Saudis discussed plan to lure Jamal Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia, US intercepts show
The US has intercepts of Saudi officials discussing a plan to lure journalist Jamal Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia and detain him, according to a US official familiar with the intelligence.
Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi journalist and critic of the regime, has been missing for more than a week after going to the Saudi consulate general in Istanbul to obtain wedding papers. Turkish officials privately believe he was killed at the consulate, an allegation denied by Saudi Arabia.
The official said it is unclear if the original plan was to murder Khashoggi or if something went wrong at the consulate and that he might have been killed during an attempt to kidnap him. The official said that getting Khashoggi to the consulate appears to have been a backup plan, because he couldn't be persuaded to fly back to Saudi Arabia.
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The official said there is no hard evidence as to whether Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post, is dead or alive.
Missing journalist's fiancée 'in a state of deep confusion and sadness'
The source did not say when the US became aware of the discussions. As CNN reported earlier this week, intercepted communications were being reviewed in the wake of Khashoggi's disappearance.
The official would not go so far as to say Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the operation but said that, although he may not have known the specifics such a plan couldn't have taken place without his approval.
The Washington Post first reported the details of the intercepts.
US officials think it's possible the Crown Prince wanted Khashoggi silenced, but miscalculated the global impact his disappearance would have.
Prince Mohammed bin Salman (known commonly as MBS) reached out to the White House himself earlier this week after it became clear he and the royal court were getting blamed for Khashoggi's murder, according to a person familiar with the call. MBS asked specifically to speak with Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior advisor, to deny the accusations.
White House national security adviser John Bolton also joined the call, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had his own separate conversation with the prince.
US President Donald Trump is facing increased pressure over the Khashoggi case as he walks the US-Saudi relationship tightrope. Late Tuesday, a bipartisan group of senators wrote to the President, calling for the White House to determine what happened to Khashoggi and whether sanctions should be imposed on whoever was responsible for his fate.
The letter, penned by the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, triggers an investigation under legislation that allows the President to impose sanctions on individuals or countries that are deemed to have committed a human rights violation. The White House must respond within 120 days, setting out what actions it proposes to take.
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Missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi with Hatice Cengiz.
Culled from CNN