The Biden administration is poised to release a declassified version of an intelligence report that concludes that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the 2018 killing of Jamal Khashoggi, according to a report.
Four US officials told Reuters that the report — for which the CIA was the main contributor — found that MBS likely ordered the murder of the 59-year-old Washington Post columnist, who was dismembered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
President Joe Biden told reporters Wednesday that he had read the report and expected to speak by phone with Saudi King Salman, the 85-year-old father of the crown prince, the country’s 35-year-old de facto ruler.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters that the president would only communicate with the Saudi king and said the declassified report was being prepared for release shortly.
The report’s release is part of Biden’s policy to realign ties with Riyadh after years of giving the Arab ally, a major oil producer, a pass on its human rights record and its intervention in the civil war in Yemen.
Khashoggi went to Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018, to pick up documents in order to marry Hatice Cengiz but was killed and chopped up by a team of operatives linked to the crown prince.
His remains have never been found.
Riyadh eventually admitted that Khashoggi was killed in a “rogue” extradition operation gone wrong, but it denied any involvement by the crown prince.
Five men were given the death penalty for the murder but had their sentences commuted to 20 years in prison after being forgiven by Khashoggi’s family.
In October 2018, then-President Trump said that the facts of Khashoggi’s slaying “may never” be known, while saying the US had already sanctioned 17 Saudis known to have been involved in his murder.
Khashoggi’s 38-year-old fiancée called on Biden, then president-elect, to make good on his campaign promise to get accountability in the Saudi dissident’s murder.
“I am calling on the President-elect to release the CIA’s assessment and evidence,” Cengiz, a Turkish native, said at the time. “It will greatly assist in uncovering the truth about who is responsible for Jamal’s murder.”
In October, she filed a federal lawsuit in Washington, DC, in the hopes of holding bin Salman accountable for her loved one’s brutal murder.
The lawsuit accuses Prince Mohammad and a host of Saudi Ministry of Interior officials of a “brutal and brazen crime” that was the result of “weeks of planning.”
In 2019, a UN human rights investigator, Agnes Callamard, accused Saudi Arabia of a “deliberate, premeditated execution” of Khashoggi and called for further investigation.
“There is sufficient credible evidence regarding the responsibility of the crown prince demanding further investigation,” Callamard said.
Avril Haines, Biden’s new director of national intelligence, committed during her confirmation hearing to comply with a provision in a 2019 defense bill that required the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to release a declassified report on the murder within 30 days.
Meanwhile, bin Salman, has had successful surgery for appendicitis, state media reported late Wednesday.
The prince had “successful laparoscopic surgery [Wednesday] morning for appendicitis at King Faisal Specialist Hospital” in Riyadh, the official Saudi Press Agency reported, according to AFP.