The CIA has formally accused Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of organizing the death of American journalist Jamal Khashoggi in early October after concluding a recently-launched investigation.
According to multiple sources, Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post, was told to travel to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul by bin Salman’s brother, Khalid bin Salman. There, he could attain documents allowing for his marriage to his Turkish fiancee, Hatice Cengiz.
Upon arriving, Khashoggi was assassinated by Saudi agents, who are believed to have been following bin Salman’s orders.
It is unclear whether Khalid bin Salman, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, knew about the assassination, but the CIA is certain he called Khashoggi due to an order given by Mohammed bin Salman.
Along with testimonies from United States officials, the CIA also used an audio tape from a listening device in their investigation. The device was planted in the Saudi consulate by the Turkish government, who subsequently gave a copy to United States officials.
The tape gives proof to two claims: Khashoggi was killed soon after entering the building and the assassination occurred in the room of the Saudi consul general. Following Khashoggi’s death, the consul general can be heard complaining of how to dispose of the body without leaving evidence.
Jamal Khashoggi’s body has still yet to be found.
After compiling all available evidence, the CIA currently connects 17 individuals with the assassination.
As for Prince bin Salman, he has denied knowing anything about the assassination plan. The Saudi public prosecutor blames a “rogue band of operatives” that sought to bring Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia. He argued that when Khashoggi was being attacked, he was injected by too much of a calming drug which led to an overdose.
The CIA strongly refutes this claim and believes that Mohammed bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s assassination. He has almost total control over the country, and oversees any governmental action.
“The accepted position is that there is no way this happened without [Mohammed] being aware or involved,” stated one United States official.
Furthermore, there is a strong motive as to why Mohammed bin Salman would want Khashoggi to be assassinated. Khashoggi was a long-time, open critic of bin Salman and his policies. The prince also accused Khashoggi of being a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, a radical Muslim group that have backed several political revolutions in the Middle East.
Since the release of the CIA’s conclusion, the Trump administration has not yet taken a true stance on the issue. President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, has a close relationship with Mohammed bin Salman, and therefore the president does not fully believe Mohammed was involved, even after being presented the evidence.
President Trump is also hesitant to act due to the good relationship Saudi Arabia has with the United States He fears condemning bin Salman would cause severe political and economic problems. Among them are Saudi Arabia no longer being allies with the United States against Iran, and the steep rise in oil prices.
So far, bin Salman’s has not received any formal punishments, i.e. trade sanctions, and it is uncertain whether those accused of Khashoggi’s assassination will endure any consequences.