The Trump administration has made a calculated decision not to retaliate very much against Saudi Arabia for the assassination of Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Citing the importance of its alliance with the Saudis and the economic benefit of selling arms to them, President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have also declined to judge Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman harshly — even though the CIA concluded he ordered the killing.
A new report lays out in gruesome detail just what they are looking past.
The report from a United Nations special rapporteur, Agnes Callamard, details what happened before Khashoggi’s murder. It notes that every expert consulted says it is “inconceivable” the crown prince wasn’t at least aware of the operation.
Here are a few key passages that drive home the nature of the bargain the Trump administration has struck:
Khashoggi’s false sense of security
A previous visit to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Sept. 28 apparently left Khashoggi with a mistaken sense that he could return safely:
He spent around 45 minutes inside and was treated very well. Ms. Hatice [Cengiz, his fiancee] recalled that Mr. Khashoggi “left the consulate very happy. He felt relieved and did not hesitate going there again.” Consular officials he spoke to told him that he would need to return on 2 October 2018 to obtain the marriage document.
The plot was launched almost immediately
Key parts are bolded:
Later that same day, at 19:08, Mr. Mohammed Alotaibi, Saudi Arabia’s Consul General in Istanbul, spoke to an individual (AA). It is not clear that all of this conversation was captured on the tape made available to the Special Rapporteur. However, AA was to be heard saying that the “head of state security called me and they have an assignment. They are asking for anyone from your delegation for a special issue. They are asking for someone who is in your protocol. He said that they need a person from your protocol for a special and a top secret mission. He can even get permission if required.”
At 20:04, Consul General Alotaibi then spoke to AMA, a member of the Consular staff. AMA asked “Is there anything?” Mr. Alotaibi replied “Yes, there is an urgent training in Riyadh. They called me from Riyadh. They told me they asked for an official who worked on protocol. But the issue is top secret. Nobody should know at all. Even none of your friends will be informed.”
‘Joints will be separated’
Just minutes before Khashoggi would arrive on Oct. 2, two Saudi agents — including a forensic doctor from the Saudi Ministry of Interior — discussed how they would dismember him:
At 13:02, inside the Consulate, Mr. [Maher Abdulaziz] Mutreb and Dr. [Salah Mohammed] Tubaigy had a conversation just minutes before Mr. Khashoggi entered. Mr. Mutreb asked whether it will “be possible to put the trunk in a bag?” Dr. Tubaigy replied “No. Too heavy.” He expressed hope that it would “be easy. Joints will be separated. It is not a problem. The body is heavy. First time I cut on the ground. If we take plastic bags and cut it into pieces, it will be finished. We will wrap each of them.” “Leather bags.” There was a reference to cutting skin. Dr. [sic] Tubaigny also expressed concerns: “My direct manager is not aware of what I am doing. There is nobody to protect me.” At the end of the conversation, Mr. Mutreb asked whether “the sacrificial animal” has arrived. At 13:13, a voice said “he has arrived.” In these recordings heard by the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Khashoggi’s name was not mentioned.
‘We will anesthetize you’
Once Khashoggi was in the consulate, an altercation quickly ensued, and Khashoggi apparently soon referenced “kidnapping” and then being given drugs. A Saudi person responds, “We will anesthetize you”:
At 13:22, Mr. Mutreb asked whether Mr. Khashoggi had phones. Mr. Khashoggi replied “Two phones.” “Which brands?” “Apple phones.” “Send a message to your son.” “Which son? What should I say to my son?” Silence. “You will type a message – let’s rehearse; show us.” “What should I say? See you soon? I can’t say kidnapping.” “Cut it short.” “Take off your jacket.” “How could this happen in an embassy?” “I will not write anything.” “Cut it short.” “I will not write anything.” “Type it, Mr. Jamal. Hurry up. Help us so that we can help you because at the end we will take you back to Saudi Arabia and if you don’t help us you know what will happen at the end; let this issue find a good end.” At 13:33, Mr. Khashoggi said “there is a towel here. Are you going to give me drugs?” “We will anesthetize you.”
