Apparently, Riyadh is going to go with “botched interrogation” when it comes to explaining the (seemingly confirmed) death of dissident Jamal Khashoggi.
According to CNN, the kingdom is prepared to acknowledge at least part of what everyone already knows, which is that Khashoggi is in fact dead and he did in fact perish inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
If these reports are true, it means the Saudis lied on multiple occasions over the past week. Initially, the official word out of Riyadh was that Khashoggi left the consulate shortly after entering to obtain necessary papers for his marriage.
Turkish intelligence would go on to release a string of evidence to support Ankara’s claim that in fact, Khashoggi was murdered inside the building by a 15-man hit squad dispatched to Istanbul by bin Salman.
As a reminder, here is what the Crown Prince told Bloomberg in an interview published on October 5:
Bloomberg: What’s the Jamal Khashoggi story?
MBS: We hear the rumors about what happened. He’s a Saudi citizen and we are very keen to know what happened to him. And we will continue our dialogue with the Turkish government to see what happened to Jamal there.
Bloomberg: He went into the Saudi consulate.
MBS: My understanding is he entered and he got out after a few minutes or one hour. I’m not sure. We are investigating this through the foreign ministry to see exactly what happened at that time.
BLOOMBERG: So he’s not inside the consulate?
MBS: Yes, he’s not inside.
BLOOMBERG: Turkish officials have said he’s still inside.
MBS: We are ready to welcome the Turkish government to go and search our premises. The premises are sovereign territory, but we will allow them to enter and search and do whatever they want to do. If they ask for that, of course, we will allow them. We have nothing to hide.
Apparently they did “have something to hide” because again, CNN is saying that according to multiple sources, Riyadh will claim Khashoggi’s death was the result of “an interrogation that went wrong”.
“Two sources tell CNN that the Saudis are preparing a report that will acknowledge Jamal Khashoggi’s death was the result of an interrogation that went wrong, one that was intended to lead to his abduction from Turkey”, Jake Tapper says, adding that according to one source, “the report will likely conclude that the operation was carried out without clearance and transparency and that those involved will be held responsible.”
This of course shoots down Donald Trump’s “rogue killers” theory as floated on Monday morning after the President spoke with King Salman, and it also suggests the Kingdom was just stalling over the past several days in order try and figure out how to spin things.
If CNN’s reporting is confirmed and the Saudis do admit to killing Khashoggi (even accidentally), it will raise more questions than it answers on the diplomatic front. Journalists are not supposed to be kidnapped and “interrogated” when they are trying to obtain papers for their wedding and they most assuredly are not supposed to be “accidentally” killed during that interrogation.
Finally: Why did bin Salman need to send 15 people including Salah Muhammad al-Tubaigy, chief of forensic evidence and an autopsy expert, to question Khashoggi if they didn’t think it was at least possible he would end up dead?