CIA brief­ing on Khashoggi so­lid­i­fies se­na­tors’ view of prince’s com­plic­ity

Clear and bit­ing as­sess­ment put Repub­li­can se­na­tors at odds with the White House

StarMetro Toronto - - CANADA & WORLD - Eric Sch­mitt and Ni­cholas Fan­dos­the

WASH­ING­TON— A bi­par­ti­san group of se­nior se­na­tors on Tues­day T rief­ing said by the that CIA a clas­si­fied di­rec­tor had only so­lid­i­fied their be­lief that Mo­hammed bin Sal­man, the crown prince of Saudi Ara­bia, or­dered the killing of Saudi dis­si­dent Ja­mal Khashoggi. Prince Mo­hammed “is a wreck­ing ball,” Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham, R-S.C., told re­porters af­ter an hour­long brief­ing by Gina Haspel, the CIA di­rec­tor. “I think he’s com­plicit in the mur­der of Mr. Khashoggi to the high­est level pos­si­ble.”

Richard Shelby, R-ala., the Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee chair­man, echoed that “all ev­i­dence points to that, that all this leads back to the crown prince.”

“This is con­duct that none of us in Amer­ica would ap­prove of in any way,” Shelby said. The clear and bit­ing as- sess­ment put Repub­li­can se­na­tors at odds with the White House, which has stead­fastly re­fused to cast blame on Saudi Ara­bia’s lead­er­ship for the death of Khashoggi, a U. S. res­i­dent and Wash­ing­ton Post colum­nist. His killing sparked in­ter­na­tional ou­trage over the king­dom’s heavy- handed tac­tics and re­newed at­ten­tion to the Saudi-led war in Ye­men. Se­na­tors, how­ever, were di­vided as to what steps to take next, fol­low­ing a sting­ing vote last week to con­sider a mea­sure cut­ting off U.S. mil­i­tary aid to Saudi Ara­bia’s cam­paign.

“Some­body should be pun­ished, but the ques­tion is: How do you sep­a­rate the Saudi crown prince from the na­tion it­self ?” Shelby said.

Gra­ham said he would not vote for the Ye­men res­o­lu­tion. In­stead, he said, he would rally sup­port for a dif­fer­ent, broader ef­fort against the king­dom — to cut off arms sales and mil­i­tary aid for the war in Ye­men, and im­pose new sanc­tions on those re­spon­si­ble for the killing, in­clud­ing the crown prince.

“There is not a smok­ing gun, there’s a smok­ing saw,” Gra­ham said. “You have to be will­fully blind” not to see it. He was re­fer­ring to a bone saw that Turk­ish of­fi­cials have said was used to dis­mem­ber Khashoggi at the Saudi Con­sulate in Is­tan­bul.

U.S. of­fi­cials have said that the CIA has con­cluded that Prince Mo­hammed or­dered the Oct. 2 killing. The in­tel­li­gence agency is also be­lieved to have ev­i­dence that the crown prince com­mu­ni­cated re­peat­edly with an aide who com­manded the team that as­sas­si­nated Khashoggi, around the time of the jour­nal­ist’s death.

AFP/GETTY IM­AGES

Ex­changes be­tween Saudi crown prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man and a key aide be­lieved to have been in­volved in the as­sas­si­na­tion of jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi were key in so­lid­i­fy­ing the CIA’S con­clu­sion.

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