MBS approved an operation to capture or kill Khashoggi: US report

Source Al Jazeera

Source Al Jazeera

Riyadh has denied any involvement by the crown prince, Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler.

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.

Agnes Callamard, the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said the report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) is expected to provide information on who was responsible for the October 2018 killing.

"We base this assessment on the Crown Prince's control of decisionmaking in the Kingdom, the direct involvement of a key adviser and members of Muhammad bin Salman's protective detail in the operation, and the Crown Prince's support for using violent measures to silence dissidents overseas, including Khashoggi", the report says. MBN, as he is known, is now under arrest, accused of corruption and plotting against the crown prince, which his family deny. They fear Biden will go with condemnation instead, eschewing a lasting standoff with the likely future ruler of an important, but often hard, USA strategic ally, valued both for its oil reserves and its status as a counterbalance to Iran in the Middle East.

"For the sake of accountability and for the sake of American democracy, the DNI report must be released", Callamard said. "So it's a day of reckoning, but one that's long overdue".

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. Will this move mark a big shift in the US' policy toward the Arab world and if the stage is set for a bigger confrontation?

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

"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.

"MBS told "60 Minutes" that the murder was a 'heinous crime", adding that he took "full responsibility as a leader in Saudi Arabia, especially since it was committed by individuals working for the Saudi government".

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He was lured on October 2, 2018, to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul with a promise of a document that he needed to marry his Turkish fiancee. He planned to pick up documents for their wedding.

Not long after the Saudi journalist was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the CIA assessed with high confidence that MBS had personally ordered the killing, but intelligence officials never spoke publicly or presented evidence.

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

President Biden has already made clear that he plans to take a more critical position toward Saudi Arabia, which has had close ties with many US presidents, including former President Trump.

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. He's given few details of what weapons and support he meant.

As part of Biden's rebalancing of ties with Saudi Arabia, he will only communicate with King Salman, the White House has said.

But she added: "We have a long relationship with Saudi Arabia" and said the USA would continue aiding Saudi Arabia's defence against regional rivals.

Amid global calls for a thorough and transparent investigation into what happened, the US Congress passed a defence bill in December 2019 that included a provision requiring the DNI to release within 30 days an unclassified report on the murder. The Biden administration agreed to release a declassified version. They were not identified.

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