On February 26, the Biden administration released a CIA report in which the intelligence agency concluded, in 2018, that Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), approved the assassination of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi that year.
Never released by former President Donald Trump, the document cites Crown Prince MBS’s “absolute power” over Saudi intelligence and security forces since 2017. “The crown prince viewed Khashoggi as a threat to the Kingdom and broadly supported using violent measures if necessary to silence him,” the report said.
The prince, who may rule one of the world’s top oil exporters to the U.S. for decades and be an important ally against Iran, has denied any involvement by the crown prince: The Saudi government issued a statement rejecting the U.S. report’s findings.
In this exclusive interview, former CIA agent, whistleblower, and awarded-author John Kiriakou comments on his perceptions on the U.S. intelligence report, President Biden’s and MBS’s response to it, and former President Trump’s omission in releasing the document.
“If a country is friendly with the U.S. and has human rights problems, there is no cost,” points out Kiriakou in the following talk from his residence in Virginia, United States.
Edu Montesanti: John, I would like to thank you so very much for the deep honor of, once again, interviewing you.
The U.S. intelligence document, blaming Mohammed bin Salman for Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, cites the Saudi prince’s “absolute power” over Saudi intelligence and security forces since 2017. Rejecting the accusations, the Saudi regime has said that it had taken “all possible measures within our legal system to ensure that these individuals [involved n the murder] were properly investigated, and to ensure that justice was served,” as five people have been sentenced to 20 years each in prison over the journalist’s murder.
It has been a common view across the globe about the Prince’s role in the Saudi Kingdom, coinciding with US intelligence information now, as well as Bin Salman’s direct involvement in the Khashoggi killing, a heinous crime.
How do you see the issue, considering both sides? Has the intelligence report just confirmed your perceptions, too? Isn’t it unthinkable that Bin Salman could have been apart from the crime, John?
John Kiriakou: I don’t mean to sound undiplomatic, but the Saudi government is lying.
First, there is very clear evidence that Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman was directly responsible for the murder and butchery of Jamal Khashoggi. It was MBS who ordered the murder, who provided funding and logistics for the murder, and who chose the team of murderers.
Khashoggi is far from the only Saudi dissident silenced by MBS. Saudi dissidents from around the world — as recently as last week in Canada — have been kidnapped and returned to Saudi Arabia, where nobody ever hears from them again.
The Saudis are also lying when they say that the perpetrators of the murder have been brought to justice. Not true.
There have been people designated to “take the fall” for those who killed Khashoggi, and Khashoggi’s sons were forced on Saudi television to forgive the murderers.
From the U.S. side, what we saw last week was a complete failure of US leadership. Joe Biden had an opportunity to “recalibrate” the US-Saudi relationship.
He had an opportunity to punish Saudi Arabia. He had an opportunity to tell King Salman that the United States would not deal with his son. He had an opportunity to demand changes in Saudi policy. And he didn’t do anything.
Remember the message this sends in the United States: A foreign government can murder a U.S. resident and a journalist in cold blood and pay no price for it.
How do you see the fact that former President Donald Trump refused to release this intelligence findings?
Donald Trump was completely in the pocket of the Saudi royal family. The Saudis have invested in Trump properties and the Trump family has invested in Saudi Arabia.
Trump tried to convince the American people that it was in our interests to cater to the Saudis. He was wrong, and the policy served to weaken the United States.
President Biden, up to now, has not imposed sanctions directly on the prince as the U.S. and especially the Democrats are used to trumpeting about human rights, using it as a political weapon against some across the globe, at the same time making blind eyes when it is of Washington regime’s interest.
Isn’t it another contradiction, John, not to say shameless hypocrisy before a heinous crime – and a heinous crime not only against a journalist who used to strongly criticize the prince’s authoritarian consolidation of power but also against a U.S. permanent resident like Khashoggi?
Biden’s failure to take any action after the violation of Khashoggi’s human rights shows the double standard in U.S. policy. If a country is friendly with the U.S. and has human rights problems, there has no cost.
If the country is unfriendly, like Iran, then it is constantly in danger of sanctions of military action.
Featured image: File photo.
By Edu Montesanti – Mar 6, 2021