Senators pressure Trump to investigate disappearance of Saudi journalist

Joann Johnston
October 11, 2018

The details surrounding Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week remain a mystery, but according to a new report from the Post, U.S. intelligence officials seemed to have discovered a plan to capture him before it happened, and failed to successfully intervene.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker said that he told the Saudi ambassador the Khashoggi's disappearance could lead the United States to curtail arms sales to the kingdom.

He declined to comment on Khashoggi's possible fate, but said "we can not let this happen; to reporters, to anybody".

"Something as serious as the assassination of a very senior, respected journalist in a foreign country's territory is not something we should turn a blind eye to", Professor Saul said.

The New York Times cited a Turkish official who said Khashoggi was killed and dismembered by a team of Saudi agents. "We want to get to the bottom of it".

Trump told reporters a day earlier that he had raised Khashoggi's case with Saudi Arabia "at the highest level" and a few times in recent days and said he and his wife expect to invite Cengiz to the White House soon. The footage does not show Khashoggi himself leaving the consulate.

Corker said that he had warned the kingdom that its political support in the Senate is "the lowest ever" and that if Saudi officials are responsible for Kashoggi's disappearance, "this would drop it off a cliff".

More than 20 Republicans and Democratic senators on Wednesday instructed Trump to order a probe into Khashoggi's disappearance under legislation that authorizes imposition of sanctions for perpetrators of extrajudicial killings, torture or other gross human rights violations.

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USA intelligence intercepted communications of Saudi officials discussing a plan to capture Khashoggi before he vanished, according to the Post, which cited two people familiar with the information.

The Washington Post reported that United States intelligence had intercepted communications of Saudi plans to kidnap Khashoggi, a critic of the kingdom and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who fled into exile previous year. "If this happened, if they murdered this journalist who works for The Washington Post in a consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, that's a game-changer for me".

Khashoggi's disappearance is likely to further deepen divisions between Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

The 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.

Turkey on Monday conveyed its expectation of "full cooperation" from Saudi Arabia in the search for the missing journalist. They said at the weekend they believed Mr Khashoggi was killed by a team sent to Istanbul and thought to consist of 15 Saudis. "We will probably know in the very short future".

In this May 20, 2017, file photo, US President Donald Trump shakes hands with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh.

Bird has also called on the trustees of the Natural History Museum in London not to provide the museum as a venue for the Saudi Arabia annual national day celebration, organised by the Saudi embassy, and called for a protest outside the building. Riyadh has supported the administration's tough stance toward Iran, a key rival of Saudi Arabia in the volatile Middle East.

He added, "The Saudis continue to claim that they aren't targeting civilians inside Yemen, but how can we believe them when they apparently just hunted down and murdered an American resident whose only offense was writing critical articles about the Saudi royal family?"

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