On Friday Feb 26th, it was revealed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a key figure in the US-Saudi relationship, “approved” the gruesome murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Oct 2018. This revelation is from a US intelligence report that became public.
The report said the prince, “approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.” The prince is in line to take over from the ailing King Salman. He is currently de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia.
The prince’s influence
It was “highly unlikely” that the 2018 murder could have taken place without Prince Mohammed’s green light due to his influence, said the intelligence report. “The Crown Prince’s support for using violent measures to silence dissidents abroad” also fits the pattern of killing he supports.
Jamal Khashoggi, was a writer for The Washington Post. He was lured to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. The killing of Khashoggi happened inside the consulate. After killing Khashoggi, the killers cut up his body into pieces. This killing is in relation to the fact that Khashoggi was a US resident and often wrote critically about the crown price. Khashoggi was planning to marry a Turkish woman and needed some documentation from the consulate.
There is now a high possibility of Washington imposing new sanctions on Saudi nationals close to Prince Mohammed. The crown price is not on the list for now. The crown price denies any personal involvement in the murder. However, he has broadly accepted Saudi Arabia’s responsibility.
Releasing a declassified version of the report was from orders by US President Joe Biden. This can be seen as part of a reset where Washington maintains a distance from Prince Mohammed. This initial version of the report was first completed under Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump.
On late Thursday, the White House made it clear that Biden had no intention of speaking to the crown prince during his first phone call with King Salman.
Both Biden and the 85-year-old King Salman placed emphasis on the countries’ security ties and “the US commitment to help Saudi Arabia defend its territory as it faces attacks from Iranian-aligned groups” according to the White House.
President Biden’s affirmation that the US places importance on universal human rights and the rule of law as well, is a shift from the Trump administration’s standing.
Khashoggi was a veteran Saudi journalist and editor. He put himself in self-exile and was residing in the United States. He spent time writing articles critical of the crown prince until his assassination on Oct 2nd, 2018.
Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US informed Khashoggi he had to obtain certain documents for his forthcoming marriage to a Turkish woman, Hatice Cengiz. The documents were only obtainable from the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
Saud al-Qahtani was a top aide to Prince Mohammad who despatched a team from Riyadh. Their mission was to kill and dismember Khashoggi as soon as he entered the consulate in Istanbul.
According to The Washington Post, the US Central Intelligence Agency concluded with high confidence that Prince Mohammed had ordered the assassination. It took the CIA a month of thorough investigation to arrive at this conclusion.
Trump put aside the US government’s demands for punishment of the perpetrators. He wanted to maintain the strong relations with Riyadh. Trump refused to publicly hold the Saudi strongman responsible.
A total of 15 people were sent to target Khashoggi in Turkey. This is according to the published intelligence report. They included members of the Rapid Intervention Force, Prince Mohammed’s “elite personal protective detail” .
Prince Khalid bin Salman is the Saudi ambassador to the United States and brother of the crown prince. A phone call from Prince Mohammed to his brother Prince Khalid was traced by US intelligence. In the call, Prince Mohammed gave instructions for luring Khashoggi to Istanbul to his brother. This was in an article by The Washington Post.
A recording of the murder obtained by Turkish intelligence from inside the Istanbul consulate is another piece of evidence. This recording identified the participants and revealed the communication between them and Riyadh.
27th February 2021 23:00
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