US imposes sanctions, visa bans on Saudis for journalist Khashoggi's killing

US imposes sanctions, visa bans on Saudis for journalist Khashoggi's killing

The statement, which also did not mention the Khashoggi report, said the leaders reviewed "destabilizing" Iranian regional activities, the USA "commitment to defend" Saudi Arabia "against such threats" and an assurance from Biden not to allow Iran "to possess nuclear weapons".

The central conclusion of the report was widely expected given that intelligence officials were said to have reached it soon after the brutal October 2, 2018, murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's authoritarian consolidation of power.

"Since 2017, the Crown Prince has had absolute control of the Kingdom's security and intelligence organisations, making it highly unlikely that Saudi officials would have carried out an operation of this nature without the Crown Prince's authorisation", read the report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The US treasury also issued new sanctions against Ahmad Hassan Mohammed al Asiri, the former deputy head of Saudi Arabia's General Intelligence Presidency, who it said was "assigned" to murder Khashoggi and was the ringleader of the operation, as well as several members of the hit squad that killed the journalist.

This is a developing story.

Trump's staunch support of the Saudi heir, even in the wake of the wake of the murder and media reports that said U.S. intelligence officials believed "MBS" had a hand in the killing, ultimately helped to rehabilitate the crown prince's image, including with business leaders and politicians and heads of state across Europe.

President Biden has already made clear that he plans to take a more critical position toward Saudi Arabia, which has had close ties with many US presidents, including former President Trump.

The former Trump administration had refused to release the contents of the report, despite demands by U.S. lawmakers.

Officials said a consensus developed inside the White House that the price of that breach, in Saudi cooperation on counterterrorism and in confronting Iran, was too simply too high. The White House said Biden was sending a signal by insisting that he would deal only with the king, in leader-to-leader conversations.

US, allies respond to Iranian 'provocations' with studied calm
It followed three rocket attacks on facilities in Iraq used by USA and coalition forces fighting the Islamic State group. Retaliatory U.S. military strikes have occurred a number of times in the past few years.

Khashoggi's family filed a United States lawsuit in October 2020 accusing the Prince and other senior Saudi officials of a "brutal and brazen crime" that was the result of "weeks of planning".

The report was released in a manner choreographed to limit damage to U.S. -Saudi ties.

The White House previously announced that Biden wanted to "reset" relations with Saudi Arabia and that he will hold talks with King Salman bin Abdulaziz and not with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Riyadh eventually admitted that he was killed in a "rogue" extradition operation gone wrong, but it denied any involvement by the Crown Prince.

In January 2019, 11 people were put on trial behind closed doors.

Two months after Khashoggi's killing, in December 2018, then-CIA Director Gina Haspel returned from a trip to Turkey and briefed Senate leaders on her findings. Saudi Arabian courts past year announced they had sentenced eight Saudi nationals to prison in Khashoggi's killing.

However, since the finding had not been officially released until now, the public assignment of responsibility amounted to an extraordinary condemnation of the 35-year-old crown prince.

Analysts who follow Saudi Arabia say the king has been in poor health for years, and that the crown prince is the driving force in the kingdom.

But he also has had opponents and women's rights activists detained and pursued risky foreign gambits, some of which backfired, like the intervention in Yemen, where a war between Saudi and Iranian proxies has created a humanitarian crisis.

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