The United States on Friday released an intelligence report which said that Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, approved an operation to capture or kill murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
The report is based on intelligence gathered by the CIA and other agencies since the killing of Khashoggi. Though Saudi Arabia has rejected these findings, US President Joe Biden has called the signing off on the order by the crown prince “outrageous”.
Khashoggi, a US resident who was one of the fiercest critics of the regime of King Salman and his son, the crown prince, disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018.
He had gone to the consulate to get a document that he needed to marry his Turkish fiancee Hatice Cengiz who was waiting outside.
Turkish officials say Khashoggi, 59, was strangled and his body was cut into pieces by a 15-man Saudi group inside the kingdom’s mission. His remains have never been found.
The newly declassified report by Biden administration has implicated the crown prince.
The conclusion that the prince approved an operation to kill or capture Khashoggi was based on his decision-making role inside the kingdom, the involvement of a key adviser and members of his protective detail and his past support for violently silencing dissidents abroad, according to the report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
The report noted that some of those involved in the killing of Khashoggi were from the Saudi Center for Studies and Media Affairs, then led by key aid of crown prince Saud al-Qahtani, “who claimed publicly in mid-2018 that he did not make decisions without the crown prince’s approval.”
After the report was released, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced sanctions against 76 Saudi individuals under what he called a new “Khashoggi Ban” policy. Under that authority, the US says it will single out anyone who, acting for a foreign government, engages in “counter-dissident activities” beyond that country’s borders.
“While the United States remains invested in its relationship with Saudi Arabia, President Biden has made clear that partnership must reflect US values,” Blinken said. “To that end, we have made absolutely clear that extraterritorial threats and assaults by Saudi Arabia against activists, dissidents, and journalists must end.”
As part of the plan, the United States has imposed a visa ban on some Saudis believed involved in the Khashoggi killing and placed sanctions on others, including a former deputy intelligence chief, that would freeze their US assets and generally bar Americans from dealing with them.