Observers have said that Abdul Aziz Al Khamis “erupts lots of controversy but definitely has us over a barrel”.
Abdul Aziz Al Khamis’ name has been attached to media quarrels since he started working as an assistant editor after his graduation from Morris school of journalism in London in 1984.
Al Khamis started his career at Al Jazeera Saudi newspaper in 1980 before his graduation, then he worked at Al Seyassah Kuwaiti newspaper before he became an editor for Al Youm newspaper in Riyadh, then head of the economics department at Al Yamamah magazine, and then an economic editor in Al Sharq Al Awsat in Riyadh 1993.
In 1998, Khamis was named chief editor of Al Majalah magazine until 14 December 2000, when he became chief editor of the Al Moraqeb Al Arabi in 2009. Now he is the chief editor of al Arab newspaper, issued in London.
Al Majalah was the most important Arabian magazine in the 1980s and 1990s, as it was strongly connected to the Saudi lobby. It was issued by the Saudi Research and Marketing group which is deeply attached to the current Saudi king, Salman Bin Abbdul Aziz. Prince Ahmad Bin Salman was chief editor from 1989 until he died in 2002, then Prince Faisal bin Salman was nominated as a chief editor on 10 February 2013.
By the end of Khamis’ time at Al Majalah, his political opposition started to show up as it was spread among London community that he is not allowed to return to Saudi Arabia because of his opposition to the ruling regime. His name was also connected to Saad El Faqeeh, Madawy El Rasheed and other Saudi opposition figures abroad.
At this time, he was one of the known figures of the Saudi opposition on Al Jazeera TV, as he was interviewed by the channel and other London-based channels to talk about the corruption of the Saudi regime.
Khamis continued to adopt these thoughts until 2011. After incidents in Awameya, in which several civilians were killed, he wrote, “The regime doesn’t care about Sunni or Shiite, it only cares for the crown.”
Before the coup in Egypt in 2013, Khamis was one of the main figures interviewed by Al Mostaqila TV to answer the Saudi regime supporters.
The coup in Egypt was a turning point for the Saudi journalist, who defended the ousting of the first elected president in Egypt and attacked countries such as Iran and Qatar as well as political Islamists, especially Muslim Brotherhood.
Khamis has likened fallen Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi to Hitler, Mussolini and Netanyahu, and also referred to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as “the Pharaoh”. He also accused all Islamist groups of considering their opponents as all “infidels”.
Khamis wrote an article on 29 August 2013 in which he addressed the Qatari foreign minister and criticised Qatari opposition to the coup in Egypt. “Does the minister, on whose TV channels people are weeping over Al Adaweyah’s democracy and legitimacy, not know the alphabet of democracy or legitimacy?” he said.
His new direction went on until he described the Riyadh Summit in 2017 as having “shaken Iran, uncovered Qatar’s real face and revealed their real relationship with terrorism.”
It was not a surprise that he described Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE and Bahrain’s boycott of Qatar as a brave decision, not for its details but for its real meaning that they would stand against terrorism no matter what.
His positions reflected internal Saudi affairs as well, as he celebrated the loss of what was called the 15th September movement, and he said, “I didn’t pay attention to that movement for a simple reason, that our people have a great ability to defeat anyone who is trying to threaten their security and stability, the homeland will stay standing and invincible.”
He announced his surprise return to the homeland after 19 years outside Saudi Arabia alleging that he had not been able to come back as he was not granted permission for publishing a magazine – not for any political reason.
He moved from dissenter to supporter, and the preacher for the current crown prince, calling for the transformation of Saudi Arabia into a civil country.
Following up the relationship between Khamis and the UAE lobby would give a clear understanding of these fundamental changes to his political and intellectual positions.
When he was attacking the Saudi regime, relationships between Saudi Arabia and the UAE were covertly tense, as Wikileaks documents showed that the Emirati crown prince Mohamed Bin Zayed insulted the Saudi crown prince, Nayef Bin Abdul Aziz, and likened him to a monkey.
The document showed that Bin Zayed told a US official that Saudis were waiting for the US to free them from the ruling regime, just like they did with the Iraqi people.
The document was leaked at a tense time, after the UAE has congratulated Iran for the 2015 nuclear deal, plus the different position they had over Syria. UAE refused to support any of the militias against the Iran-backed president, Bashar Al Assad.
At this time, Al Khamis acted as a dissident to the Saudi regime, as revealed by Asrar Arabia (Arabian Secrets) website. They said that the al Arab newspaper in London received financial support from the UAE via the ousted Fatah leader Mohammad Dahlan, who works as a counselor to the Abu Dhabi ruler.
Apart from the fact that Khamis’s discourse is identical to that of the UAE, the UAE-Saudi rapprochement is the real reason for the unexpected change of Al Khamis’s opinions.
Moreover, leaks refer to Khamis’s role at trying to influence other dissident writers abroad to change their positions towards the “new era” of Saudi Arabia.
Khamis could change his position on Saudi policies according to the UAE position, but he has never changed his mind regarding attacking political Islamists, as this is at the top of UAE priorities.