The US government has released a previously classified intel report that implicates Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman in a brutal murder.
The United States government has released a previously classified intelligence report which concludes Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, was responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
President Joe Biden, however, has refrained from penalising Prince Mohammed, instead slapping sanctions on other Saudi individuals.
“We assess that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” the report’s executive summary says.
“We base this assessment on the Crown Prince’s control of decision making in the Kingdom, the direct involvement of a key adviser and members of Muhammed bin Salman’s protective detail in the operation, and the Crown Prince’s support for using violent measures to silence dissidents abroad, including Khashoggi.
“Since 2017, the Crown Prince has had absolute control of the Kingdom’s security and intelligence organisations, making it highly unlikely that Saudi officials would have carried out an operation of this nature without the Crown Prince’s authorisation.”
The four-page report details individuals with connections to Prince Muhammed who were involved in the murder, including seven members of his “elite personal protective detail”, the Rapid Intervantion Force.
“The RIF – a subset of the Saudi Royal Guard – exists to defend the Crown Prince, answers only to him, and had directly participated in earlier dissident suppression operations in the Kingdom and abroad at the Crown Prince’s direction,” it notes.
“We judge that members of the RIF would not have participated in the operation against Khashoggi without Muhammed bin Salman’s approval.”
Mr Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and permanent resident of the United States, was lured to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and killed in 2018. After the murder, his body was reportedly dismembered with a bone saw.
The Crown Prince initially claimed Mr Khashoggi had left the consulate alive “a few minutes or one hour” after entering.
“We have nothing to hide,” Prince Mohammed said.
Eighteen days after Mr Khashoggi’s death, Saudi Arabia changed its story, saying he was killed while resisting attempts to return him to his home country.
It eventually claimed he was the victim of a “rogue operation”. Officials insisted Prince Mohammed was not involved.
Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Mr Khashoggi was “killed in cold blood by a death squad”, at the order of people in “the highest levels of the Saudi government”.
Eleven people were put on trial for the murder in Saudi Arabia in 2019, and five of them were initially sentenced to death. Those sentences were later commuted.
Shortly after Mr Khashoggi’s death, the CIA concluded the Crown Prince was involved. Then-president Donald Trump
“It could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event. Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Mr Trump said in November of 2018.
“That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder.
“In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
The following year, in the wake of a United Nations report that also blamed Prince Mohammed, Mr Trump stressed the importance of Saudi Arabia was am economic and strategic partner of the US.
“Saudi Arabia is a big buyer of American product. That means something to me. It’s a big producer of jobs,” the president said.
“(The Middle East) is a vicious, hostile place. If you’re going to look at Saudi Arabia, look at Iran, look at other countries.”
Current US President Joe Biden spoke with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud yesterday. The White House’s readout of the call did not mention Mr Khashoggi.
During a presidential debate in 2019, Mr Biden said he believed Mr Khashoggi “was, in fact, murdered and dismembered” by “the order of the Crown Prince”.
At today’s media briefing, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden administration would seek to “recalibrate” America’s relationship with the Kingdom.
“This will be a different relationship with the Saudi government,” Ms Psaki said.
“At the same time, we of course – we want to end the war in Yemen, we want to ensure that humanitarian crisis is addressed. And the President and every member of our team is not going to hold back in voicing concern and taking action as needed.”
Shortly afterwards, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a “Khashoggi Ban” targeting Saudi individuals involved in “threatening dissidents overseas”.
“The ban allows the State Department to impose visa restrictions on individuals who, acting on behalf of a foreign government, are believed to have been directly engaged in serious, extraterritorial counter-dissident activities,” Mr Blinken said.
“As a matter of safety for all within our borders, perpetrators targeting perceived dissidents on behalf of any foreign government should not be permitted to reach American soil.”
The ban will affect 76 Saudi individuals.
In addition, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen announced that sanctions would be placed on the former head of Saudi Arabia’s General Intelligence Presidency, as well as the RIF.
“Those involved in the abhorrent killing of Jamal Khashoggi must be held accountable,” said Ms Yellen.
“With this action, Treasury is sanctioning Saudi Arabia’s Rapid Intervention Force and senior official who was directly involved in Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.
“The United States stands united with journalists and political dissidents in opposing threats of violence and intimidation. We will continue to defend the freedom of expression, which is the bedrock of a free society.”
None of these measures will affect the Crown Prince.