THE FURY OF A PRINCE SPURNED?

THE FATE OF SAUDI DIS­SI­DENT JA­MAL KHASHOGGI, WHO VAN­ISHED AF­TER EN­TER­ING THE KING­DOM’S CON­SULATE IN TURKEY, IS CLEARER BY THE DAY – BUT WHY DIDN’T THE US WARN HIM?

The Nation - - INSIGHT - SHANE HAR­RIS The Post’s Julie Tate, Ash­ley Halsey III, Josh Dawsey, Karoun Demir­jian, Karen DeYoung and Carol Morello in Wash­ing­ton in Wash­ing­ton, and Ka­reem Fahim and Love­day Mor­ris in Is­tan­bul con­trib­uted to this re­port.

THE CROWN PRINCE of Saudi Ara­bia, Mo­hammed bin Sal­man, or­dered an op­er­a­tion to lure Wash­ing­ton Post colum­nist Ja­mal Khashoggi back to Saudi Ara­bia from his home in Vir­ginia and then de­tain him, ac­cord­ing to US in­tel­li­gence in­ter­cepts of Saudi of­fi­cials dis­cussing the plan.

The in­tel­li­gence, de­scribed by US of­fi­cials fa­mil­iar with it, is an­other piece of ev­i­dence im­pli­cat­ing the Saudi regime in Khashoggi’s dis­ap­pear­ance last week af­ter he en­tered the Saudi Con­sulate in Is­tan­bul. Turk­ish of­fi­cials say that a Saudi se­cu­rity team lay in wait for the journalist and killed him.

Khashoggi was a prom­i­nent critic of the Saudi govern­ment and Mo­hammed in par­tic­u­lar. Sev­eral of Khashoggi’s friends said that over the past four months, se­nior Saudi of­fi­cials close to the crown prince had called Khashoggi to of­fer him pro­tec­tion, and even a high-level job work­ing for the govern­ment, if he re­turned to his home coun­try.

Khashoggi, how­ever, was scep­ti­cal of the of­fers. He told one friend that the Saudi govern­ment would never make good on its prom­ises not to harm him.

“He said: ‘Are you kid­ding? I don’t trust them one bit,’” said Khaled Saf­furi, an Arab-Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal ac­tivist, re­count­ing a con­ver­sa­tion he had with Khashoggi in May, mo­ments af­ter Khashoggi had re­ceived a call from Saud al-Qah­tani, an ad­viser to the royal court.

The in­tel­li­gence point­ing to a plan to de­tain Khashoggi in Saudi Ara­bia has fu­elled spec­u­la­tion by of­fi­cials and an­a­lysts in mul­ti­ple coun­tries that what tran­spired at the con­sulate was a backup plan to cap­ture Khashoggi that may have gone wrong.

A former US in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cial – who, like oth­ers, spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity to dis­cuss the sen­si­tive mat­ter – noted that the de­tails of the op­er­a­tion, which in­volved send­ing two teams to­talling 15 men, in two pri­vate air­craft ar­riv­ing and de­part­ing Turkey at dif­fer­ent times, bore the hall­marks of a “ren­di­tion”, in which some­one is ex­tra-legally re­moved from one coun­try and de­posited for in­ter­ro­ga­tion in an­other.

But Turk­ish of­fi­cials have con­cluded that what­ever the in­tent of the op­er­a­tion, Khashoggi was killed in­side the con­sulate. In­ves­ti­ga­tors have not found his body, but Turk­ish of­fi­cials have re­leased video sur­veil­lance footage of Khashoggi en­ter­ing the con­sulate on the af­ter­noon of Oc­to­ber 2. There is no footage that shows him leav­ing, they said.

The in­tel­li­gence about Saudi Ara­bia’s ear­lier plans to de­tain Khashoggi have raised ques­tions about whether the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion should have warned the journalist that he might be in dan­ger.

In­tel­li­gence agen­cies have a “duty to warn” peo­ple who might be kid­napped, se­ri­ously in­jured or killed, ac­cord­ing to a di­rec­tive signed in 2015. The obli­ga­tion ap­plies re­gard­less of whether the per­son is a US cit­i­zen. Khashoggi was a US res­i­dent.

“Duty to warn ap­plies if harm is in­tended to­ward an in­di­vid­ual,” said a former se­nior in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cial. But that duty also de­pends on whether the in­tel­li­gence clearly in­di­cated Khashoggi was in dan­ger, the former of­fi­cial said.

“Cap­tur­ing him, which could have been in­ter­preted as ar­rest­ing him, would not have trig­gered a duty-to­warn obli­ga­tion,” the former of­fi­cial said. “If some­thing in the re­ported in­ter­cept in­di­cated that vi­o­lence was planned, then, yes, he should have been warned.”

