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CIA: Saudi Crown Prince Sent 11 Messages Khashoggi Hit Team Hours Before Murder

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It has been nearly two months to the day since Jamal Khashoggi walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul hoping to retrieve papers needed to marry his Turkish fiance – only to be killed and butchered by a 15-man Saudi murder squad. In the intervening weeks, the Saudis have suffered remarkably little blowback (considering that the uproar elicited by Khashoggi’s murder nearly triggered a global diplomatic crisis): To date, the US and Canada have levied sanctions against a 17 Saudis suspected of participating or orchestrating Khashoggi’s murder, and a handful of countries who don’t sell arms to Saudi Arabia have said they will stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, both Canada and the US have balked at similar measures because they would inevitably kill jobs.

Clearly concerned about the flagging interest in holding Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman accountable for his suspected role in ordering the killing, the CIA has decided to pick up where Turkey left off.

Last week, somebody inside the agency leaked a preliminary report to the Washington Post detailing the agency’s determination that MbS had ordered the killing. And on Saturday morning, the Wall Street Journal published the latest (illegal) intelligence agency leak when it reported on the contents of intercepts revealing that during the hours after and immediately before the killing, MbS had exchanged 11 messages with Saud al-Qahtani, a close aide to the prince who is believed to have supervised the murder squad.

Notably, the WSJ report followed a vote in the Senate earlier this week to open debate on a measure to withdraw US support for Saudi Arabia’s proxy war in Yemen (the kingdom’s brutal bombing campaigns have reportedly resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of innocents and created one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world). The Trump Administration has opposed the bill, arguing that it would damage its relationship with a crucial geopolitical ally while also killing jobs in the Military-Industrial Complex. While we wouldn’t go as far as to suggest that the CIA is deliberately trying to undermine the administration, the timing of this leak is certainly curious.

Al-Qahtani has shouldered most of the consequences of Khashoggi’s kingdom (he has been fired from the kingdom’s intelligence service and targeted by US and Canadian sanctions) largely due to his reputation as MbS’s enforcer. Al-Qahtani has attacked dissidents whom MbS views as a threat, as well as orchestrated their detention and torture (and not just inside the Riyadh Ritz Carlton).

According to the CIA intercepts, MbS also discussed taking steps to silence Khashoggi if he continued to speak out (with talk of “making arrangements” to lure him somewhere outside Saudi Arabia).

The Saudi leader also in August 2017 had told associates that if his efforts to persuade Mr. Khashoggi to return to Saudi Arabia weren’t successful, “we could possibly lure him outside Saudi Arabia and make arrangements,” according to the assessment, a communication that it states “seems to foreshadow the Saudi operation launched against Khashoggi.”

[…]

The previously unreported excerpts reviewed by the Journal state that the CIA has “medium-to-high confidence” that Prince Mohammed “personally targeted” Khashoggi and “probably ordered his death.” It added: “To be clear, we lack direct reporting of the Crown Prince issuing a kill order.”

The electronic messages sent by Prince Mohammed were to Saud al-Qahtani, according to the CIA. Mr. Qahtani supervised the 15-man team that killed Mr. Khashoggi and, during the same period, was also in direct communication with the team’s leader in Istanbul, the assessment says. The content of the messages between Prince Mohammed and Mr. Qahtani isn’t known, the document says. It doesn’t say in what form the messages were sent.

Other details seemingly culled from the CIA’s internal reports  also found their way into the WSJ story, including a detailed accounting of the agency’s reasons for suspecting MbS’s involvement.

The judgment on Prince Mohammed’s likely culpability, the CIA assessment says, is based on the crown prince’s personal focus on Mr. Khashoggi, his tight control over the Saudi operatives sent to Istanbul to kill him, “and his authorizing some of the same operators to violently target other opponents.”

Mr. Qahtani has led Prince Mohammed’s efforts to crack down on dissent internally and abroad. He is one of the 17 sanctioned by the Treasury.

[…]

The highly classified CIA assessment says that the Saudi team sent to kill Mr. Khashoggi was assembled from Prince Mohammed’s top security units in the Royal Guard and in an organization run by Mr. Qahtani, the Center for Studies and Media Affairs at the Royal Court, the Saudi royal court’s media department.

