U.S. readies report on Khashoggi killing

Rodiano Bonacci
Febbraio 26, 2021

Documents filed in a Toronto court provide yet another link between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi and come to light as U.S. President Joe Biden is preparing to release an intelligence report that concludes the kingdom's de facto ruler approved the killing.

Citing four unidentified United States officials familiar with the matter, the Reuters news agency said the report "assessed that the crown prince approved and likely ordered the murder of Khashoggi".

The declassified report implicated Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, heir to the Saudi throne and the country's de facto ruler, in the murder of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who was lured to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018, murdered, and dismembered. Prince Khalid has denied any communication with the journalist.

The killing drew bipartisan outrage. Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia said he understood the administration to be considering new sanctions to accompany release of the report. Salman is one of the last living sons of modern Saudi Arabia's original founder.

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.

"This guy ... sees the world as a stage for his botched operations", said Oudh, a Gulf research director for Democracy for the Arab World Now, a rights group Khashoggi founded shortly before his murder.

Saudi officials in Washington and Riyadh did not immediately respond to the new revelations.

Gina Haspel, who headed the CIA from 2018 until earlier this year, flew to Ankara where Turkish intelligence played her the chilling audio tape of Khashoggi's last, desperate moments inside the Saudi Consulate as he was overpowered and suffocated by the agents sent from Riyadh.

"Since 2017, the Crown Prince has had absolute control of the Kingdom's security and intelligence organizations, making it highly unlikely that Saudi officials would have carried out an operation of this nature without the Crown Prince's authorization", the report states.

The prince said in 2019 he took "full responsibility" for the killing since it happened on his watch, but denied ordering it. He planned to pick up documents for their wedding.

In the hours leading up to the killing, CCTV cameras captured footage of Khashoggi and his suspected killers in Istanbul. Inside the building, he died at the hands of over a dozen Saudi security and intelligence officials and others who turned up before Khashoggi arrived.

A Saudi news agency statement also sounded a positive note. The whereabouts of his remains are still unknown.

The statement, which also did not mention the Khashoggi report, said the leaders reviewed "destabilizing" Iranian regional activities, the US "commitment to defend" Saudi Arabia "against such threats" and an assurance from Biden not to allow Iran "to possess nuclear weapons". Khashoggi, a USA resident, journalist and critic of the Saudi regime, went missing after entering the consulate on October 2.

The move is in line with campaign pledges made by Mr Biden, who has sought to ensure that American weapons are not used to further the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen, where its conflict with the Iranian-aligned Houthis has resulted in thousands of civilian deaths and widespread hunger. He's given few details of what weapons and support he meant.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters that Mr. Biden would only speak with the 85-year-old King, not MBS.

Former US President Donald Trump's administration held back the long-awaited report despite a 2019 law passed by Congress requiring its release.

Saudi Arabian courts a year ago announced they had sentenced eight Saudi nationals to prison in Khashoggi's killing.

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