World Saudi Crown Prince Approved Plan for Khashoggi Death, U.S. Finds
Release of intelligence report on Khashoggi killing could push already strained U.S.-Saudi relations to new lows
The Biden administration had promised to release a summary of intelligence findings that conclude the Saudi crown prince ordered the 2018 slaying of the journalist. The report, an unclassified summary of findings across the intelligence community produced by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), will be made public as early as next week, according to people familiar with the matter.
(Bloomberg) -- Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman signed off on the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, according to a U.S. intelligence report released Friday.
“We assess that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” theconcluded.
The report builds on classified intelligence from the CIA and other agencies after Khashoggi’s murder in October 2018 inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Biden says he has read report on Khashoggi murder
President Biden said Wednesday that he has read the report on the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi."Yes, I have," Biden told reporters in the State Dining Room after signing an executive order on the economy, without elaborating further.The Biden administration is expected to soon release an unclassified version of the report on Khashoggi's death. Biden also said that he would speak with Saudi Arabia's King Salman, but did not offer a timeline or confirm reports that the call would take place on Wednesday."I'm going to be talking to him, I have not spoken to him yet," Biden said.The release of the report is likely to complicate the U.S.
The decision to release the report, compiled by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence but withheld under President Donald Trump, reflects the Biden administration’s determination to recalibrate relations with Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, over its human rights record.
Prince Mohammed has denied involvement in the killing, while saying he accepts symbolic responsibility as the country’s de facto ruler. Saudi officials have said the murder was carried out by rogue agents who’ve since been prosecuted.
Although the four-page declassified version of the report didn’t disclose U.S. intelligence methods used in reaching its conclusion, it said the team that killed Khashoggi included seven members of the Crown Prince’s “elite personal protective detail” that wouldn’t have taken part without his approval.
US to release report fingering Saudi prince in Khashoggi murder
The US director of national intelligence is expected to release a damning report Friday that fingers Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the brutal murder and dismemberment of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018. The classified report is believed to say that, based on intelligence collected by the CIA and other spy bodies, the kingdom's de facto leader directed the assassination of the respected US-based writer in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
“The Crown Prince viewed Khashoggi as a threat to the Kingdom and broadly supported using violent measures if necessary to silence him,” the report said. “Although Saudi officials had pre-planned an unspecified operation against Khashoggi we do not know how far in advance Saudi officials decided to harm him.”
The report said it had “high confidence” about the 21 people who were involved in the killing on the prince’s behalf.
In advance of report’s publication, President Joe Biden held a call Thursday with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman. Biden discussed regional security and the renewed U.S. and United Nations effort to end the war in Yemen. He also “affirmed the importance the United States places on universal human rights and the rule of law,” the White House said in a statement.
State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters Thursday that the U.S. was looking at other ways to punish the perpetrators of Khashoggi’s killing. Among the options may be cutting back arms sales to Saudi Arabia and imposing sanctions, he said without elaborating.
Saudi crown prince 'approved' Khashoggi murder operation: US intel report
The U.S. on Friday released a declassified intelligence report finding that the Saudi crown prince 'approved' an operation to capture or kill journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The brutal killing has roiled the United States' longstanding ties with Saudi Arabia, and President Joe Biden has vowed to recalibrate the relationship after his predecessor Donald Trump shielded the kingdom from U.S. pressure.
“I expect that we will be in a position before long to speak to steps to promote accountability going forward for this horrific crime,” Price told reporters in Washington.
Saudi authorities didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Biden’s decision to release the report, or the possibility that the U.S. could impose sanctions on one of its closest and most important Middle East allies. Saudi Arabia dominates the Gulf Arab region geographically, is its economic powerhouse, and has for decades been a political heavyweight in regional affairs.
Goods and services trade between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia amounted to almost $39 billion in 2019, with American exports totaling about $24 billion and imports reaching nearly $15 billion, according to U.S. government figures. That made Saudi Arabia the U.S.’s 27th-largest goods trading partner but one of the biggest customers for American arms.
The decision to release the report reflects a return, under Biden, to routine diplomatic channels and traditional U.S. pressure over human rights, even on allies.
Biden will not sanction MBS over Khashoggi's killing despite US report implicating the Saudi leader in the murder
Other than being downgraded in the eyes of the US under Biden, it's unclear what other consequences, if any, MBS will face over Khashoggi's killing.The Treasury Department on Friday unveiled sanctions against General Ahmed al-Asiri, former deputy head of the Saudi intelligence services, and the Saudi Rapid Intervention Force over connections to the Khashoggi killing.
Trump put Saudi Arabia at the center of his Middle East strategy, making it his first foreign visit. He later abandoned the 2015 nuclear deal with a common enemy, Iran, and reimposed sanctions on Tehran.
Trump dismissed concerns about whether the crown prince approved the Khashoggi killing -- “Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t,” he said -- citing the economic rewards of selling arms to the Saudis. His secretary of state, Michael Pompeo, said the U.S. had “no direct evidence” linking the prince to the murder, while Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner maintained a close working relationship with him.
In contrast, within his first few days in office, Biden put on hold major weapons sales to the kingdom pending review, and announced an end to U.S. support for offensive actions in Yemen, where he wants to wrap up a Saudi-led military intervention that’s contributed to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
In an overt rebuke, he’s also downgraded relations with Prince Mohammed, who runs the day-to-day affairs of the kingdom and typically liaises directly with foreign leaders. Instead, Biden’s called King Salman, his official counterpart.
Biden will have to navigate the relationship with Saudi Arabia carefully, however, as he seeks to re-engage Iran and persuade it to resume compliance with the nuclear accord. Signaling that being tougher on Saudi Arabia won’t mean he’s soft on Iran, the administrationovernight on Iranian-backed militias in Syria that it blames for rocket attacks on U.S. forces in neighboring Iraq.
In recent days, Saudi newspapers and commentators have emphasized the kingdom’s close relationship with the U.S.
Abdullah Al Tayer, a former Saudi official, said last week on Twitter that any attempt to “target” the king or the crown prince was targeting “the nation and its citizens in their present and their future.”
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Despite Khashoggi's Murder, America Must Still Choose: Saudis or Iran? | Opinion .
Simply put, the United States has a binary choice in the Persian Gulf. The U.S. can swallow hard and stick with MBS and thereby support an unsavory ally who is nevertheless a force for internal moderation, acceptance of Israel and opposition to Iranian aggression. Or it can ditch the Saudis and thereby strengthen their Iranian enemies, who pose a direct threat to not just American interests, but to the stability of every moderate Arab regime in the region as well as to Israel (which Tehran has pledged to annihilate).