Over the weekend, my wife and I were talking about how the Saudi assassination team must be terrified right now. After all, if the crown prince ordered Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, and he feels the need to deny it, the lives of those goons aren’t worth a plug Riyal. And if he didn’t order the murder, and these guys freelanced it, well, ditto.
It looks like that’s the way things are heading. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Saudis are thinking about saying that “rogue killers” took out Jamal Khashoggi in an interrogation gone wrong.
New: The Saudi government is considering saying that rogue operatives killed Jamal Khashoggi by mistake in an interrogation gone wrong https://t.co/LotfzuwH4l
— Capital Journal (@WSJPolitics) October 15, 2018
President Trump seems to be working from the same talking points as well.
Some minor strategic-communications advice for the Saudis: Either say that’s what happened or don’t say it. Floating a trial balloon that you might say it telegraphs the impression that you’re just fishing for a cover story. And it’s a pretty crappy cover story. What kind of “interrogation” ends with the subject’s death? Not the kind with very pointed questions and a bit too much shouting. That’s not to say that it can’t be true. But framing it in an almost Monty Python–esque “Would you believe . . . ?” way is almost the perfect way to get people not to believe it.