Wednesday, 21 April, 2021


USA says Saudi crown prince approved Khashoggi operation

Source Al Jazeera Source Al Jazeera
Noah Ferguson | 26 February, 2021, 23:27

The US just released an intelligence report about the 2018 killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and a Washington Post columnist.

While Khashoggi had been assured by Saudi officials that he would be safe inside the consulate's walls, grisly details later emerged - pieced together through recording and other evidence gathered by Turkish authorities - that described how a team of Saudi agents, who had arrived in Istanbul on state-owned planes for the intended goal of killing the journalist - subdued, killed and then dismembered Khashoggi using a bone saw.

The U.S. intelligence community concluded that the crown prince "approved" the murder of Khashoggi, according to a four-page report released Friday afternoon.

It based the assessment on the prince's "control of decisionmaking in the kingdom, the direct involvment of a key adviser and members of [the prince's] protective detail in the operation, and [his] support for the using violent measures to silence dissidents overseas, including Khashoggi".

The documents are labelled "Top Secret" and signed by a Saudi Minister who relayed the orders of the Crown Prince, the young de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia.

This is a developing story.

Her comments come on the backdrop of the Joe Biden administration's decision to release a declassified version of a U.S. intelligence report, with the CIA as the main contributor.

It said that Biden and the king "discussed regional security, including the renewed diplomatic efforts led by the United Nations and the United States to end the war in Yemen, and the US commitment to help Saudi Arabia defend its territory as it faces attacks from Iranian-aligned groups".

Mr Biden spoke with the Prince's father, King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, prior to the report's release.

Although his administration sanctioned 17 Saudi officials with alleged direct involvement in the killing itself, Trump insisted that the USA security alliance and massive Saudi purchases of US weaponry were more important than holding the top Saudi leadership accountable. Khashoggi lived in Virginia, but died visiting the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, where he thought he was collecting documentation for his wedding.

As a candidate, Biden described Saudi Arabia as a "pariah" state and said there was "very little social redeeming value in the present government".

The United States also announced visa restrictions against 76 Saudi citizens as part of a new policy aimed at nations that carry out activities against journalists and dissidents beyond their borders.

However, Biden is treading a fine line to preserve ties with the kingdom as he seeks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with its regional rival Iran and to address other challenges including fighting Islamist extremism and advancing Arab-Israeli ties. His body was then dismembered and handed over to a local "collaborator" outside the consulate, prosecutors said.

Khashoggi's family filed a USA lawsuit in October 2020 accusing the Prince and other senior Saudi officials of a "brutal and brazen crime" that was the result of "weeks of planning". Eventually, officials in the kingdom acknowledged Khashoggi had been killed but blamed the murder on a "rogue operation".

In January 2019, 11 people were put on trial behind closed doors.

"Once we have further evidence, it will be really impossible for the rest of the world to ignore whatever information will be provided", Callamard said late on Wednesday during a panel discussion hosted by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.

The report's findings, and Biden's resulting next steps, at a minimum will set the administration's tone for dealing with the ambitious 35-year-old prince.

Analysts who follow Saudi Arabia say the king has been in poor health for years, and that the crown prince is the driving force in the kingdom.

But he's also had opponents and women's rights activists detained and pursued risky foreign gambits, some of which backfired, like the intervention in Yemen, where a war between Saudi and Iranian proxies has created a humanitarian crisis.

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