U.S. imposes sanctions on dozens of Saudi nationals involved in killing
U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haynes delivered a report to Congress on Friday assessing the role of Saudi authorities in the killing of opposition journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Reuters reported.
The declassified version of the U.S. National Intelligence Agency report said Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “approved the operation to kidnap or kill” the journalist.
The report stresses that the conclusion is based on Mohammed bin Salman’s “complete control of decision-making in Saudi Arabia,” with one of his key advisers and members of his own security unit involved in preparing the crime.
The prince is also known for “supporting the use of violent measures against dissidents,” according to the report.
“Since 2017, the Crown Prince has had full control of the Kingdom’s security and intelligence services, so it is highly unlikely that Saudi officials would have conducted an operation of this nature without (his) permission,” the report said.
Recall that the crime took place in 2018. A journalist critical of Mohammed bin Salman’s authoritarian policies was murdered and dismembered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Audio recordings of the killing were later turned over to journalists by Turkish intelligence agencies.
On Friday, the United States banned 76 Saudi nationals involved in “threats and attacks against activists, dissidents and journalists” from entering the country. This was announced by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
Blinken noted that the assessment of the U.S. intelligence community speaks for itself and that Washington’s actions are aimed at clarifying the format of relations with Saudi Arabia.
According to Reuters, bin Salman himself has not been added to the sanctions list.
According to administration spokesman Joe Biden, who wished to remain anonymous, the decision was driven by the need to “maintain a working relationship with the crown prince,” the de facto leader of a country that is one of the world’s largest oil exporters and potential in a standoff with Iran.
According to sources close to the administration, the United States is also considering canceling arms sales to Saudi Arabia. However, this is not a total ban: the U.S. will not sell weapons to Riyadh with which the kingdom violates human rights.
President Joe Biden said the U.S. will announce a change in policy toward Saudi Arabia on Monday, in addition to the measures announced Friday. He stressed that he had already communicated the U.S. position to King Salman of Saudi Arabia in a phone call.
“I spoke to the king yesterday … I let him know that the rules (of the game) are changing and that we are going to announce significant changes (in bilateral relations) today and Monday. We’re going to hold them accountable for human rights violations,” Biden told Univision.
Riyadh initially issued conflicting statements about his disappearance, but eventually acknowledged that Khashoggi was killed in a botched “fraudulent” operation to extradite him to his homeland.
The investigation led to the arrest of 21 people, and five high-ranking officials, including deputy intelligence chief Ahmed al-Asiri and Saud al-Qahtani, a senior aide to the crown prince, were fired.
In January 2019, 11 people were tried behind closed doors. Five of those involved in Khashoggi’s murder were given death sentences that were commuted to 20 years in prison after they were pardoned by Khashoggi’s family, and three others were sentenced to prison terms.