The United States government implemented sanctions against 17 Saudi officials who allegedly were involved in the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October. Those sanctioned included Consul General Mohammed Alotaibi and Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, a senior aide to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The sanctions are the first steps taken against Saudi Arabia in relation to the killing, and the first real indication that the US government is finally acknowledging Saudi involvement in the murder.
What the US government is not doing, however, is taking action against the Saudi government itself. Senior officials throughout the West have yet to state whether they believe the crown prince ordered the killing, although all indications are pointing to him as the mastermind of the plan. Turkey has announced that it shared audio recordings of Khashoggi’s murder with intelligence officials from the US, UK, France, Germany, and others, although US officials have consistently denied hearing the recording. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was recently the first Western leader to acknowledge that his intelligence services had heard the recording.
Turkish newspapers have also published X-ray images of what is alleged to be luggage carried by the Saudis said to have killed Khashoggi, which included syringes, stun guns, and scissors. Turkish President Erdogan continues to insist that the order to kill Khashoggi came from the highest levels of the Saudi government, meaning the crown prince.
The Saudi government has stated that five of those responsible for Khashoggi’s killing may face the death penalty. That, as in many instances like this, may be the government’s way of pinning the blame on a fall guy so that those in positions of power won’t face any consequences for their actions. It will be interesting to see whether the US government continues to put pressure on the Saudis over the Khashoggi affair, or whether US authorities will be content with whatever the Saudi government ends up doing.