After weeks of lying, Saudi Arabia just admitted Jamal Khashoggi is dead
The government of Saudi Arabia has officially announced that Jamal Khashoggi, the dissident journalist who disappeared two weeks ago, was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul at the hands of Saudi government officials.
According to an initial Saudi-led investigation, Khashoggi died inside the consulate after a conversation âdid not proceed in the desired manner,â the Saudi Foreign Ministry said on Friday night. There was âa fistfight that led to his death,â added Riyadhâs public prosecutor in a statement. It seems Khashoggi ultimately died from a chokehold.
Eighteen Saudis have been arrested in connection to the case, Saudi state-run television announced. They include a top intelligence official, Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri; Saud al-Qahtani, a close aide to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom US intelligence says likely knew about what happened to Khashoggi; and a total of four generals involved in foreign intelligence.
Thus ends at least part of the mystery of what happened to the Washington Post columnist. But many questions remain, including what happened to Khashoggiâs body, whether the Saudi officials responsible were sent to Istanbul by Crown Prince Mohammed himself, and why one of those officials just so happened to be an autopsy expert.
The kingdom has set up a commission to investigate what happened, state-run televisi on said, and will release a report in a month. A Saudi team is soon headed to Turkey to âclarify the truth,â the Saudi Press Agency reported.
However, given that the Saudi government has blatantly lied to the public for two weeks â" maintaining that Khashoggi had merely left the consulate on his own through a back entrance â" itâs unlikely the report will reveal the full truth about exactly what happened.
How will Trump respond?
US officials from across the political spectrum have already started to push back on the Saudi announcement.
âTo say that I am skeptical of the new Saudi narrative about Mr. Khashoggi is an understatement,â Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a top ally of President Donald Trump, tweeted on Friday night.
âWhere is the body?â asked Rep. Eric Swallwell (D-CA), a top member of the House Intelligence Committee, on Twitter. â#Khashoggiâs family deserve immediate custody of the remains as they seek some measure of closure.â
The White House did make an official statement on Friday night, saying it was âsaddenedâ by the Saudi admission.
But the only reaction that matters is Trumpâs alone. The problem is that heâs changed his stance on this issue over the past week.
Trump has repeatedly said he doesnât want to take any actions that could imperil a litany of arms sales to Riyadh that could total $110 billion. Whatâs more, Trump has noted that Khashoggi was a US resident, but not citizen, suggesting that his death doesnât merit a stern response from America. On Monday, he insinuated that ârogue killersâ were behind the journalistâs disappearance.
But three days later, he told reporters that it âcertainly looksâ like Khashoggi is dead, and vowed âsevereâ consequences if Saudi royals were behind the possible killing.
Itâs currently unclear if any members of the vast Saudi royal family are among the 18 individuals arrested in the case, so it remains to be seen whether the US will respond with any kind of punishment. And since the news came on a Friday night in America, itâs unlikely there will be much initial pressure on the president to do anything.
But all eyes will certainly be on the White House in the coming hours in what will certainly be on the biggest tests for Trump and the US-Saudi relationship.
In this Storystream
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi disappears in Turkey
- After weeks of lying, Saudi Arabia just admitted Jamal Khashoggi is dead
- Jared Kushner reportedly wants Trump to back Saudi crown prince
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