Biden advisers meeting with Saudi official months after U.S. report on Khashoggi murder

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden's national security advisers are holding high-level diplomatic talks this week with Saudi Arabia's top defense official – who is also the brother of the kingdom's crown prince Mohammed bin Salman – months after the White House publicly released a U.S. intelligence assessment concluding the crown prince approved the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed a meeting on Tuesday between Biden's national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Prince Khalid bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s deputy defense minister. Bin Salman is also meeting Tuesday with officials from the State Department and the Pentagon.

During the presidential campaign, Biden vowed to make Saudi Arabia pay for its human rights abuses and “make them in fact the pariah that they are."

A handout picture provided by the Saudi Royal Palace on Dec. 24, 2020 shows Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attending by videoconference a meeting with Bahrain's Crown Prince of the Saudi-Bahraini Coordinating Council.
A handout picture provided by the Saudi Royal Palace on Dec. 24, 2020 shows Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attending by videoconference a meeting with Bahrain's Crown Prince of the Saudi-Bahraini Coordinating Council.

But in office, the president and his advisers have taken a more measured tone. The White House declined to impose penalties directly on the crown prince after U.S. intelligence officials released findings that Mohammed bin Salman approved the operation "to capture or kill" Khashoggi in 2018, when he was a Washington Post columnist and U.S. resident.

Biden's secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said at the time that the U.S.-Saudi relationship "is bigger than any one individual."

Psaki said Khashoggi's murder "could be a topic" in this week's meetings but said the discussions would focus on the U.S.-Saudi alliance and Iran, which Saudi Arabia views as its chief foe in the region.

Khashoggi, a U.S. resident who had been critical of the Saudi ruling family, was killed inside a Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018. Khashoggi had gone to the consulate to get documents he needed for his upcoming wedding.

The crown prince has long denied he ordered Khashoggi's killing. Saudi officials acknowledged that operatives from the kingdom carried out the killing, but they portrayed it as a rogue operation gone awry.

As the crown prince’s younger brother, Khalid bin Salman was the kingdom’s ambassador in Washington at the time of Khashoggi's murder. He was recalled after Khashoggi’s killing amid bipartisan furor in Washington. The Washington Post reported that Khalid bin Salman had told Khashoggi to go to the consulate in Turkey to pick up the needed wedding papers.

FILE - In this Dec. 15, 2014, file photo, Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi speaks during a press conference in Manama, Bahrain. An independent U.N. human rights expert says authorities in Saudi Arabia quietly held a second court hearing for 11 people facing charges over the killing of Khashoggi. Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who wrote critically about Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali, File)
FILE - In this Dec. 15, 2014, file photo, Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi speaks during a press conference in Manama, Bahrain. An independent U.N. human rights expert says authorities in Saudi Arabia quietly held a second court hearing for 11 people facing charges over the killing of Khashoggi. Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who wrote critically about Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali, File)

More: Saudi Arabia's Mohammed bin Salman complicit in Jamal Khashoggi's murder, US report says

The Biden administration authorized the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to release its findings on the crown prince's role in Khashoggi's murder in February.

In its report, the DNI said a 15-member Saudi team that arrived in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018, included seven members of the crown prince's "elite personal protective detail, known as the Rapid Intervention Force (RIF). The RIF ... exists to defend the Crown Prince, answers only to him, and had directly participated in earlier dissident suppression operations in the Kingdom and abroad at the Crown Prince's direction."

The DNI report also said the crown prince "has had absolute control of the Kingdom's security and intelligence organizations, making it highly unlikely that Saudi officials would have carried out an operation of this nature without the crown prince's authorization."

The report did not mention Khalid bin Salman.

The Trump administration had refused to release the unclassified report on Khashoggi's murder, even though it was mandated by Congress.

Khalid bin Salman met briefly on Tuesday with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to the Associated Press, and longer talks with Colin Kahl, undersecretary of defense for policy.

Contributing: Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden advisers meeting with Saudi official after Khashoggi report

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting