The work of intelligence agencies is becoming more difficult – operations that should remain secret don't remain hidden for long as they once did. Sometimes they are revealed due to the mistakes made by the perpetrators. But at times, one feels that the country behind the operation did not really try to conceal it; it wanted the operation to serve as a warning for other potential targets. In other words, some countries love to show off.
The Khashoggi assassination has already become a case study. In many cases, it is difficult, if not impossible, to find out who issued a specific intelligence operation. This is especially true when we are talking about countries where there are complex power struggles within government circles. That is why it is sometimes difficult to understand why particular actions are carried out, as the country responsible may not really benefit from them.
That is exactly what is happening in the Khashoggi case. People are trying to figure out who committed the crime, and more importantly, who gave the order. There are multiple theories that seem to exist.
Most people believe the assassination is part of the purge launched by the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (widely known as MBS) in order to silence his opponents and dissidents. Even if this is true, one has to explain why Istanbul was chosen as the crime scene. We know that the prince is against any normalization of Turkish-Saudi relations, and he accuses Turkey of maintaining a strong partnership with Iran. From that point of view, he would be pleased if Turkey's relations with the U.S. worsen. Maybe that is why Khashoggi was assassinated in Istanbul; perhaps the perpetrators planned to put the blame on Turkey somehow, but could not manage it. Either the murderers could not do it, or maybe the scenario was completely different.
The second scenario suggests that this whole story is part of a plan targeting MBS's reputation. In other words, a third party gave the order, knowing that the crown prince would be accused of it. If that is the case, one has to look at the other princes MBS discarded, such as those who were detained in a luxurious hotel in Riyadh last year. Of course, if this is what happened, then MBS should find those responsible, along with convincing evidence, and expose them in a way that the world would believe.
The third scenario is a kidnapping that did not go as planned. This scenario suggests that the crown prince ordered Khashoggi's arrest, hoping to put him in jail in Saudi Arabia. If this is the case, one cannot accuse the prince of ordering the assassination, even though he is indirectly responsible. Maybe a third party heard about the kidnapping plan and made sure it would have a bad outcome and put MBS in a difficult position with Washington.
There are many players in the U.S. and the international scene who would want to put pressure on the Trump administration and make it change its policies. Those players would not mind cornering the crown prince, knowing that a case like Khashoggi's would damage U.S.-Saudi relations. If this is what happened, identifying the real perpetrators will be very difficult indeed.
All three scenarios have something in common: We lack the information to really understanding what happened. Nevertheless, the Western public seems to have made up its minds about Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose image is now forever tainted.
Because of public pressure, all governments feel the need to take a negative stance toward Saudi Arabia now. That's why people are more curious as to what President Trump will do, as compared to the actions Riyadh will take. Trump's decisions on this matter will not only affect the future of the "glowing orb alliance," but also his own personal future. The U.S. will definitely figure on the list of those who will pay for this horrendous act.