On Feb. 11, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) issued an executive summary entitled “Assessing the Saudi Government’s Role in the Killing of Jamal Khashoggi,” and found that Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, had direct involvement in the journalist’s murder, dismemberment, and disposal.
Jamal Khashoggi was a prominent Saudi journalist. He covered major stories, including the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the rise of the late al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, for various Saudi news organizations.
For decades, the Khashoggi was close to the Saudi royal family and likewise functioned as an adviser to the government.
He had fallen out of favor and left permanently for the US in 2017. From there, he wrote a monthly column in the Washington Post in which he criticized the policies of bin Salman.
According to the report, “We assess that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”
An elite squad of security operatives had perpetrated the killing, the report said. The team reported directly to Prince Mohammed, the Defense Minister and de-facto ruler of Saudi Arabia.
The report omitted the brutal specifics of Khashoggi’s death, including the dismemberment of his body with a bone saw after Saudi officials lured him to their consulate in Istanbul, according to BBC.
The Biden administration clarified in the report that the Crown Prince will not be receiving personal sanctions or punishment of any kind due to the importance of diplomatic relations.
Several Saudi officials and family members have received travel and monetary sanctions in response and in concurrence with the issuance of the report, according to Reuters.
Political leaders from both major parties have congratulated the Biden administration for releasing the report. Some Democrats, like Rep. Adam Schiff (D.-CA), have decried the lack of specifically targeted punishment for the Crown Prince.
The Saudi government issued a scathing and contradictory statement to the ODNI’s report. “The Ministry notes that the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia completely rejects the negative, false and unacceptable assessment in the report pertaining to the Kingdom’s leadership, and notes that the report contained inaccurate information and conclusions,” the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said in their statement.
The Saudi government has recently come under further international scrutiny for its bombing campaigns in Yemen and sponsorship of violence throughout the region. Thousands of civilians have been killed, with many millions more in danger of starvation and poverty, according to the Human Rights Watch Organization.
The U.S. government, in a separate Human Rights Council 2020 report, has also been described as complicit in the violence and war crimes in Yemen.
On September 16 of 2020, State Department officials testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee about whether the State Dept. had “misled Congress—and the American people—by circumventing controls designed to limit arms sales and ensure congressional oversight,” according to a Human Rights Watch analysis.
The U.S. has had great financial ties to the Saudi Arabia for decades, and according to The New York Times, this may be a defining reason for the lack of sanctions of the House of Saud by governmental agencies or Congressional committees responsible for holding nations accountable for such crimes.
Former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is in fact opening a new sovereign wealth fund which intends to be partially backed by Persian Gulf funds, including those of Saudi Arabia, according to The Hill’s reporting.
The Biden administration has promised more accountability for these crimes and this kind of behavior on the part of Saudi officials, after speaking to King Salman, not the Crown Prince.
Biden “made it clear to him that the rules are changing, and we’re going to be announcing significant changes today and on Monday to hold the Saudis accountable. It is outrageous what happened,” the president stated in an interview with Univision.
Besides the travel bans and freezing of assets, the State Department also announced visa restrictions against 76 Saudis accused of suppressing or harming journalists, activists and dissidents and other similar actions in a so called “Khashoggi Ban,” Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said, according to reporting done by Reuters.
Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA), head of the Intelligence Committee for the U.S. House of Representatives has called for the complete ban of bin Salman participating in the U.S. political and economic landscape.
illustration by May Walker