“We assess it is highly unlikely this team of operators…carried out the operation without Muhammed bin Salman’s authorization,” it says.

The document says that Mr. Qahtani “explicitly requested the Crown Prince’s permission when he pursued other sensitive operations in 2015, which reflects the Crown Prince’s command and control expectations.”

Some can argue that these findings don’t necessarily contradict the administration’s position. Trump, National Security Advisor John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and even Defense Secretary James Mattis have said that the intelligence agency’s findings aren’t definitive – which, by the CIA’s own admission, is true.

As Trump recently said about MbS’s involvement, “Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t.” While this chilling exercise in realpolitik might make many Americans uncomfortable, it’s worth remembering that Canada has also resisted cancelling arms deals with the kingdom, despite its government’s scathing rhetoric. And Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan only stands to benefit from a rift between Saudi Arabia and the US (it would weaken one of his biggest regional rivals, while potentially leading to warmer relations with the US).

via zerohedge

6 COMMENTS

  1. The Khashoggi murder was a disgusting, despicable event. As the article states, this news event was splashed all over the newspapers and media, some already pointing to the Administration feckless reaction to the media reporting and Turkish Government felonious allegations. So the head of CIA was sent to Saudi Arabia to investigate. Following a minimalistic report by the CIA that was publicized, many in the media and in some in Political positions jumped to the conclusion that the Saudi Prince was indeed responsible for the order to kill the ill-fated reporter. POTUS has vehemently maintained that yes, Saudis are responsible for the sadistic murder but there is no “smoking gun” that leads to the Prince. Following charges by the Saudi Government to some 16 people thought to be the responsible parties, our Government imposed sanctions on the men being charged. Until a “smoking gun” appears and points directly to the Prince, I think the POTUS position is the correct one. Many & I mean many such atrocities occur on a daily basis in locations such as Cuba, Venezuela, Russia, China, Turkey, Yemen and I could go on; but few of these atrocities are ever reported. Remember the student that was incarcerated in NKorea for stealing a sign? Shortly after his release(negotiated by our Administration), he died, of course, he was released in a comatose state after being subjected to unmentionable torture. I’m pointing this out because Saudi Arabia is an ally of the US in Yemen and continues to push back on the Iranian backed murderous Houthis, the country is in total disarray and misery and turmoil prevails. Should we jeopardize our relationship with the only Western sympathizer fighting against the Iranian back terrorists? I rather have Saudi blood spilled there instead of American and I would encourage military purchases from the US by the Saudis, until such time that the Houthis are defeated and Iran is kicked out of Yemen along with the bloody hand of Russia. Let’s not cut our proverbial nose to spite our face. There are no perfectly “good guy” over there so we must choose the better of the worst. The World is not perfect neither are we, but if we keep an eye on what is best for America, we will rarely go wrong.

    • Very astute observations. As a long time student of Islamic history, politics, theology and culture, and having read 3 translations of the Koran the West needs to accept the reality that there are no true allies of the US among Muslim countries.

      The Saudis are one of our worst enemies as thier fundamentalist Wahabi sect that advocates covert jihad and indoctrination into Sharia have over a thousand mosques established in the US. They have and continue to infiltrate our education system, pouring millions into both universities and the textbook industry in order to rewrite history and spread propaganda favorabke to their cult. Thier arch enemies, the Sunnis of the Muslim Brotherhood, intent upon the same goal of destroying America from within, (see thier 90’s manifesto 100 year plan to subjugate America to Sharia and Islam), believe the Wahabi’s are not the true descendants of the false prophet and preach an errant form of the Koran.

      Thier internecine war has been going on for some time and it seems the “reporter” Khashoggi of Saudi descent had become critical of his nations politics and began siding with the Muslim Brotherhood, writing favorable articles about them. Khashoggi was no friend or objective reporter for the US. His fellow Saudis undoubtedly believed he had become a traitor to their cult and being at war with the Sunnis and Iranian Shias for that matter, the Saudis saw it thier duty to execute him for treason.

