The United States government on Friday has imposed sanctions and visa bans on Saudi Arabian citizens over the killing of US journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The move comes after US intelligence in a declassified report said that the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman had a hand in Khashoggi’s murder that took place in 2018.
According to the declassified reports, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul to either “capture or kill” Khashoggi. The reports also said that the Saudi Crown Prince viewed Khashoggi as a threat to the Arabian Kingdom and broadly supported using violent measures if necessary to silence the US journalist.
The report also pointed out that a team of 15 members murdered and dismembered Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey. The US agencies said that the team carried out Khashoggi’s murder on behalf of the Crown Prince.
According to the report, Crown Prince Bin Salman has been in complete control of the Kingdom’s security and intelligence organizations since 2017. The report went on to add that with the Crown Prince in control, it is “highly unlikely that Saudi officials would have carried out an operation of this nature without the authorization of the Crown Prince”.
Reportedly, the team included seven members of the Crown Prince’s personal protective detail. This team is also known as the Rapid Intervention Force (RIF). The US agencies pointed out that the RIF defends the Prince and answers directly to him. “The RIF had directly participated in earlier dissident suppression operations in the Kingdom and abroad on the direction of Crown Prince,” the Agency said, concluding that without Crown Prince Bin Salman’s permission the RIF would not have taken part in the operation.
According to reports, though the US imposed sanctions on Saudi citizens over Khashoggi's killing, they did not impose sanctions on the Crown Prince himself. In the first month after coming to the White House, US President Joe Biden aimed at fulfilling his campaign promise to demand accountability for Khashoggi’s murder.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki on February 24 informed that President Biden would be speaking only with Saudi Arabia monarch King Salman and not Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.
“We have made clear from the beginning that we're going to recalibrate our relationship with Saudi Arabia,” Psaki told reporters. Peski also said that part of recalibrating the relationship is going back to engagement counterpart to counterpart and President Biden’s counterpart is King Salman.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has rejected the report calling it a “negative, false and unacceptable assessment in the report on the Kingdom’s leadership. Saudi foreign ministry alleged that the US report contains inaccurate information and conclusions. The Kingdom also added that Saudi Courts have convicted the accused in Khashoggi’s murder and claimed that the US journalist’s family welcomed the sentencing.