U.S. intelligence shows that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman — who once bragged about his friendship with Jared Kushner — was personally behind an operation that led to the brutal assassination of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday evening that the Saudi prince hatched the operation to convince Khashoggi to travel to the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey from his Virginia home in order to detain him. The Post columnist was reportedly at the consulate to obtain divorce papers he needed in order to finalize his marriage to a Turkish woman. However, he never left the building.
The Post reported that various countries have speculated that Khashoggi’s death was likely not planned, and resulted from a botched detainment operation.
According to the New York Times, Khashoggi was reportedly assassinated by a 15-member squad dispatched by the Saudi royal court, who killed him shortly after he arrived at the consulate and hacked apart his body with a bone saw. A senior official in the Turkish government told the Times that the murder was akin to the gritty movie “Pulp Fiction.”
The Post‘s findings from U.S. intelligence intercepts appearing to confirm the crown prince’s involvement in Khashoggi’s death directly contradicts previous statements the Saudi government issued in the wake of Khashoggi’s disappearance and ensuing speculation.
“Jamal’s disappearance is a matter of grave concern to us, and we categorically reject any allegations of involvement in his disappearance,” a Saudi official told Vox.com on Monday.
It’s unclear how the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi will influence Saudi Arabia’s relationship with the U.S., as the Trump administration has a close connection with Prince Salman through President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. When the Saudi prince visited the U.S. earlier this year, Kushner was at several dinners with him, and the two spoke frequently by phone in the lead-up to Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia — his first official visit to any foreign country after his inauguration.
A March report for the Post described how the core of U.S./Saudi Arabian relations in the Trump era stemmed from the relationship between Kushner and Prince Salman:
Kushner’s unique role was evident a few weeks ago when White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly asked a question in an intelligence briefing about a sensitive policy matter related to Saudi Arabia in preparation for the crown prince’s visit.
In response, intelligence briefers told him that virtually all of the conversations that U.S. officials had with the Saudis on the matter had been between Kushner and Mohammed, according to several people familiar with the episode.
During his tour of the U.S. this year, Mohammed bin Salman quickly became a media darling, with CBS’ 60 Minutes and TIME magazine giving him flattering coverage, describing him as a reformer committed to bringing Saudi Arabia into the future. However, the crown prince has presided over the ongoing persecution of Yemen, and his regime was accused of war crimes in an August 2018 United Nations report.
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.