A CIA investigation has concluded that Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, in early October, officials with knowledge of the investigation told The Washington Post.
The CIA made its assessment with "high confidence" that the 15 Saudi agents who flew on government aircraft to Istanbul were acting on Mohammed's orders, despite denials from Saudi Arabia that the crown prince had any involvement.
A U.S. official told The Washington Post that “The accepted position is that there is no way this happened without [Mohammed] being aware or involved." Meanwhile, a Saudi spokeswoman said the CIA's claims in the “purported assessment are false. We have and continue to hear various theories without seeing the primary basis for these speculations.”
White House national security adviser John Bolton said earlier this week that he didn't believe evidence implicated the crown prince.
Why the CIA believes MBS was involved: The CIA report cites several pieces of evidence linking the crown prince to Khashoggi's murder:
- Mohammed's brother, Khalid bin Salman, called Khashoggi and told him to go to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to get documentation to marry his Turkish fiancee. The CIA intercepted the call and believes he made it on Mohammed's instruction.
- The CIA believes Mohammed is involved in even minor affairs of the kingdom, serving as the de facto ruler even though he's not the king.
- An alleged member of the team that killed Khashoggi, Maher Mutreb, called a top aide to Mohammed after the killing to report that the operation had been completed.
What's the possible motive? Mohammed had reportedly told Bolton and White House adviser Jared Kushner that he felt Khashoggi was a dangerous Islamist who was too sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Sanctions come down: The Trump administration sanctioned 17 people: The 15 people directly involved in the killing, the Saudi consul general in Turkey, and a senior adviser to the crown prince. The Saudi government agreed with the U.S. about the 17 people involved, despite the disagreement about crown prince Mohammed's knowledge and involvement.