US says Saudi prince approved Khashoggi murder but spares him sanctions
The United States on Feb. 26 for the first time publicly accused Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of approving the gruesome murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but stopped short of targeting the powerful heir apparent.
The prince, who is de facto ruler of the U.S. ally and oil provider, "approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi," said an intelligence report newly declassified by President Joe Biden's administration.
The report said that given Prince Mohammed's influence, it was "highly unlikely" that the 2018 murder could have taken place without his green light. The killing also fit a pattern of "the crown prince's support for using violent measures to silence dissidents abroad."
Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and critic of Prince Mohammed who wrote for The Washington Post, was lured to Istanbul's Saudi consulate in October 2018, then killed and cut into pieces.
The Treasury Department announced it was freezing assets and criminalizing transactions with a former intelligence official as well as the Rapid Intervention Force, an elite unit the report said "exists to defend the crown prince" and "answers only to him."
Biden said Friday that "we are going to hold (Saudi Arabia) accountable for human rights abuses. This report has been sitting there, the last administration wouldn't even release it... it is outrageous what happened."
But the United States stopped short of directly targeting the 35-year-old crown prince, known by his initials MBS.
In honor of the slain writer, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the "Khashoggi Act" that will ban entry into the United States of foreigners who threaten dissidents or harass reporters and their families...