‘The sound of a saw’?
After a struggle, one man says, “Did he sleep?” — which the report and Turkish intelligence link to the possible injection of a sedative. Shortly after, the report references the sound of a saw — perhaps the bone saw the Saudis were reported to have brought with them:
Sounds of movement and heavy panting could be heard in the remainder of the recordings. The sound of plastic sheets (wrapping) could also be heard. Turkish Intelligence concluded that these came after Mr. Khashoggi’s death while the Saudi officials were dismembering his body. The Turkish Intelligence assessment identified the sound of a saw at 13:39. The Special Rapporteur and her delegation could not make out the sources of the sounds they heard.
An apparent ridding of evidence, while wearing what looked like Khashoggi’s clothes
At 15:53, CCTV cameras recorded Mr. [Mustafa Mohammed] Almadani accompanied by Mr. [Saif Saad] Alqahtani exit from the Consulate’s back door. Mr. Almadani wore what appeared to be Mr. Khashoggi clothes. Mr. Alqahtani had a white plastic bag with him. The two got into a taxi and traveled to the Sultanahmet District. At 16:13, they entered the Blue Mosque where Mr. Almadani changed clothes. At 16:29 they got into a taxi that took them to the Levent Metro Station. Somewhere near the metro station they threw away the plastic bag into a garbage bin. They returned to the Movenpick Hotel at 18:09.
The cleanup — complete with burning things
According to Turkish Intelligence, on 3 October, Consulate staff was prevented to go to the second floor of the Consulate. Around 11:00, the inner part of the Consulate was cleaned. Between 16:00 and 21:00, CCTV cameras recorded a fire in a barrel in the backyard of the Consulate. The Consul General did not leave the residence the whole day.
The next day, more burning:
At 09:35 on October 4, the Turkish authorities detected smoke coming from the backyard of the Consulate. At 16:05, Saudi consular staff were observed burning papers in a barrel in the backyard of the Consulate.
And then journalists were told the consulate’s cameras hadn’t recorded:
During the visit, the journalists learned that although the building was equipped with cameras, they failed to record anything the day Mr. Khashoggi disappeared. The Consul General added that “the idea of kidnapping a Saudi citizen by a diplomatic mission is something that should not be put forward in the media.” He also said “the consulate was equipped with cameras but they did not record footage.”
The crown prince ‘condoned’ such actions
The report emphasizes that its role is not to declare whether Mohammed is guilty of anything, but rather whether there is “credible evidence warranting further investigation.” It says there is and that the crown prince has condoned such actions previously:
Academic research on Saudi Arabia tends to suggest that the level of control exerted by the Crown Prince over the management of the country’s political, security and economic affairs is extremely high. The Crown Prince is less subject to the constraints that historically distributed power amongst the Royal Family and the Court.
The operation against Mr. Khashoggi has to be understood in relation to this organized and coordinated crack-down, one that included repeated unlawful acts of torture and physical harm. At a bare minimum, Crown Prince condoned this behavior and allowed the repetition and escalation of these crimes. He took no action to prevent or punish those responsible. The Crown Prince willingly took the risk that other crimes, such as the killing of Mr. Khashoggi, would be committed, whether or not he directly ordered the specific crime.
‘Every expert’ said the crown prince had to be aware of the mission
Evidence points to the 15-person mission to execute Mr. Khashoggi requiring significant government coordination, resources and finances. While the Saudi government claims that these resources were put in place by Ahmed Asiri, every expert consulted finds it inconceivable that an operation of this scale could be implemented without the Crown Prince being aware, at a minimum, that some sort of mission of a criminal nature, directed at Mr. Khashoggi, was being launched.
It also emphasizes that the Saudis’ “destruction of evidence could not have taken place without the Crown Prince’s awareness.” The report says such destruction of evidence was “in violation of the State obligations under international law.”
Trump has declined to blame the crown prince. “Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Trump said in a bizarre statement. The statement came even after The Post reported the CIA had said the crown prince ordered the killing.