The Central Intelligence Agency released a statement on Nov. 15, claiming Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The findings directly contradict claims made by the Saudi government, which have been inconsistent since the journalist disappeared on Oct. 2 from the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The self-exiled journalist visited the consulate that day with his fiancée Hatice Cengiz, a Turkish national, in order to obtain documents for a marriage license.
According to The Washington Post, which was first to report the findings, the CIA came to a conclusion after receiving from Istanbul a recording from inside the Saudi consulate. The recording details a phone call between one of the Crown Prince’s brothers, Prince Khalid bin Salman, and Khashoggi himself. Khalid is also the Saudi ambassador to the United States in Washington D.C.
The phone call between Khalid and Khashoggi consists of Khalid encouraging the journalist to go to the consulate in Istanbul, assuring Khashoggi his safety. However, Khalid denied the phone call occurred, saying via Twitter, “I never talked to him by phone and certainly never suggested he go to Turkey for any reason.”
An anonymous U.S. official told The Washington Post, “The accepted position is that there is no way this happened without him being aware or involved.”
As of the morning of Nov. 22, Turkish news outlet Hürriyet Daily News reported an additional phone call acquired by the CIA in which MBS is heard instructing Khalid to “silence Jamal Khashoggi as soon as possible.”
Khashoggi had been living in Virginia at the time, and while he could have gone to the Saudi embassy in Washington D.C., he instead traveled to the consulate in Turkey in order to obtain papers which would allow him to remarry in the United States. Dr. Bechtold, Professor of Political Science at Portland State, weighed in on the circumstances which led Khashoggi across the Atlantic.
“If they tried to do it in Washington D.C., it would have become a huge scandal and might destroy the delicate relationship with Washington. And if not there, where?” Dr. Peter Bechtold, Professor of Political Science at Portland State, commented. “Theoretically they could have gone to an embassy almost anywhere, but there is no plausible explanation if he was told to go to Stockholm, Sweden…In the case of Istanbul, there was sort of a flimsy excuse that the parents of his fiancée were in Turkey.”
According to Bechtold, the competition for power between Turkey and Saudi Arabia within the region could be a reason for Khashoggi being killed in the Istanbul consulate. “I believe it has to do with the rivalry. They wanted to stick a pin in the side of Turkey, and the reason I think that is because Turkey did something very unusual,” he said.
Turkey has been cooperative with the various investigations into Khashoggi’s killing, sharing information candidly. They shared the audio recording with the U.S. and have extended the crucial piece of evidence to other countries that requested to hear it, including Germany, France and Britain, as reported by The Guardian.
“The Turks could have just said nothing. But they didn’t. They said Khashoggi was killed and the Saudis denied it and Turkey kept offering more and more and more, so none of the excuses made any sense because the Turks kept putting out more material,” Bechtold said.
Almost two months after his original disappearance, the location of Khashoggi’s remains is still unknown.