A prime Saudi official who was fired after being accused of taking part in a job within the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi continues to function a casual royal adviser, and the U.S. is urgent the dominion behind the scenes to carry him accountable, in line with U.S. and Saudi officers.
Saudi Arabia, nevertheless, has resisted U.S. stress to take decisive motion in opposition to Saud al-Qahtani, who beforehand served in impact because the right-hand man to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the U.S. and Saudi officers stated.
U.S. officers stated Mr. Qahtani’s continued affect is an indication of what they see as Saudi Arabia’s insufficient response to the loss of life of Mr. Khashoggi, a Washington Publish columnist killed by Saudi operatives on Oct. 2 at his nation’s consulate in Istanbul.
“We don’t see that Saud al-Qahtani could be very constrained in his actions,” stated one senior State Division official.
The U.S. has imposed sanctions on Mr. Qahtani and different Saudis within the case, saying they had been concerned in Mr. Khashoggi’s killing. The sanctions prohibit People from participating in transactions with them. Turkey is looking for Mr. Qahtani’s extradition to face expenses for the killing.
Earlier than the Khashoggi killing, Mr. Qahtani, who’s 40, had in depth sway over home and international affairs, in line with Saudi officers. Below Prince Mohammed’s patronage, he tightened controls on the press and assembled a 3,000-strong group to watch and intimidate critics on social media, Saudi officers stated.
Mr. Qahtani was fired by Saudi King Salman after the king was briefed on the proof Turkish authorities had gathered. But he nonetheless serves as a casual adviser to the crown prince, the nation’s de facto ruler, who is called MBS, Saudi officers stated.
“MBS nonetheless goes to him for recommendation, and he nonetheless calls him his adviser along with his shut associates,” one Saudi official stated.
Unofficially, Mr. Qahtani continues to hold out a few of his duties as a royal-court adviser, reminiscent of issuing directives to native journalists and brokering conferences for the crown prince, Saudi officers stated.
The Saudi Embassy in Washington didn’t instantly remark. Mr. Qahtani didn’t reply to a request for remark.
Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for International Affairs, known as the killing of Mr. Khashoggi a “enormous mistake” final week and stated, “Let the authorized course of play out after which choose us when it’s full, however don’t choose us earlier than that is full.”
In an announcement in late November, President Trump signaled that he plans to face beside Saudi Arabia after the loss of life of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. However as WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib explains, it will not be that easy. Picture: Getty (Initially printed Nov. 20, 2018)
President Trump has prevented criticizing Prince Mohammed, citing the significance of the U.S.-Saudi relationship. However Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and different U.S. officers are exerting diplomatic stress on Riyadh to do extra, recognizing a rising bipartisan backlash in Congress that might curb U.S.-Saudi navy ties and prohibit arms gross sales.
The Central Intelligence Company concluded, with “medium-to-high confidence,” that Prince Mohammed personally focused Mr. Khashoggi, licensed the operation in opposition to him and possibly ordered his loss of life. The Saudi authorities has repeatedly denied that Prince Mohammed was concerned within the killing.
The Saudi public prosecutor is investigating the Khashoggi case and has charged 11 individuals. Mr. Qahtani hasn’t been charged and is certainly one of an extra 10 people who find themselves underneath investigation, in line with the Saudi authorities.
Prince Mohammed has sought to guard him, in line with a Saudi royal aware of the matter. “For MBS, Qahtani was the spine of his courtroom, and [Prince Mohammed] assured him that he shall be untouched and can return when the Khashoggi case blows over,” he stated.
“MBS had no intention by any means to let go of Qahtani and was livid when he was fired by his father,” the Saudi royal stated.
Mr. Qahtani has been noticed in Abu Dhabi, although Saudi Arabia imposed a journey ban, a Saudi official stated. He was seen within the royal courtroom at the least twice till individuals complained and he was banned, Saudi officers stated.
A U.S. official stated that the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., Khalid bin Salman, who’s Prince Mohammed’s brother, instructed the U.S. that that Saudi authorities wouldn’t take Mr. Qahtani’s cellphone away from him as a result of he would discover a method round it.
Riyadh has additionally resisted U.S. stress to shut the royal media heart that Mr. Qahtani as soon as used to intimidate Saudi dissidents, American officers stated.
U.S. officers stated they’ve pressed Riyadh to rein in Mr. Qahtani and so they have made it clear that he must be prosecuted if the info assist it. The U.S., they stated, additionally desires to see Prince Mohammed settle for some accountability for the loss of life of Mr. Khashoggi, who had change into a outstanding critic of the crackdown on dissidents.
“If MBS desires to exhibit management,” stated the State Division official, the crown prince ought to difficulty an announcement “that that is inexcusable and this can by no means occur once more and the bucks stops with me.”
“That kind of helps individuals transfer on, however that hasn’t occurred,” he stated.
Mr. Jubeir rejected exterior stress to constrain the crown prince, saying challenges to Saudi management had been a “purple line.”
“For anybody to assume that they will dictate what we should always do or what our management ought to do is preposterous,” he stated.
5 of the individuals Saudi Arabia has charged in reference to Mr. Khashoggi’s killing face the loss of life penalty. Citing Saudi legal guidelines, prosecutors have not named any of the suspects.
Two Saudi officers instructed The Wall Road Journal that the 5 dealing with the loss of life penalty are: Ahmed al-Assiri, the previous deputy chief of intelligence; Maher Mutreb, a former member of the Saudi royal guard; Salah al-Tubaigy; Moustafa Madani; and Thaar Ghaleb al-Harbi.
Turkish authorities have accused Mr. Assiri of planning the operation and recognized Mr. Madani as carrying Mr. Khashoggi’s garments leaving the Saudi consulate in an try and idiot safety cameras. Turkish authorities have stated the others had been among the many Saudis despatched to Istanbul.
Saudi officers are hoping these circumstances will scale back American stress to prosecute Mr. Qahtani. “The Saudi regime is aware of that the U.S. desires to see Qahtani on trial, however they’re hoping these 5 names shall be sufficient,” one Saudi official stated.
Neither the accused individuals nor their representatives may very well be reached for remark.
Some U.S. officers stated they’re skeptical that anybody shall be executed for Mr. Khashoggi’s killing. And so they have instructed Saudi officers that the authorized course of isn’t shifting rapidly sufficient.
“We see it going very slowly,” stated the senior State Division official. “It’s a method for them to show the faucet on and switch the faucet off by way of accountability. It might string out for a very long time.”