Reporter covering national security, Middle East, North Africa, terrorism, Europe.
Souad Mekhennet Reporter covering national security, Middle East, North Africa, terrorism, Europe. December 1, 18:18 In hours before and after,…
In hours before and after, the journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Saudi Prince Prince Mohammed bin Salman and a higher aide allegedly convinced that the murder had exchanged several messages, according to People familiar with the question.
The communication between the two men is another evidence that binds the crown prince to kill Khashoggi, a former palace inspector became distinguished critic, who was also a contributing columnist to The Washington Post.
The CIA included the presence of the messages in its rated assessment that Mohammed is likely to have ordered Khashoggi’s death, an opinion that agency officials have shared with congressmen and the White House.
Mohammed replaced the announcements on October 2 with Saud al-Qahtani, one of his closest assistants and a hard public advocate who has maintained a black list of those he considers disloyal to the Kingdom. The contents of the messages, and the form of the messages, were not known, according to people familiar with the question.
Citing parts of CIA’s written assessment, the Wall Street Journal first reported on Saturday that Mohammed had sent at least 11 messages to Qahtani before and after the killing.
The CIA has assessed its assessment that Mohammed was involved in the killing of “means of high trust” and privately, officials have said it is unthinkable that the Prince, who exercises total authority over the government, could not have known for such a sincere operation . The post had previously described officials as saying that the CIA had great confidence in its assessment.
“The accepted position is that nothing has happened without being aware or involved,” said a US official familiar with the CIA’s conclusions. The CIA has declined to comment, and people who are familiar with intelligence said that the agency has not found any evidence that immediately links Mohammed directly to the killing.
Trumps administrative officials on Sunday continued to emphasize that point and stressed the importance of the US maintaining close relationship with Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom has acknowledged that its operators killed Khashoggi, but it is said that the operation was not approved by the crown prince and was made by crooks.
“I have read every piece of intelligence held by the United States government,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in an interview with CNN on Saturday “and when it is clear, when you complete that analysis, there is no direct evidence which links him to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. “
Pompeo, who refused to comment on the CIA’s rated assessment, said the United States worked close to Saudi Arabia on important foreign policy issues, including Afghanistan, and that the nation was an important regional counterweight to Iran .
“They are a relationship that has meant 70 years over republican and democratic administrations,” said Pompeo, who previously served as CIA chief. “It’s still an important relationship, and we strive to keep that relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the question of keeping the responsible killers responsible and the strategic importance of the US-Saudi relationship was separate problems.
“Responsibility for the killing of Khashoggi stands alone. It differs from any other factor that happens,” said Mattis in comments at the Reagan National Defense Forum in California.
“Right now we do not have a smoke gun,” said He noted that he had seen all the latest intelligence on the issue from Friday. “We have no smoke gun [showing] whose Crown Prince was involved. We really need to continue exploring. . . all aspects of the murder and finding someone involved, but in no way should it deter us from actually confronting Iran, “which the Trump government regards as its major opponent in the Middle East and one as Saudi Arabia is crucial for meeting.  Qahtani has emerged as a key actor in the killing and a convincing link to the prince. He appears in another part of CIA’s assessment: An alleged member of the Saudi army as US and Turkish officials said that Qahtani supervised Maher Mutreb called Qahtani Inside the consulate to inform him Khashoggi was dead, the post has reportedly reported. Mutreb, a security officer often on the prince’s side, is seen on security photos entering and leaving the consulate on the day Khashoggi was killed.
The US intelligence service also has interceptions If communication before Khashoggi was killed, showing Mohammed had ordered one operation to attract him back to Saudi Arabia. Khashogi’s friends have said that Qahtani called the journalist and raised the potential of his crown prince work if he would finish his self-imposed exile in Virginia and return to his homeland.
Messages that the United States intercepted in July shows that Mohammed had asked senior Saudi Arabian intelligence officials about the status of a plan to attract Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia according to an intelligence officer.
President Trump, who has also been informed of CIA’s results, has been ambiguous to donate the Crown Prince, who works near the president’s son-in-law and senior counselor Jared Kushner on Middle East issues.
“Maybe he did or maybe he did not!” Trump said in a statement last month and added that the true sins would never be known. The president has said that the strategic relationship with Saudi Arabia and the benefits of the US economy from Saudi arms procurement is far too important to burst over the killing of Khashoggi, which he has condemned.
But the latest revelation of intelligence that connects Mohammed and his aide Qahtani to the killing can increase the pressure on the administration to take more punishment.
The Treasury Department has sanctioned 17 people who said they were involved in Khashoggi’s death, including Qahtani, Mutreb and the Saudi consulate in Turkey, Mohammad al-Otaibi. However, some members of the Congress have demanded further action, and Republicans have begun failing from the administration over their support for the Saudi people.
Last week, in a punishment of Saudi Arabia and the administration’s handling of the Khashoggi case, the majority of the Senate voted to deepen an action to end US military support to Saudi Arabia for its war in Yemen against Iranian-backed militants.
Mekhennet reported from Frankfurt, Germany. Missy Ryan in Simi Valley, California, and John Hudson in Washington contributed to this report.