On Friday, the United States for the first time publicly accused Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of approving the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Biden administration also announced a new set of punitive measures indirectly targeting the Saudi Crown Prince.
Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of the Saudi, approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey, to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi said an intelligence report that was declassified by President Joe Biden’s administration. The Biden administration released the declassified intelligence report to Congress ahead of its public release on Friday.
“We assess that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” the intelligence report reads.
Khashoggi, a journalist who wrote for The Washington Post, was allegedly killed by Saudi officials after luring him inside a Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. The journalist was killed and cut into pieces.
The report further says, “We base this assessment on the Crown Prince’s control of decision-making in the Kingdom, the direct involvement of a key adviser and members of Muhammad bin Salman’s protective detail in operation, and the Crown Prince’s support for using violent measures to silence dissidents abroad, including Khashoggi”.
The four-page document, titled “Assessing the Saudi Government’s Role in the Killing of Jamal Khashoggi”, is marked as declassified by the Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines on February 25.
“We have high confidence that the following individuals participated in, ordered, or were otherwise complicit in or responsible for the death of Jamal Khashoggi on behalf of Muhammad bin Salman. We do not know whether these individuals knew in advance that the operation would result in Khashoggi’s death,” read the declassified report.
Biden administration introduces “Khashoggi ban”, to take punitive actions
Following the release of the report, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a new set of punitive measures called – “Khashoggi Ban” that allows the Biden administration to restrict visas for individuals acting on behalf of a foreign government who are directly engaged in “serious, extraterritorial counter-dissident activities, including those that suppress, harass, surveil, threaten, or harm journalists, activists, or other persons perceived to be dissidents for their work.”
In a statement, Blinken said that the ban will cover family members and would immediately be applied to 76 Saudi individuals “believed to have been engaged in threatening dissidents overseas, including but not limited to the Khashoggi killing.” However, the new measures do not directly target the Saudi crown prince.
Responding to the media regarding actions against Saudi Prince, US Secretary of State Blinken said that “this is bigger than any one person,” contending that the Biden administration is trying not to rupture the relationship with Saudi, “but to recalibrate to be more in line with our interests and our values”.