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Pompeo Tells Bin Salman He Should Take Responsibility in Khashoggi Case as His Future as King Is in Danger

19 October 2018 15:44

 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has sternly told Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS) during a meeting in Riyadh on Tuesday that the first in line to the throne would have to take responsibility in disappearance case of journalist Jamal Khashoggi to help the kingdom avoid the consequences of an international backlash, according to an informed source.

A person familiar with the meeting told The New York Times that Pompeo sternly told the crown prince that even if he did not know whether Khashoggi had been killed, he would have to take responsibility to help the kingdom avoid the consequences of an international backlash.

Pompeo’s trip to the kingdom was supposed to forge the beginnings of a diplomatic resolution. But, his private meeting with Prince Mohammad, attended by a small number of aides on both sides, was highly scripted, and he made no dramatic threats or ultimatums, according to one former senior administration official who was briefed on the gathering.

The secretary of state asked for an accounting of what happened and the crown prince, denying any involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance, stated that an investigation was underway, the official said. In the end, the official added, Pompeo’s plea to the Saudis was to complete the investigation quickly and transparently.

The story was also confirmed by CNN as the news network reported that Pompeo’s smiling photo op with Mbs disguised the reality of a blunt, tough meeting in which the top US diplomat told the royal that his future as king depends on his handling of Khashoggi’s suspected murder.

A source familiar with Pompeo’s meeting with bin Salman told CNN that the smiling photo-op between the two should not be read as an indication that the meeting was friendly.

Instead, Pompeo told bin Salman in no uncertain terms that he had to “own” the situation, and “that every fact is going to get out”, the source said, adding that the smiles between the two men ended when the photo op did.

Pompeo has been slammed for the warm, smiling images emerging from his trip to Riyadh, as the Saudi story about Khashoggi’s fate began to shift and Turkish media published grisly details about his suspected murder and links emerged that tie the suspected killers to crown prince himself.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe diplomatic meetings, said the top US diplomat also made it clear to the crown prince that the Saudis had to get their investigation done very quickly, adding that Pompeo stressed that time is short and that the Saudis have to deal with the people involved sharply.

Pompeo went on to tell the prince “bluntly that if they don’t, the US will have to deal with this”, the source revealed, and “will take action because the world will demand it and that President [Donald] Trump’s hand will be forced by the global pressure”.

The source told CNN that Pompeo also told bin Salman he had to “own” what happened “even if the crown prince didn’t know about it beforehand”.

The source did not describe how the crown prince or the Saudis reacted, but stressed that the message had been received.

Pompeo also told bin Salman he had 72 hours to complete his “investigation” into the murder of Khashoggi or risk wrecking the kingdom’s place on the world stage, according to Axios.

A Turkish source who has listened in full to an audio recording of the journalist’s horrifying last moments told Middle East Eye (MEE) that Kashoggi was butchered alive during an excruciating seven-minute execution inside the Riyadh consulate in Turkish city of Istanbul. The journalist was dragged from the Consul General’s office at the Saudi consulate and onto the table of his study next door, the Turkish source said, adding that horrendous screams were then heard by a witness downstairs. The screaming stopped when Khashoggi was injected with an as yet unknown substance.

After Police found evidence inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul which confirms that journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in the building, Turkish official revealed that the body of the missing writer was cut into pieces after he was killed in early October.

A State Department Spokeswoman stated on Wednesday that Pompeo had not heard the tape. Top Saudi officials, including the king and his son, have repeatedly denied any role in Khashoggi’s disappearance.

US intelligence has also revealed that the Saudi crown prince ordered an operation to detain missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi after luring him back to Saudi Arabia, according to The Washington Post.

US officials speaking on the condition of anonymity told The Washington Post that MbS and other Saudi officials tried to get Khashoggi to return to Saudi Arabia, where he is from, with offers of government employment and protection.

Seven of the 15 men suspected of being involved in an operation to kill Khashoggi belong to the crown prince’s personal security and protection detail, according to a report.

Also, US intelligence agencies are increasingly convinced that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman played a role in Khashoggi’s disappearance and likely death in early October, according to a report.

Citing unidentified officials, The New York Times reported that information leaked to the public – names and photos of 15 Saudis who travelled to Istanbul on October 2 as well as claims Turkey possesses audio recordings of Khashoggi’s death – is helping convince the US intelligence community that the crown prince was involved.

Khashoggi, known for his criticism of Saudi Arabia’s policies, went missing on October 2 after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain a marriage document. Ankara has accused Riyadh of murdering the Khashoggi and smuggling his body out of the consulate in pieces. Saudi Arabia has denied the charges as “baseless”, stressing that the journalist left the consulate shortly after he arrived, without providing any evidence.

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