Journalist Jamal Khashoggi, murdered by a Saudi hit squad, and his fiancée Hatice Cengiz (File)
Defying new evidence, the Trump Administration reinforces its support for Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Speaking on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Argentina, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pushed aside the CIA assessment that Mohammad bin Salman was involved the killing by a 15-member Saudi squad on October 2 in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey:
I have read every piece of intelligence that’s in the possession of the United States government. And when it is done, when you complete that analysis, there’s no direct evidence linking him to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. That is a accurate statement, it is an important statement, and it is a statement that we are making publicly today.
The CIA assessment, a summary of which was leaked to the media earlier this month, did not find a direct order from the Crown Prince for the murder. However, it concluded that he was responsibility from communications before and after the killing and from his authority over matters such as the fate of a high-profile figure such as Khashoggi.
Before the revelation of the assessment, Donald Trump said that the priority was US arms sales to Saudi Arabia. He subsequently dismissed the CIA’s report: “It could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn’t.”
In the latest revelation from the assessment, the CIA expressed “medium-to-high confidence” that the Crown Prince “personally targeted” Khashoggi and “probably ordered his death”.
Dismissing New Evidence
Asked on Saturday if the CIA has “high confidence” of the Crown Prince’s involvement, Pompeo said, “I can’t comment on intelligence matters.”
But the weekend report said the assessment includes electronic communications that Mohammad bin Salman sent to his communications chief, Saud al-Qahtani, who oversaw the 15-man team that killed Khashoggi.
The CIA intercepted 11 messages in the hours before and after the murder. The assessment said the content is unknown.
The agency noted that the Crown Prince told associates in August 2017 that if his attempts to persuade Khashoggi to return were unsuccessful, “we could possibly lure him outside Saudi Arabia and make arrangements”.
The CIA repeated, “To be clear, we lack direct reporting of the Crown Prince issuing a kill order”; however, it summarized, “We assess it is highly unlikely this team of operators…carried out the operation without Muhammed bin Salman’s authorization.”
A Saudi official maintained:
The Crown Prince communicates regularly with various senior officials within the Royal Court on different matters. At no time did HRH [His Royal Highness] correspond with any Saudi officials in any government entity on harming Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen. We continue to categorically reject any accusations based on speculations.
Pompeo indicated on Saturday that no evidence would be significant enough to shift the Administration’s position:
[Saudi Arabia] are an enormous support to us. They are a relationship that has mattered for 70 years across Republican and Democrat administrations alike, and remain an important relationship. We’re aiming to keep that relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Khashoggi: “The More Victims He Eats, The More He Wants”
Mohammad bin Salman’s possible responsibility has been further highlighted by the release of Jamal Khashoggi’s text messages with his perception of the monarchy’s danger.
“The more victims he eats, the more he wants,” the journalist said in a message in May, just after a group of Saudi activists was detained. “I will not be surprised if the oppression will reach even those who are cheering him on.”
The messages among more than 400 sent via WhatsApp to a fellow Saudi exile, Montreal-based activist Omar Abdulaziz, in the past year.
Khashoggi wrote of the detentions:
Arrests are unjustified and do not serve him (logic says), but tyranny has no logic, but he loves force, oppression and needs to show them off. He is like a beast “PacMan”.
Abdulaziz pondered, “Is there a possibility that when he becomes a King he would pardon them in a gesture to show pardon and mercy?”
Khashoggi replied, “This is what logic says, but I no longer have faith in it to analyze the man’s mind.”
In August, as the men discussed a youth movement and digital offensive — the “cyber bees” — to counter the Crown Prince, Khashoggi wrote, “God help us.”
Trump to North Korea’s Kim: “I’ll Make Everything You Want Come True”
Donald Trump is promising to give North Korea’s Kim Jong-un everything he desires if Pyongyang completes denuclearization, according to South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
Moon said Trump asked him to relay the message to Kim, following a Friday meeting on the sidelines of the G20 meeting:
The message was that President Trump has a very friendly view of Chairman Kim and that he likes him, and so he wishes Chairman Kim would implement the rest of their agreement and that he would make what Chairman Kim wants come true.
Trump and Kim met in Singapore in June, with the two men signing a document generally committing to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. But US intelligence agencies say that, while North Korea has not resumed missile testing, it has not slowed its nuclear program.
Trump has agreed to meet Kim again, but no exact date has been set.
BREAKING: Trump says that next meeting with NKorea's Kim likely to be in January or February and that 3 sites are being considered.
— AP Politics (@AP_Politics) December 2, 2018