A ‘Smoking Saw’ links Saudi Prince to Khashoggi’s murder, says US Senator
Rejecting United States president Donald Trump’s efforts to play down the prince’s role, Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker of Tennessee said Tuesday that if a jury were to consider a case against Prince Mohammed, he’d be convicted of murder in 30 minutes.Updated: Dec 05, 2018 08:46 IST
US lawmakers on Tuesday heard the CIA’s assessment about Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman’s role in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi first hand from the agency’s director, who confirmed and affirmed what they have long suspected.
“There’s not a smoking gun — there’s a smoking saw,” Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator and an ally of US president Donald Trump, said to reporters after an intelligence hearing by Gina Haspel in US Congress.
“You have to be willfully blind not to come to the conclusion that this was orchestrated and organised by people under the command of MBS (as the prince is known) and that he was intricately involved in the demise of Mr Khashoggi,” Graham said.
The reference to the saw was the bone-saw the killers had used to dismember Khashoggi’s body.
“If he (bin Salman) was in front of a jury he would be convicted in 30 minutes,” said Bob Corker, another Republican senator but a Trump critic.
Senators had wanted a briefing from Haspel about the CIA’s assessment that bin-Salman was behind the killing but the Trump administration had sent instead secretaries of state and defence Mike Pompeo and James Mattis to bring them. Both officials took the position that there was not enough evidence to tie the killing to the crown prince.
Unconvinced by them and incensed by the administration’s refusal to send the CIA director to the hearing, Republicans and Democrats had joined hands to vote to bring to a legislative measure halting US support to the Saudi-led ruling forces in Yemen fighting Iranian-backed Houthis.
Lawmakers were divided, however, on what to do next. Some senators want to pass the Yemen resolution. But others, such as Graham, favour a broader measure that ceases arms sales to Saudi Arabia and slaps sanctions against all those responsible, including the crown prince.
The CIA had concluded the killing was ordered by the crown prince based on audio recordings, communication intercepts and a general understanding of politics in the kingdom under him.
Going against his own intelligence agency, and not for the first time, Trump has all but given a clean chit to the prince citing lack of clinching evidence, Saudi investments, touting a figure of around $400 billion and strategic help in combatting Iranian influence in the region.
The United States had, separately, sanctioned 17 Saudi officials it accused of involvement in the killing, and one of them had been a close adviser to the prince.
A Saudi prosecutor charged 11 government officials in October for alleged involvement, some whom could face the death penalty if found guilty.
Riyadh has strenuously denied the crown prince had anything to do with the journalist’s killing and has blamed it on a “rogue operation”.
Khashoggi was a strident critic of the prince’s policies and had lived in the US in self-imposed exile since 2017. He was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, where he had gone to collect some papers in connection with his upcoming marriage to a Turkish woman.