The CIA’s assessment, in which officials have concluded that Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman likely ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, contradicting the Saudi government’s assertions that he was not involved in the killing.
The CIA found that 15 Saudi agents flew on government planes to Istanbul in October and killed Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate, where he had gone to pick up documents that he needed for his planned marriage to a Turkish woman.
CIA analysts believe he has a firm grip on power and is not in danger of losing his status as heir to the throne despite the Khashoggi scandal. “The general agreement is that he is likely to survive,” the official said, adding that Mohammed’s role as the future Saudi king is “taken for granted.”
It is not clear if Khalid knew that Khashoggi would be killed, but he made the call at his brother’s direction, according to the people familiar with the call, which was intercepted by U.S. intelligence.
The CIA also arrived at their conclusion based on the agency’s assessment of the prince as the country’s de facto ruler who oversees even minor affairs in the kingdom.
“The accepted position is that there is no way this happened without him being aware or involved,” said a U.S. official familiar with the CIA’s conclusions.
CIA officials said they have high confidence in the assessment they carried out on the murder of Khashoggi. It is the most definitive assessment to date, linking Mohammed to the operation and complicates the Trump administration’s efforts to preserve its relationship with Saudi, a close ally.
The crown prince has repeatedly denied any involvement or knowledge of the murder of The Washington Post columnist, who regularly criticised both the royal and his regime in the newspaper.
Saudi Arabia has offered a series of sometimes contradictory explanations for Khashoggi’s death on 2 October. After initially denying it played any role in his death, the kingdom then went on to claim he was killed by rogue operatives in its consulate in the Turkish capital of Istanbul.
The CIA’s conclusion about Mohammed’s role was also based on the agency’s assessment of the prince as the country’s de facto ruler who oversees even minor affairs in the kingdom. “The accepted position is that there is no way this happened without him being aware or involved,” said a U.S. official familiar with the CIA’s conclusions.
To arrive at it’s conclusions, CIA examined multiple sources of intelligence, including a phone call that the prince’s brother Khalid bin Salman, who is the Saudi ambassador to the United States, had with Khashoggi. During the call, Khalid told Khashoggi that he should go to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to retrieve the documents he needed for his wedding and gave him assurances that it would be safe to do so.