The Of­fice of the Di­rec­tor of Na­tional In­tel­li­gence, which over­sees the warn­ing process, de­clined to com­ment on whether Khashoggi had been con­tacted.

Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials have not com­mented on the in­tel­li­gence re­ports that showed a Saudi plan to lure Khashoggi.

“Though I can­not com­ment on in­tel­li­gence mat­ters, I can say defini­tively the United States had no ad­vance knowl­edge of [Khashoggi’s] dis­ap­pear­ance,” deputy State De­part­ment spokesman Robert Pal­ladino told re­porters on Wed­nes­day. Asked whether the US govern­ment would have had a duty to warn Khashoggi if it pos­sessed in­for­ma­tion that he was in jeop­ardy, Pal­ladino de­clined to an­swer what he called a “hy­po­thet­i­cal ques­tion”.

It was not clear to of­fi­cials with knowl­edge of the in­tel­li­gence whether the Saudis dis­cussed harm­ing Khashoggi as part of the plan to de­tain him in Saudi Ara­bia.

But the in­tel­li­gence had been dis­sem­i­nated through­out the US govern­ment and con­tained in re­ports that are rou­tinely avail­able to peo­ple work­ing on US pol­icy to­ward Saudi Ara­bia or re­lated is­sues, one US of­fi­cial said.

The in­tel­li­gence poses a po­lit­i­cal prob­lem for the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion be­cause it im­pli­cates the crown prince, who is par­tic­u­larly close to Jared Kush­ner, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s son-in-law and se­nior ad­viser.

On Wed­nes­day, Kush­ner and na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser John Bolton spoke by phone with the crown prince, but White House of­fi­cials said the Saudis pro­vided lit­tle in­for­ma­tion.

Trump has grown frus­trated, two of­fi­cials said, af­ter ini­tially re­act­ing slowly to Khashoggi’s dis­ap­pear­ance. Ear­lier this week, he said he had no in­for­ma­tion about what had hap­pened to the journalist.

White House of­fi­cials have be­gun dis­cussing how to force Saudi Ara­bia to pro­vide an­swers and what pun­ish­ment could be meted out if the govern­ment there is found re­spon­si­ble.

Law­mak­ers on Capi­tol Hill have re­acted harshly to the dis­ap­pear­ance. On Wed­nes­day, a bi­par­ti­san group of sen­a­tors asked Trump to im­pose sanc­tions on any­one found re­spon­si­ble for Khashoggi’s dis­ap­pear­ance, in­clud­ing Saudi lead­ers.

Repub­li­can Se­na­tor Lind­sey Gra­ham, per­haps the pres­i­dent’s clos­est ally in the Se­nate, pred­i­cated a “bi­par­ti­san tsunami” of ac­tion if the Saudis were in­volved and said that Khashoggi’s death could al­ter the na­ture of re­la­tions be­tween the two coun­tries.

Kush­ner’s re­la­tion­ship with Prince Mo­hammed, known within na­tional se­cu­rity agen­cies by the ini­tials MBS, has long been the sub­ject of sus­pi­cion by some Amer­i­can in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials.

Kush­ner and Mo­hammed have had pri­vate, one-on-one phone calls that were not al­ways set up through nor­mal chan­nels so the con­ver­sa­tions could be memo­ri­alised and Kush­ner could be prop­erly briefed.

Flight data col­lected by AirNavRadarBox, a firm that tracks pri­vate and com­mer­cial planes all over the world, showed that the first of the two planes left Riyadh late on Oc­to­ber 1 and touched down in Is­tan­bul the fol­low­ing day at 3.15am.

They checked into the Moven­pick, one of the peo­ple with knowl­edge of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion said. Man­age­ment at the five-star ho­tel said they were not al­lowed to con­firm or deny that the group had checked in or that their ho­tel was part of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. A ho­tel worker con­firmed that the group checked in on Tues­day. “The po­lice came two or three days ago,” he said.

The first plane was car­ry­ing the part of the Saudi team that was await­ing Khashoggi at the con­sulate, in­ves­ti­ga­tors be­lieve, when he ar­rived at 1.14pm to col­lect a doc­u­ment he needed for his up­com­ing mar­riage.

Turkey’s govern­ment says it has seen no ev­i­dence sup­port­ing the Saudi claim that Khashoggi ever left the con­sulate alive.

Turk­ish po­lice op­er­ate at least one cam­era at the front of the build­ing. In­ves­ti­ga­tors have also ex­am­ined footage that cov­ers the rear of the mis­sion. Closed-cir­cuit TV cam­era feeds from the preschool op­po­site the rear en­trance have been re­trieved by Turk­ish in­tel­li­gence, and images from out­side the ho­tels are also be­ing re­viewed, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the probe.

A cam­era recorded Khashoggi en­ter­ing the con­sulate at 1.14pm, but he was never seen leav­ing.

“It’s clear he did not exit,” said one Turk­ish of­fi­cial with knowl­edge of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity to dis­cuss the on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Be­hind a gate next to the front en­trance is a cov­ered car port, out of the view of cam­eras. From that garage, two ve­hi­cles ex­ited about two hours af­ter Khashoggi en­tered the con­sulate, ac­cord­ing to one of the peo­ple briefed on the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. One of the cars was the Mercedes that pulled up in front of the res­i­dence of Otaibi, the Saudi con­sul gen­eral, at 3.09pm, ac­cord­ing to the time stamp on the video still of the Mercedes ob­tained by the Post.

The drive to the con­sulate takes only a few min­utes. The build­ing is topped with the Saudi em­blem of golden crossed swords and a palm tree. A Saudi flag flies out­side. Two pri­vate se­cu­rity guards in a booth out­side con­firmed that the video still ap­peared to be shot from a cam­era that be­longed to the po­lice.

The cars stayed at Otaibi’s res­i­dence for four hours, ac­cord­ing to an ac­count pub­lished on Tues­day in Sabah, a pro- govern­ment Turk­ish news­pa­per con­nected to Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan. The re­port added that Turk­ish em­ploy­ees at the res­i­dence were “hastily” told to leave that day. The ve­rac­ity of the re­port could not be con­firmed.

Flight data shows that a sec­ond pri­vate jet, be­lieved by in­ves­ti­ga­tors to be trans­port­ing the rest of the team, touched down in Is­tan­bul at 5.15pm. It is un­clear whether those on board trav­elled to ei­ther the con­sulate or the res­i­dence. It departed an hour and 15 min­utes af­ter it ar­rived, head­ing for Cairo. Twen­ty­five hours af­ter its ar­rival in Cairo, the plane left for Riyadh.

The ini­tial plane left Is­tan­bul at 10.45pm and made a stop about 450 kilo­me­tres to the east in Nal­li­han, Turkey. Then it skirted the bor­der be­tween Iraq and Iran, favour­ing the Iraqi side, and crossed over the Per­sian Gulf. It landed in Dubai at 2.30am. The fol­low­ing morn­ing, Oc­to­ber 3, it took off for Riyadh.

For all his crit­i­cism of the Saudi regime, Khashoggi was not al­ways op­posed to Mo­hammed’s poli­cies. Khashoggi cred­ited the young leader for what he saw as pos­i­tive changes, in­clud­ing loos­en­ing Saudi cul­tural re­stric­tions.

Khashoggi of­ten ex­pressed af­fec­tion for his home­land, even while say­ing he did not be­lieve it was safe for him. One per­son in contact with the crown prince, speaking on the con­di­tion of anonymity to pre­serve the re­la­tion­ship, said Khashoggi last year asked him to give a mes­sage to Mo­hammed say­ing he needed some­one like Khashoggi as an ad­viser.

When he trans­mit­ted the mes­sage, this per­son said, the crown prince said that Khashoggi was tied to the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood and to Qatar, both Saudi ad­ver­saries, and that the ar­range­ment would never hap­pen.

Two other friends of Khashoggi said that at least twice he re­ceived cor­dial phone calls from Qah­tani, the ad­viser to the prince, con­vey­ing friendly mes­sages on his be­half.

In one of the calls, in Septem­ber 2017, Qah­tani said that Mo­hammed had been “very happy” to see Khashoggi post a mes­sage prais­ing the king­dom af­ter the govern­ment an­nounced it was lift­ing a driv­ing ban on women, ac­cord­ing to one of the friends, who was with Khashoggi at the time. The tone of the call was pleas­ant, but Khashoggi also told Qah­tani he would praise the govern­ment when there were “pos­i­tive de­vel­op­ments. When there are bad things, I will speak up.”

He spent the rest of the call ad­vo­cat­ing on be­half of sev­eral re­cently im­pris­oned crit­ics of the regime.

A friend also said that Khashoggi told him he had been ap­proached sev­eral times by a busi­ness­man close to the Saudi rul­ing fam­ily. The busi­ness­man, whom Khashoggi did not name, seemed “keen” to see him ev­ery time he vis­ited Wash­ing­ton and told Khashoggi that he would work with the Saudi au­thor­i­ties to ar­range his re­turn, the friend said.

A frame grab from a po­lice CCTV video made avail­able through Turk­ish news­pa­per Sabah shows a pri­vate jet al­leged to have fer­ried in a Saudi hit squad sus­pected of killing Saudi journalist Ja­mal Khashoggi, at Is­tan­bul’s Ataturk Air­port on Oc­to­ber 2.

Ja­mal Khashoggi

Saudi Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man

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