Saudi prince MbS approved operation to capture, kill Khashoggi: US
The United States on Friday, for the first time, publicly accused Saudi Arabia's crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) of ordering the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who wrote for The Washington Post, in 2018. According to an intelligence report, declassified by US President Joe Biden, MbS had "approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey, to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. (sic)"
US said the murder fits the 'pattern' of MbS
The US report said the murder followed the 35-year-old de facto ruler's pattern of "using violent measures to silence dissidents abroad." Khashoggi was murdered in October 2018, inside the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, where he had gone to collect documents needed to marry his fiancée Hatice Cengiz. Over a dozen Saudi officials had killed him and later dismembered his body, sparking global outrage.
In 2019, MbS took responsibility but denied ordering the murder
In 2019, MbS took responsibility, saying the murder happened "under my watch" but maintained he hadn't ordered it. Clearly contradicting MbS's statement, the US report asserted, "Since 2017, the crown prince has had absolute control of the Kingdom's security and intelligence organizations, making it highly unlikely that Saudi officials would have carried out an operation of this nature without (his) authorization. (sic)"
'Khashoggi Act' announced, 76 Saudis blacklisted
Honoring Khashoggi, Secretary of State Antony Blinken also announced the "Khashoggi Act," which shuts the doors of the US on those involved in threatening dissidents and harassing reporters. 76 Saudis were immediately blacklisted. "We have made absolutely clear that extraterritorial threats and assaults by Saudi Arabia against activists, dissidents, and journalists must end. They will not be tolerated by the US," Blinken said.
Blinken added Biden is not seeking to 'rupture relationship'
But President Biden's administration didn't directly target MbS, who enjoys immense influence in the US' ally and largest oil producer Saudi Arabia. Asked about this, Blinken said Biden is trying "not to rupture the relationship, but to recalibrate to be more in line with our interests and our values." Meanwhile, the Saudi Arabia Foreign Ministry slammed the "negative, false, and unacceptable assessment."
Recently, Biden spoke with King Salman
To note, the US report came a day after Biden spoke with 85-year-old King Salman. A White House summary of the conversation made no mention of Khashoggi's killing and instead said the leaders discussed the longstanding partnership between their countries. After the damning report was released, Cengiz posted a picture of the slain journalist on Twitter, with the caption: #justiceforjamal (sic).