update: Things are about to finally get more interesting for the decades-long 'unbreakable' US-Saudi relationship. Or perhaps it's also the clearest confirmation yet on who is really in charge in the kingdom (it's long been assumed that despite the sickly King Salman still being officially ruler of Saudi Arabia, in reality his son MbS maintains total control).
Bloomberg reports of Riyadh's reaction to the ODNI report that dropped early this afternoon, citing official state SPA:
The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs states that the Kingdom’s government completely rejects what was stated in the U.S. report provided to Congress on the crime of killing citizen Jamal Khashoggi.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia "categorically rejects the abusive and incorrect conclusions" the official statement said.
US State Department has informed lawmakers that it will announce actions taken in response to the killing of Jamal Khashoggi at 2:30pm. Reports circulating it could limit arms sales to Saudi Arabia to "defensive" weapons, among other measures— Josie Ensor (@Josiensor) February 26, 2021
And here's the action taken Friday afternoon to slap travel restrictions on 76 Saudis related to threatening dissidents and human rights violations:
BREAKING: US Secretary of State Tony Blinken announces “#Khashoggi Ban” imposing travel restrictions on 76 #Saudi individuals threatening dissidents, not limited to Jamal K killing.— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) February 26, 2021
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On Friday afternoon, over two years after the Oct.2018 brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has finally released its official report to the public on his killing, which is based mostly on the prior CIA investigation.
As was fully expected, it goes straight to the top: "We assess that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi," the four-page, only very slightly redacted report reads.
"We assess that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. We base this assessment on the Crown Prince's control of decision making in the Kingdom since 2017, the direct involvement of a key adviser and members of Muhammad bin Salman's protective detail in the operation, and the Crown Prince's support for using violent measures to silence dissidents abroad, including Khashoggi."
Further the US intelligence report points to the entirety of the security detail that carried out the assassination as closely associated with the Royal Court. But more notably at least seven were among MbS "elite" personal security detail, putting them in direct communication with the crown prince and de facto ruler of the kingdom.
The intel report details:
"The team also included seven members of Muhammad bin Salman's elite personal protective detail, known as the Rapid Intervention Force (RIF). The RIF-a subset of the Saudi Royal Guard-exists to defend the Crown Prince, answers only to him, and had directly participated in earlier dissident suppression operations in the Kingdom and abroad at the Crown Prince's direction. We judge that members of the RIF would not have participated in the operation against Khashoggi without Muhammad bin Salman's approval."
One damning line in the above underscores the members of the RIF team answer "only to him" and to no other security official in the kingdom or intelligence apparatus.
Further the mostly CIA authored report cites as evidence their knowledge of previously planned operations targeting Khashoggi for violence.
"Although Saudi officials had pre-planned an unspecified operation against Khashoggi we do not know how far in advance Saudi officials decided to harm him. - We have high confidence that the following individuals participated," the just released ODNI report reads.
The assessment then goes on to list Saudi officials and members of the hit team involved, while on Friday the US administration announced new sanctions on at least two of these individuals. State Department spokesman Ned Price announced upon the release of the previously classified report that multiple "options" are being weighed to punish Saudi Arabia, including the suspension of arms sales - something which has been an increasingly popular move among the American public.
"I expect that we will be in a position before long to speak to steps to promote accountability going forward for this horrific crime," Price told reporters.
Full report below: