U.S. to name Saudi Prince MBS as approving Jamal Khashoggi killing

U.S. intelligence report will name Saudi’s Mohammed bin Salman as ‘approving’ the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi despite kingdom calling it a ‘rogue’ operation

  • President Joe Biden plans to call the king of Saudi Arabia on Wednesday
  • His administration will name Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as the man who approved the 2018 killing of Jamal Khashoggi 
  • Information will be in forthcoming declassified intelligence report 
  • White House said last week Biden would recalibrate American relations with Saudi Arabia and will communicate through King Salman rather than with MBS
  • That marks a change in policy from Trump administration who dealt with  MBS
  • Khashoggi wrote columns critical of Saudi government
  • He was killed in October 2018 when he visited Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain paperwork necessary for his marriage to a Turkish citizen 

President Joe Biden’s administration will name Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as the man who approved the 2018 killing of Jamal Khashoggi when it releases an intelligence report on the journalist’s murder. 

Four U.S. officials told Reuters the forthcoming declassified U.S. intelligence report – to which the CIA was the main contributor – assesses that the crown prince approved and likely ordered the murder of Khashoggi.

Biden plans to call the king of Saudi Arabia ahead of the public release of the report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence – which could come out as soon as Thursday.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that she did not have any information on the timing of the call. 

She said she ‘expect that to happen soon.’

‘We’re still in the process of scheduling when that will happen,’ Psaki said at her daily press briefing.

She declined to provide any specifics about the upcoming conversation.

‘I’m not going to preview his call with the king. Obviously, they’ll cover a range of topics, and when we have concluded that call I’m sure we’ll provide a by a readout,’ Paski said.

A forth coming declassified intelligence report from the Biden administration will name Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as the man who approved the 2018 killing of Jamal Khashoggi

A classified version of the report on Khashoggi’s death was given to Congress in late 2018. But the Trump administration declined to release a declassified version. 

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz, 85, is the head of government but the crown prince, his heir, is seen as the power behind the throne.  

Bin Salman has denied involvement in the October 2018 murder of Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident who wrote columns critical of MBS, as the crown prince as known. MBS did accept responsibility for the assassination as the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia. And Riyadh eventually admitted that Khashoggi was killed in an ‘rogue’ extradition operation gone wrong.

Five men were given the death penalty for the journalist’s murder but had their sentences commuted to 20 years in prison after being forgiven by Khashoggi’s family. 

Khashoggi fled Saudi Arabia in September 2017 to live in self-imposed exile. He was writing columns critical of the Saudi government – including of both King Salman and MBS – for The Washington Post when he was killed.

In October 2018, Khashoggi visited the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, to pick up the paperwork required for his marriage to a Turkish citizen. He was never seen leaving.

According to reports, while there he was drugged, killed and dismembered by a team of assassins sent in from Saudi Arabia. His remains have never been recovered.

President Joe Biden plans to call Saudi King Salman ahead of expected release of intelligence report on the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi

The Biden administration said last week it would recalibrate relations with Saudi Arabia and that Biden would speak with the 85-year-old King Salman bin Abdulaziz (above left) instead of his heir – a change in policy from the Trump administration

Biden’s call with the king comes after the White House last week announced a recalibration of American relations with Saudi Arabia.

‘We’ve made clear from the beginning that we’re going to recalibrate our relationship with Saudi Arabia,’ Psaki said last week.

She said part of that recalibration would include Biden speaking to the Saudi king, instead of MBS – a marked change in policy from the Trump administration.

‘Part of that is going back to engagement counterpart to counterpart, the president’s counterpart is King Salman and I expect that, at an appropriate time, he would have a conversation with him,’ Psaki said.

The Biden administration is shifting America’s relationship with the Middle East country after Trump made the U.S.’s relationship with the Saudis a priority, making his first trip abroad in 2017 to Riyadh. 

Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner was close to MBS, who became next in line to the throne in June 2017 after a power struggle ousted a rival.

Kushner’s close relationship with him – the two were said to text and communicate via apps – raised eyebrows due to its taking place outside of diplomatic channels, Kushner’s lack of foreign policy experience and MBS’ reputation as a despot. 

The crown prince has been accused of the torture of human rights activists; the Saudi bombing campaign in Yemen which has exacerbated the humanitarian crisis and famine; and the arrest of members of the Saudi royal family in November 2017 where he imprisoned several of his royal cousins in a Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyad.

President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner was close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – the three men are seen together in Riyadh in May 2017

The brutal Khashoggi killing didn’t change U.S.-Saudi relations under President Trump.

In Bob Woodward’s book ‘Fear,’ the veteran Washington Post journalist wrote that Trump had said, ‘I saved his a**,’ about MBS.  

‘I was able to get Congress to leave him alone. I was able to get them to stop,’ Trump said.   

Trump saw the relationship with Saudi Arabia in dollar figures, warning lawmakers that the Saudis could go into business with Russia instead. In May 2019, Trump also bypassed Congress allowing the Saudis to buy $8 billion in arms. 

Trump took MBS’ denial at face value, the Woodward book indicated.

‘He will always say that he didn’t do it. He says that to everybody, and frankly I’m happy that he says that. But he will say that to you, he will say that to Congress, and he will say that to everybody. He’s never said he did it,’ Trump told Woodward.

Woodward asked if Trump believed that he ordered Khashoggi’s killing. 

‘No he says he didn’t do it,’ the then president replied. ‘He says very strongly that he didn’t do it.’

Trump also ignored a law passed in early 2019 that instructed his administration to give Congress an unclassified intelligence report with ‘a determination and evidence with respect to the advance knowledge and role of any current or former official of Saudi Arabia … over the directing, ordering or tampering of evidence in the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.’   

In February of last year the Office of the Director of National Intelligence told congressional leaders it was ‘unable to provide additional information … at an unclassified level,’ instead sending them a copy of the classified CIA report.   

In July, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe reiterated to lawmakers that he would not be releasing an unclassified report because ‘the disclosure of additional details surrounding Mr. Khashoggi’s murder would undermine U.S. intelligence sources and methods.’  

He also said, ‘I have determined that there is only a marginal ‘public interest’ argument for this declassification.’

But the Biden administration vowed to release the document. 

During her confirmation, Biden’s nominee to head the DNI, Avril Haines, said it would happen.

‘Yes, senator. Actually, we’ll follow the law,’ she said when asked about the report’s release. 

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