Moves to hold Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) accountable for Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s death are gathering momentum in the U.S. Congress.
A group of Senators emerged from a classified briefing with CIA Director Gina Haspel convinced that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was complicit in the murder of Khashoggi, who disappeared after a visit to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
The Saudi government had confirmed that Khashoggi had died after an altercation at the consulate. The U.S. sanctioned 17 Saudi agents in connection with the murder but the administration has been at odds with the CIA, which reportedly concluded that Khashoggi’s death was ordered by MBS, as Prince Mohammed is widely known. “If he were in front of a jury, he would be convicted of murder in about 30 minutes,” Republican Senator Bob Corker said on Tuesday. “There’s not a smoking gun, there’s a smoking saw,” Lindsey Graham, Republican Senator from South Carolina, said. Khashoggi’s body was reportedly dismembered using a bone saw wielded by a forensic scientist who had allegedly flown in to Istanbul for that purpose.
Last week, the Senate, in a strong rebuke to the administration, had voted to move forward a resolution calling for an end to American support to the Saudi Arabia-led war in Yemen.
It is unclear what the next steps will be — a full withdrawal of U.S. involvement in Yemen or punishing the Prince in some other way or another option — as the U.S. tries to balance its relationship with Saudi Arabia, a key arms buyer and military ally, and its image as an upholder of human rights around the world. “Now the question is how do you separate the Saudi Crown Prince and his group from the nation itself? That might be the real policy question,” Republican Senator Richard Shelby, who heads the Senate Appropriations Committee said.
The White House said on Tuesday that it would send Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to brief the House of Representatives next week.