US to release report linking MbS to Khashoggi murder

US to release report linking Saudi crown prince to Khashoggi murder on Thursday
3 min read
25 February, 2021
Biden has stressed he will 'recalibrate' the US relationship with Saudi Arabia as a damning intelligence report is prepared for release.

The CIA has linked Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.[Getty]

An US intelligence report detailing the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul will be released on Thursday and will allege Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman played a key role in the killing, according to media, according to Reuters.

The report - based mostly on the CIA's findings and already seen by several media outlets - was produced shortly after Khashoggi's killing in 2018 but is yet to be made public.

It will now be released on Thursday and gives a damning appraisal of the crown prince's role in Khashoggi's murder, officials told the news agency.

The move threatens to upset strong ties between Washington and Riyadh.

US President Joe Biden said Wednesday that he has already seen the report and is expected to call King Salman before its release. 

"Yes I have," he told reporters when asked if he'd read the intelligence assessment.

Earlier, the White House said the unclassified report would be out "soon."

Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden was also "soon" due to speak with Saudi Arabia's King Salman for the first time since taking office in January.

Psaki would not confirm a report in Axios that a call between Biden and King Salman would take place Wednesday and that the unclassified intelligence report would be published Thursday.

"We're going to be talking to him, I have not spoken to him yet," Biden said.

Khashoggi, a Saudi who wrote for The Washington Post and was a US resident, was killed and dismembered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.

The CIA has directly linked Saudi Arabia's de facto leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the murder. He has accepted overall responsibility, as his country's leader, but denies a personal link.

Biden has stressed he will "recalibrate" the US relationship with Saudi Arabia.

This will mean steering away from former president Donald Trump's reliance on Prince Mohammed and dealing directly with the king, the White House says.

However, there are clearly limits to how far the Biden administration is ready to go in punishing oil-rich Saudi Arabia, a strategic ally in the Islamic world.

"He will speak out when there are human rights abuses, about the lack of freedom of speech, or the lack of freedom of media and expression," Psaki said.

"At the same time, we have a long relationship with Saudi Arabia. They are being attacked in the region and that is certainly an area where we continue to work with them."

The contents of the intelligence report will pile pressure on the Saudi leadership, which got little pushback from the Trump administration.

Already the episode has badly tarnished the reputation of the powerful crown prince who had positioned himself as a forward thinking reformer in the monarchy.

According to CNN on Wednesday, court documents in a Canadian civil lawsuit filed earlier this year show that two private jets used by the squad allegedly sent to murder Khashoggi were owned by a company earlier seized by Prince Mohammed.

Follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram to stay connected