Impeachment Shouldn’t Overshadow Saudi Scandals

On Thursday night The Daily Beast published a report describing an alleged kidnapping attempt by an agent of the Saudi government on American soil. The victim of the attempted abduction is Abdulrahman Almutairi, a Saudi citizen who came to America as a student and now works as a social media commentator and comedian.

Almutairi is also an inadvertent dissident. When he first arrived in America he was a supporter of the Saudi regime and he welcomed the ascension of Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, who is now the de facto ruler of the oil-rich monarchy. Almutairi only became a critic when he became convinced that Bin Salman had ordered the assassination of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed in the Saudi consulate in Turkey in October 2018.

After he started speaking out against the Saudi regime, Almutairi became the target of both online abuse and mysterious threatening messages. According to The Daily Beast, within weeks of the Khashoggi assassination, the FBI intercepted two men traveling to Los Angeles to make an unannounced visit to Almutairi. One was Almutairi’s father, the other someone not known to Almutairi but suspected by him of being a Saudi government agent.

This incident happened during a period when the FBI was warning other Saudi dissidents living in America that their lives were under threat from forces within Saudi Arabia. The Saudi embassy was contacted by the Daily Beast about Almutairi’s allegation, which is backed up by independent sources, but did not respond.

The Almutairi story followed quickly on the heels of multiple media reports that Jeff Bezos, head of Amazon and owner of The Washington Post had his iPhone was hacked thanks to malware sent to him by Mohammed Bin Salman.

In May 2018, the Crown Prince sent Bezos a WhatsApp message containing a video of Saudi and Swedish flags. According to The New York Times, “The video, a file of more than 4.4 megabytes, was more than it appeared, according to a forensic analysis that Mr. Bezos commissioned and paid for to discover who had hacked his iPhone X. Hidden in that file was a separate bit of code that most likely implanted malware that gave attackers access to Mr. Bezos’ entire phone, including his photos and private communications.” After the hack, personal information about Bezos appeared in the tabloid magazine The National Enquirer, known to have ties to both Donald Trump and Bin Salman (the owners of the gossip sheet published a special journal to celebrate Bin Salman’s May 2018 visit to America).

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