Saudi Arabia preparing to admit Jamal Khashoggi died in consulate

Sean Reid
October 16, 2018

A team of cleaners were reported to have entered the consulate on Monday lunchtime - "causing a minor flurry of excitement", according to one reporter - hours before the search team showed up. He was last seen entering the Saudi consulate on October 2.

Until now, Riyadh has not allowed Turkish investigators to search the consulate - officially Saudi territory - with reports both sides were at odds over the conditions.

The new explanation, whatever its truth, seemed meant to ease the political crisis that Khashoggi's disappearance has created for Saudi Arabia. He didn't make any remarks to the media.

On Monday, King Salman ordered an investigation into the case.

Riyadh's most recent comments have focused on having no knowledge of any killing or denying any order to kill Khashoggi had been given.

On Monday, Mr Trump tweeted: "Just spoke to the King of Saudi Arabia who denies any knowledge of whatever may have happened "to our Saudi Arabian citizen".

That frustrated USA intelligence and diplomatic officials, who anxious that the Turks were citing the evidence as leverage to get loans from the Saudis.

US President Donald Trump, under growing pressure to take action on the suspected murder, suggested that "rogue killers" could be behind Khashoggi's disappearance. But all I can say is that we are monitoring the situation.

In other words: The Saudis' official defense is, reportedly, "We only wanted to torture and kidnap the dissident journalist, but the Crown Prince's friend got a little too enthusiastic, and accidentally killed him".

However, left unsaid was the fact that any decision in the ultraconservative kingdom rests exclusively with the ruling Al Saud family.

Khashoggi, a USA resident and a Riyadh critic columnist at The Washington Post, vanished after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul two weeks ago to get marriage documents.

The New York Times, citing a person familiar with the Saudi plans, reported that Prince Mohammed bin Salman had approved an interrogation or rendition of Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia. The interrogation was meant to lead to his abduction from Turkey, the news channel said citing two unnamed sources.

For many years, the notion that Khashoggi would turn into the Saudi regime's most-wanted opponent would have seemed inconceivable as he built a career as a journalist and an operative in close connection to the Saudi ruling establishment.

How was the consulate search conducted?

Permission apparently came after a late Sunday-night call between King Salman and the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The Saudi team left about 45 minutes after the Turkish personnel.

After critical talks in Riyadh today, Pomepeo was expected in Turkey tomorrow to meet Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, the state-run Anadolu news agency said. Certain areas of the consulate were to remain off-limits, although officials would be able to inspect surveillance cameras, Turkish media reported. It was not immediately clear what evidence they gathered.

Saudi Arabia said the men were tourists. The team arrived at the consulate in an unmarked police vehicle dressed in overalls and gloves and made no comments to reporters gathered outside as they entered the building. And that leads to the question, could Mohammed bin Salman lose his job as crown prince?

Prince Mohammed has aggressively pitched the kingdom as a destination for foreign investment.

Saudi Arabia's Arab allies have rushed to its support.

Saudi state owned Al-Arabiya news channel delivered a bullish message to the USA and the worldwide community in response to growing calls for sanctions against Riyadh over the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Khashoggi also advised Prince Turki al-Faisal al-Saud, the former longtime head of Saudi intelligence who served as Saudi ambassador to Britain and then the United States in the 2000s.

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