      As you point out, the Saudis appear, on the surface, the most moderate of the sects, but its a false veneer. They’re just more adept at hiding thier hatred of the Infidel West, and avoid making public exclamations of death to the “Great and Little Satans, America and Israel.

      The Koran is a handbook of terrorism, intolerance, hatred, hypocrisy and twisted religious ideals. Its barbaric, primitive doctrines have created a centuries long Medieval, Orwellian culture that renders its followers schizophrenic, delusional, supremacist fascists that cry victimhood at every turn while its select Jihadists warriors plot genocide and mass murder.

      The Koran forbids assimilation, tolerance or oaths of allegiance to the Infidel “enemy camp” unless it is carried out as a temporary “fifth column” strategy to infiltrate and subvert. The easily fooled liberals will point to actual reformist that want to exorcise the “terrorist” doctrines and intolerance from Islamic teachings. Unfortunately they represent a small 15% of Muslins in the West, are the useful idiots the fundamentalist use to infitrate and gain access, and in truth are regarded as heretics, blasphemers and infidels for violating the Korans srtict doctrine forbidding any attempt to reinterpret or reform it under penalty of death. In an Islamic country under strict Sharia law reformists are subject to capital punishment. Which is what ISIS was metting out in thier most radical but true interpretation of the Koran. All of the doctrines of global conquest the Koran advocates are mitigated by the need to act covertly in the face of superior military power, and even pretend alliance and cooperation until they have achieved the superior position.

      Basically the Koran condemns Muslims to be in a perpetual state of war, either covertly or overtly. As John Q Adam’s noted, and 150 years later, Winston Churchill, after learning the true nature of Islam, that “as long as there are followers of the false prophet” and “Islam remains a political power,” the world will not know peace. Islam is one of the three principalities of evil that plague the world, the other two being atheism and communism and the respective variations of all three. If I was in control, after 9/11 I would have turned Mecca into a sheet of glass and given the hierarchy of Islamist goverments the option of burning all Korans and re-education or total extermination in the military apocalypse they are deluded in believing they need to emerge in control of the world. As an optimistic futurist I believe God will deliver some type of revelation to transform, enlighten or destroy these evil cults before they can destroy western civilization.

  2. I would be alarmed if someone in the CIA leaked info to the press to advance his/her political agenda or sense of justice thereby compromising the agency’s methods and sources. The world is filled with ill intended people and the United States must operate in it. Our own generation of hothouse orchids had better learn this quickly dispense with the naivete of their college inculcated delusions. justice is often slow and works on the down low.

  3. As a private citizen of the Unites States, I have no “direct” knowledge of the circumstances which resulted in the death of Jamal Khashoggi. From the “NEWS” reports I have read, it would ‘appear’ that he was killed (murdered?) after he entered a Saudi consulate in Turkey. There is NOTHING I “OR THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT” can do to change what has happened. We may not like it BUT it is a fiat accomplished. It is out of our hands. However, our “TOP SECRET” foreign intelligence gathering organization, the CIA, is apparently investigating this action, I would assume at the DIRECTION of the President of the U.S. Since the CIA “IS NOT” a civilian ‘news service’, I would like to know “HOW THE HELL” their CLASSIFIED information was made available to the civilian press??? For the United States, THIS IS FAR WORSE THAN THE DEATH OF MR. KHASHOGGI — it is an ATTACK on our nation itself!! This grievous CRIME should be investigated and the perpetrator/s punished. If this is NOT done, we should CLOSE THE CIA as it’s usefulness has been compromised beyond repair !!!

  4. Kashoggi, a journalist working for the Washington Post is murdered by Saudis, and all evidence points to the leader of Saudi Arabia for involvement, and conservatives (I’m going with responses here in this comment section) believe that we should accept Trump’s position that “Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t”. How much murder should we accept? It seems to me that conservatives have lost all sense of good or evil.

  5. I just want to know one thing: Why is the USA expected to police what goes on in other countries like Saudi Arabia but gets ctiticized for policing what goes on in the USA? THere is something wrong with this picture?

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