A US intelligence report expected to be released soon, will name Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman complicit in the grisly murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, four US officials familiar with the matter said.
President Joe Biden also told reporters on Wednesday he had read the report and expected to speak soon by phone with Saudi Arabian King Salman, insisting that he speak only to the king.
US officials familiar with the matter said that the assessment would find Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had approved and likely ordered the murder.
Human rights activists and Saudi dissidents are calling on the new US administration to “strike a blow” against Saudi human rights violations with new sanctions that they say could help rein in Prince Mohammed.
The crown prince has, in recent years, been cracking down on dissidents while the previous Trump administration, in its “embrace of despots”, has chosen to ignore their plight, the rights group said.
Media reports have in the past said that US intelligence agencies had a medium- to high-degree of confidence that the crown prince and de facto ruler was responsible for ordering Khashoggi’s killing in the Saudi consulate.
“The release of the report is a long-awaited step that must be accompanied by accountability to ensure that this barbaric crime doesn’t happen again,” said Khalid Aljabri, a Saudi who is living in exile in Canada.
Aljabri is the son of Saad Aljabri, a former senior official and aide to Mohammed bin Nayef, the former crown prince who is now in jail.
“Toothless sanctions by the Trump administration didn’t deter MBS [as the crown prince is often known]from going after others. The Biden administration must take more effective steps by sanctioning senior officials and political figures, institutions and entities that contributed to the murder,” Aljabri said.
Jake Sullivan, the White House’s national security adviser, said last week in an interview on CNN that the administration was preparing to accompany the release of the classified report in the 2018 murder with a “further answer” that will hold individuals accountable for the crime.
Before last year’s presidential election, Biden said Saudi Arabia deserved to be treated as a “pariah” for its murder of Khashoggi – a critical voice against the Saudi government – and for Prince Mohammed’s targeting of critics.
But some analysts now predict that the administration will have to take more measured steps.
Agnès Callamard, the outgoing special rapporteur on extrajudicial killing for the United Nations, who investigated the Khashoggi murder, said that targeted sanctions against Prince Mohammed’s personal assets and bank account ought to be ordered as a “minimum” if intelligence showed the crown prince ordered or incited the crime.
Callamard added that Biden ought also to exert pressure on the Saudis to identify the location of Khashoggi’s remains, allow for Khashoggi’s children to leave Saudi if they wish, and, if evidence suggests he ordered the killing, freeze Prince Mohammed’s diplomatic engagements with the US.
“Banishing the persons responsible for ordering the killing of Jamal Khashoggi from the international stage is an important step towards delivering justice to Jamal Khashoggi,” Callamard said. (Source: The Guardian)