Alexandra Ma Oct 17, 2018
Saudi Arabia is reportedly planning to admit to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Here, a composite image of
Saudi critic and journalist Jamal Khashoggi has been missing for 15 days, but Saudi Arabia is yet to offer a credible explanation.
Saudi Arabia initially denied knowledge of Khashoggi’s whereabouts but now reportedly plans to admit to his murder.
Riyadh plans to scapegoat a two-star general and say that he botched a plan to interrogate Khashoggi, accidentally killing him, The Daily Beast reported.
The narrative falls in line with Donald Trump’s suggestion earlier this week that “rogue killers,” not the Saudi leadership, are to blame Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Foreign-policy experts have called the story “ludicrous in the extreme.”
Saudi Arabia reportedly plans to admit that missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered by Saudi agents, but will instead put the blame on a rogue general acting beyond his authority.
The Daily Beast reported that Saudi officials plan to pin Khashoggi’s death on an unnamed Saudi two-star general citing two anonymous sources familiar with the matter.
The report said that the general is “new to intelligence work,” seemingly setting up his inexperience as part of the reason for killing Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who often criticized the Saudi government.
It comes as Turkish officials reportedly offered gruesome details to support their conclusion that Khashoggi was killed minutes after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
saudi consulate istanbul
A Turkish investigator searches the Saudi consulate after Khashoggi’s disappearance.Reuters
According to Turkey’s pro-government Daily Sabah newspaper, Al Jazeera Arabic – a TV channel funded by Saudi rival Qatar – reported on Tuesday that Khashoggi was beaten, drugged, and eventually killed in the Saudi consul general’s office, citing unnamed Turkish investigators.
A Saudi autopsy expert, Salah Mohammed al-Tubaigy, also advised other Saudis to listen to music while he dismembered Khashoggi’s body in the consulate, Al Jazeera reported, according to Sabah.
jamal khashoggi enter saudi embassy
Surveillance footage published by Turkish newspaper Hurriyet purports to show Jamal Khashoggi entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.CCTV/Hurriyet via AP
Riyadh’s reported blame game
According to The Daily Beast, Riyadh plans to say that the unnamed general secured approval from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to interrogate Khashoggi.
It says he was given authority to extract information about Khashoggi’s alleged ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist political faction, and financial ties to Saudi rival Qatar.
According to Riyadh’s potential narrative, the general improvised a plan to send Khashoggi from Turkey to Saudi Arabia, but botched it and killed him instead, The Daily Beast reported.
The Daily Beast’s report says Saudi officials will claim he then lied to his superiors about what happened.
This explanation could allow Saudi officials – including Crown Prince Mohammed – to stick to their initial position of denying any knowledge of Khashoggi’s whereabouts shortly after he was reported missing.
The narrative falls in line with recent reports
The narrative about the two-star general was published after CNN reported earlier this week that Saudi Arabia was preparing a report on Khashoggi’s disappearance, in which the kingdom will claim that Khashoggi was killed as a result of a botched interrogation that was conducted without clearance or transparency.
That report has not yet been released.
The story outlined by The Daily Beast also falls in line with US intelligence intercepts, reported by The Washington Post, that Crown Prince Mohammed had wanted to lure Khashoggi from his home in Virginia to Saudi Arabia.
US President Donald Trump on Monday also appeared to exonerate the Saudi leadership from responsibility for Khashoggi’s whereabouts, suggesting that “rogue killers” could be responsible for the journalist’s disappearance instead.
Khashoggi speaking at an event hosted by Middle East Monitor in London in September 2018.Middle East Monitor via Reuters
“Ludicrous in the extreme”
Foreign-policy experts, however, have poured cold water on the narrative.
Bruce Riedel, a former CIA official now at the Brookings Institution, told The Daily Beast: “It’s ludicrous in the extreme. Saudi Arabia doesn’t work that way. They don’t freelance operations.”
Barbara Rodine, a retired US ambassador to Yemen, also told the news site: “If this is a rogue operation, the rogue is MBS,” using Crown Prince Mohammed’s initials.
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US President Donald Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed at the White House in March.Getty Images
The Khashoggi crisis is dividing Trump and Congress
Trump has seemed hesitant to blame the Saudi leadership for Khashoggi’s disappearance and said last week that halting billions of dollars’ worth of arms sales to Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi would “be punishing ourselves.”
Trump also emphasized that Khashoggi was “not a US citizen.” (Khashoggi held a green card.)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is visiting Saudi Arabia and Turkey this week to hear the two countries’ sides of the story.
Trump on Tuesday tweeted that Crown Prince Mohammed, with Pompeo by his side, “totally denied any knowledge of what took place in their Turkish Consulate.”
Lawmakers in Congress, including Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, are taking a firmer line against Saudi Arabia.
Many foreign-policy experts told Business Insider last week that the Khashoggi case could create tension between Trump and the GOP foreign-policy establishment in Congress.