CIA briefing on Khashoggi solidifies senators’ view of prince’s complicity
Clear and biting assessment put Republican senators at odds with the White House
WASHINGTON—A bipartisan group of senior senators on Tuesday said that a classified briefing by the CIA 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 assessment 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.
Full story at thestar.com/world
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.