- The Biden administration announced new sanctions over Khashoggi’s murder.
- Saudi Crown Prince MBS is not targeted by the new sanctions.
- The administration is also instituting a new visa restriction policy called the Khashoggi Ban.
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The Biden administration will not sanction Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over Jamal Khashoggi’s 2018 murder despite the fact the Saudi leader was explicitly implicated in the killing in a declassified US intelligence assessment.
The Treasury Department on Friday unveiled sanctions against General Ahmed al-Asiri, former deputy head of the Saudi intelligence services, and the Saudi Rapid Intervention Force over connections to the Khashoggi killing.
“Those involved in the abhorrent killing of Jamal Khashoggi must be held accountable. With this action, Treasury is sanctioning Saudi Arabia’s Rapid Intervention Force and a senior Saudi official who was directly involved in Jamal Khashoggi’s murder,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement. “The United States stands united with journalists and political dissidents in opposing threats of violence and intimidation. We will continue to defend the freedom of expression, which is the bedrock of a free society.”
But the administration will not sanction Prince Mohammed, known colloquially as “MBS,” over concerns it would “rupture” the US-Saudi relationship, an administration official said, per Reuters.
Prince Mohammed is the kingdom’s de facto ruler. But in a diplomatic snub of the crown prince, the White House recently announced that President Joe Biden’s official communications with the Saudis would involve King Salman and not Prince Mohammed. Biden and King Salman spoke for the first time on Thursday.
On Friday, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released the declassified report on Khashoggi’s killing.
“We assess that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” the report stated. “The Crown Prince viewed Khashoggi as a threat to the Kingdom and broadly supported using violent measures if necessary to silence him.”
But other than being downgraded in the eyes of the US under the Biden administration, it’s unclear what other consequences, if any, Prince Mohammed will face over Khashoggi’s killing.
Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who was a Washington Post columnist at the time of his death, was murdered by agents of his own government in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. His body was dismembered, but Khashoggi’s remains have never been found.
The Khashoggi Ban
After the ODNI assessment on Khashoggi’s death was released, the State Department announced a new policy involving visa restrictions called the “Khashoggi Ban.”
“The Khashoggi Ban allows the State Department to impose visa restrictions on individuals who, acting on behalf of a foreign government, are believed to have been directly engaged in serious, extraterritorial counter-dissident activities, including those that suppress, harass, surveil, threaten, or harm journalists, activists, or other persons perceived to be dissidents for their work, or who engage in such activities with respect to the families or other close associates of such persons,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
“As a matter of safety for all within our borders, perpetrators targeting perceived dissidents on behalf of any foreign government should not be permitted to reach American soil,” Blinken added. “While the US remains invested in its relationship with Saudi Arabia, President Biden has made clear that partnership must reflect US values.”
Blinken said that “to start,” the State Department is citing the ban to impose visa restrictions on 76 Saudi individuals “believed to have been engaged in threatening dissidents overseas, including but not limited to the Khashoggi killing.” It’s unclear whether Prince Mohammed would be impacted by the new policy.
“Under US law, individual visa records are confidential, and we cannot provide details as to who is or will be included in the Khashoggi Ban,” a State Department spokesperson told Insider.