may have been authorized but what transpired was an unauthorized off-the-grid operation carried out by an ad hoc security service team not intelligence professionals. It is not right that Jamal felt forced to leave the kingdom in order to speak freely but Saudi Arabia is undergoing wrenching cultural, social, and religious reform. Freedom of speech has contracted but this is because the crown prince is taking on the conservative religious classes. These individuals are aggressively opposed to reform, including the crown prince’s efforts to empower women socially and economically and moderate the kingdom’s religious message, and have successfully overthrown reformers elsewhere in the region. The government’s arrest of many activists, particularly female driving activists, was a big mistake. I anticipate that some of these dissidents will be released over the next few months.

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