As per the USA intelligence report was released on 26th February 2021, Prince Mohammed bin Salman (Saudi Arabia’s Crown) approved an operation to capture or kill murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the year 2018.

The USA has imposed sanctions on some of those involved but spared the crown prince himself in an effort to preserve relations with the Gulf kingdom.

Saudi Arabia government issued a statement rejecting the USA report’s findings and repeating its previous statements that Khashoggi’s killing was a heinous crime by a rogue group, denying any involvement by the crown prince. 

Who was Jamal Khashoggi?

He was a Saudi Arabian journalist living in the USA, who wrote opinion columns for the Washington Post that were critical of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s policies. Khashoggi was killed by a team of operatives linked to the Saudi Prince in the Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul.

USA response 

While preserving ties to the Saudi prince, USA President Biden tried to make clear that killings of political opponents were not acceptable to the USA.

President Biden stated that he had told Saudi King Salman that Saudi Arabia has to tackle human rights abuses as a precondition to dealing with the USA. He made it clear that the rules are changing, and that the USA will be announcing significant changes. 

Among the punitive steps taken, the USA imposed a visa ban on almost 76 Saudis believed to be involved in the Khashoggi killing on 26th February and placed sanctions on others, including Saudi Arabia’s former deputy head of General Intelligence Presidency and Saudi Arabia’s Rapid Intervention Force. The sanctions will freeze their US assets and bar Americans from dealing with them.

As per USA officials, the country is also considering cancelling arms sales to Saudi Arabia that pose human rights concerns and limiting future sales to “defensive” weapons, as it reassesses its relationship with the kingdom and its role in the Yemen war.

The state department of USA said it would not tolerate those who threaten or assault activists, dissidents and journalists on behalf of foreign governments.

President Biden in fact reversed his predecessor Trump’s refusal to release the report in defiance of a 2019 law. Biden said that the report had been sitting there, the last administration wouldn’t even release it. 

Backdrop

Journalist Jamal Khashoggi was living in self-imposed exile in Virginia in the USA. Khashoggi was called to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul for a document that he required to marry his Turkish fiancée on 2nd October 2018. 

Khashoggi was killed there and his body was dismembered. His remains have not been found. Saudi Arabia stated that Khashoggi was killed in a “rogue” extradition operation that had gone wrong. Almost 21 people were arrested for the killing and 5 senior officials, including Asiri and senior MbS aide Saud al-Qahtani, were fired.

In January 2019, 11 people were placed on trial and five were given death sentences, which were later converted into 20 years of jail term after they were forgiven by Khashoggi’s family. Three others were given jail terms. Qahtani was investigated but not charged and Asiri was acquitted “due to insufficient evidence.” 

Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s top oil exporters for decades and an important USA ally against common foe Iran.

Saudi Prince approved operation that killed Jamal Khashoggi Saudi Prince approved operation that killed Jamal Khashoggi