Saudi Arabia admits Khashoggi's murder was âpremeditatedâ
Saudi Arabia just admitted that the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was âpremeditated,â putting significant pressure on President Donald Trump to respond.
The countryâs public prosecutor announced on Thursday morning that the kingdom reached this conclusion after receiving information from Turkey. Ankara has long claimed it had intelligence about what happened to Khashoggi after he entered Riyadhâs Istanbul consulate on October 2. Over the past few weeks, Turkey has leaked many of those details to local and international press as part of a pressure campaign to harm its regional rival.
â[T]he suspects in the incident had committed their act with a premeditated intention,â the Saudi attorney said. âThe Public Prosecution continues its investigations with the accused in the light of what it has received and the results of its investigations to reach facts and complete the course of justice.â
The statement, carried in the state-run Saudi Press Agency, comes just hours after CIA Director Gina Haspel listened to audio of Khashoggiâs murder during a secret trip to Turkey. Itâs possible that the kingdom wanted to get ahead of any official accusations from Washington in the coming days.
While many US government officials and analysts confidently assu med Riyadh organized the effort to kill Khashoggi, the kingdomâs reversal is no less stunning.
It denied any responsibility for the journalistâs disappearance for weeks, initially saying that he had exited the consulate through another entrance. Just last week, Riyadh said the 59-year-old writer died in a âfist fightâ during an interrogation, an explanation that President Donald Trump called part of the âworst cover-up ever.â
Saudi officials have arrested 18 people, including Saud al-Qahtani, a close aide to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who US intelligence says likely knew about what happened to Khashoggi.
But thereâs little expectation that the probeâs conclusions will be impartial, or that it will reprimand the crown prince, known as MBS, in any significant way. Meanwhile, Khashoggiâs body is still missing.
This is a big test for Trump
Trump has repeatedly said he doesnât want to take any actions that could imperil luc rative arms sales to Riyadh that could be worth $110 billion. Whatâs more, he has noted that Khashoggi was a US resident, not a citizen, suggesting that his death doesnât merit a stern response from America.
But last week, he told reporters that it âcertainly looksâ like Khashoggi is dead, and vowed âsevereâ consequences if Saudi royals were behind the killing. Itâs unclear what, exactly, those reprimands might be. As of now, the US has only canceled Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchinâs visit to a swanky Saudi conference this week and revoked the visas of 21 Saudi officials suspected of participating in the murder.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including Trump allies, have called for a change in the US-Saudi relationship. Some have openly blamed MBS, the kingdomâs de facto leader, for the crime.
âYouâll never convince me that he didnât do this,â Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said on Sunday. Trump hasnât gone that far, but on Wedne sday he said if anyone would know about what happened to Khashoggi, MBS would. âThe prince runs things over there,â he added.
Should the US choose to downgrade its relationship with Saudi Arabia â" the centerpiece of its Middle East strategy and greatest counterweight to Iran â" it would prove a turning point in Trumpâs foreign policy. Washington has steadfastly stood by the kingdom, despite its brutal war in Yemen and jailing of human rights activists.
That means all eyes will be on Trump in the coming hours and days as he formulates a response â" and decides once and for all what he believes happened to Khashoggi.
In this Storystream
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi disappears in Turkey
- Saudi Arabia admits Khashoggiâs murder was âpremeditatedâ
- The US will revoke visas for Saudi suspects in Jamal Khashoggiâs killing
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