TIES WITH SAUDI AT STAKE AS U.S. RELEASES REPORT ON KHASHOGGI MURDER
The United States has pledged to tell the world its conclusions on what role Saudi Arabia’s crown prince played in the brutal killing and dismembering of a US-based journalist, but as important is what comes next — what the Biden administration plans to do about it, Ellen Knickmeyer reported for the Associated Press (AP).
Ahead of the release of the declassified US intelligence report, and announcement of any punitive measures, President Joe Biden spoke to Saudi King Salman on Thursday for the first time since taking office more than a month ago.
It was a later-than-usual courtesy call to the Middle East ally, timing seen as reflecting Biden’s displeasure. Still, a White House readout made no mention of the killing or the report.
The conversation was overshadowed by the expected imminent release of findings on whether the king’s son approved the Oct. 2, 2018, killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s authoritarian consolidation of power, inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
US intelligence agencies concluded in 2018 that the prince likely ordered the killing, a finding reported by news media but never officially released. The release comes after a report showed the two jets used by the team that murdered Khasoggi were owned by the $100-billion Saudi sovereign wealth fund controlled by the Crown Prince.
The White House said Biden on Thursday discussed with King Salman the two countries’ “longstanding partnership” and welcomed the kingdom’s recent releases of an advocate for women’s rights and some of its other political detainees.
The language came in contrast to Biden’s pledge as a candidate to make Saudi Arabia “a pariah” over the killing. The White House offered no immediate explanation for his milder tone with the king.
The kingdom’s state-run Saudi Press Agency similarly did not mention Khashoggi’s killing in a report about the call between Biden and King Salman, instead focusing on regional issues such as Iran and the ongoing war in Yemen.