It's looking more and more like Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman ordered the disappearance of Washington Post columnist and Saudi dissident Jamal Kashoggi, who is by all accounts, extremely not among the living anymore.
The crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, ordered an operation to lure Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia from his home in Virginia and then detain him, according to U.S. intelligence intercepts of Saudi officials discussing the plan.
The intelligence, described by U.S. officials familiar with it, is another piece of evidence implicating the Saudi regime in Khashoggi’s disappearance last week after he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Turkish officials say that a Saudi security team lay in wait for the journalist and killed him.
Khashoggi was a prominent critic of the Saudi government and Mohammed in particular. Several of Khashoggi’s friends said that over the past four months, senior Saudi officials close to the crown prince had called Khashoggi to offer him protection, and even a high-level job working for the government, if he returned to his home country.
Khashoggi, however, was skeptical of the offers. He told one friend that the Saudi government would never make good on its promises not to harm him.
“He said: ‘Are you kidding? I don’t trust them one bit,’ ” said Khaled Saffuri, an Arab American political activist, recounting a conversation he had with Khashoggi in May, moments after Khashoggi had received a call from Saud al-Qahtani, an adviser to the royal court.
The intelligence pointing to a plan to detain Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia has fueled speculation by officials and analysts in multiple countries that what transpired at the consulate was a backup plan to capture Khashoggi that may have gone wrong.
A former U.S. intelligence official — who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive matter — noted that the details of the operation, which involved sending two teams totaling 15 men, in two private aircraft arriving and departing Turkey at different times, bore the hallmarks of a “rendition,” in which someone is extralegally removed from one country and deposited for interrogation in another.
In other words, the Saudis used the US rendition playbook and black-bagged a very vocal critic of the Saudi regime. The Trump regime is desperately trying to make it look like the Saudi Crown Prince was a "reasonable guy" instead of, you know, ordering and carrying out the assassination of a US citizen, because thanks to the Magnitsky Act, Trump now has to find a way to either clear the Crown Prince's name or impose sanctions on Saudi Arabia, something that would kind of wreck his son-in-law Jared Kushner's arms deal.
A man who spends his time demonizing journalists is tacitly giving the green light to his authoritarian allies to deal with journalists in whatever way they want to, and Trump will absolutely look the other way on this. Regardless of the motive to silence Khashoggi, we now have three oppressive, anti-press regimes responsible for his disappearance and most likely his murder: the Saudis, the Turks, and the Americans.