The US authorities are set to release a report of an investigation into the gruesome murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi which is widely expected to implicate the kingdom’s powerful crown prince.
President Joe Biden has read the report and is due to speak to King Salman.
The president wants to “recalibrate” ties with Saudi Arabia, which became closer under President Donald Trump.
Jamal Khashoggi’s body was dismembered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bon Salman denies involvement.
The Washington Post journalist, known for his criticism of Saudi authorities, went to the consulate in October 2018 in order to obtain papers allowing him to get married.
According to Saudi authorities, Jamal Khashoggi’s death and dismemberment was the result of a “rogue operation” by a team of agents sent to return him to the kingdom.
Five individuals were given death sentences for the murder by a Saudi court but these were commuted to 20 years in prison in September 2020.
The report, which is expected to be released later on February 25, will say that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved “and likely ordered” Jamal Khashoggi’s killing, four US officials told Reuters.
They said the CIA was the main contributor to the report.
The Saudi public prosecution and Prince Mohammed insist he did not have any knowledge of the murder but in 2019 he said he took “full responsibility as a leader in Saudi Arabia, especially since it was committed by individuals working for the Saudi government”.
According to that reported assessment, there was no “smoking gun” but US officials thought such an operation would have required the prince’s approval.
The Washington Post said at the time that the CIA assessment had been based partly on a phone call made by the crown prince’s brother, Prince Khalid bin Salman, who was the then Saudi ambassador to the US.
Prince Khalid, who is now deputy defense minister, allegedly called Jamal Khashoggi at the direction of his brother and gave him assurances that he would be safe to go to the consulate in Istanbul. Prince Khalid has denied any communication with the journalist.
In 2019, UN special rapporteur Agnes Callamard accused Saudi Arabia of the “deliberate, premeditated execution” of Jamal Khashoggi and dismissed the Saudi trial as an “antithesis of justice”.
The publication of the report is part of President Biden’s policy to realign ties with long-term ally Saudi Arabia and take a much tougher stance than his predecessor President Trump on certain Saudi positions.
The Trump administration had previously rejected a legal requirement to release a declassified version of the report, focusing instead on improved co-operation with the Saudis.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on February 24 that President Biden would communicate with King Salman, and not directly with the crown prince, who is his son and is considered the de facto ruler in Saudi Arabia.
She said President Biden was due to speak to the 85-year-old king for the first time since taking office “soon”, without giving a specific time for the call.
Jen Psaki told reporters: “We’ve made clear from the beginning that we are going to recalibrate our relationship with Saudi Arabia.”
Pressure is growing on Saudi Arabia to explain what happened to Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met King Salman in Riyadh.
Jamal Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
Turkish officials believe the journalist was murdered by Saudi agents but the Saudis have denied this.
However, US media are reporting that the Saudis may be preparing to admit that Jamal Khashoggi died as a result of an interrogation that went wrong.
Overnight, Turkish police completed a search of the consulate after being admitted by Saudi authorities.
Mike Pompeo and King Salman have now met in Riyadh.
While much of what was discussed during has yet to be announced, the US State Department said that Mike Pompeo had used the time to thank the king for his “commitment to a thorough, transparent investigation” into Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance.
The secretary of state was also expected to seek further clarification over a conversation between the king and President Donald Trump on October 15.
Tweeting earlier about the call, President Trump said: “Just spoke to the King of Saudi Arabia who denies any knowledge of whatever may have happened “to our Saudi Arabian citizen.” He said that they are working closely with Turkey to find answer. I am immediately sending our Secretary of State to meet with King!”
The president later told reporters: “The denial was very, very strong. It sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers. Who knows?”
There is a lot at stake given the strength of Saudi-US ties. President Trump has already ruled out cancelling a lucrative arms deal, although he did threaten “severe punishment” if the kingdom were found to be responsible for the death.
On October 15, King Salman ordered an investigation into the missing journalist. Saudi statements up to now have dismissed allegations of a killing as “baseless” and “lies”.
Mike Pompeo is also expected to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during his day in Riyadh. The secretary of state may then head to Turkey.
The New York Times and on CNN reported, quoting unnamed sources, that Saudi Arabia would acknowledge that Jamal Khashoggi’s death was the result of an interrogation that went wrong and the intention had been only to abduct him from Turkey.
This may explain in part President Trump’s “rogue killers” line.
Who such killers could be and how it fits into reports of a Saudi team being dispatched to the consulate before Jamal Khashoggi’s arrival will presumably need to covered.
Jamal Khashoggi’s family in Saudi Arabia issued a statement calling for an “independent and impartial international commission”.
President Donald Trump has urged Saudi Arabia to increase its oil production to combat the rising cost of fuel.
He tweeted that he had asked King Salman of Saudi Arabia to raise oil output by up to two million barrels a day.
President Trump said the move was needed due to “turmoil and dysfunction in Iran and Venezuela”.
Oil prices rose last week, partly due to US plans to re-impose sanctions on Iran, a major oil producer.
The OPEC group agreed to increase output, as did Russia, but this failed to reassure markets.
The Saudi Press Agency confirmed that President Trump and King Salman had spoken by phone, giving few details. According to the news agency, they had discussed the need to “preserve the stability of the oil market”.
However, the statement did not confirm that Saudi Arabia had agreed to the two million barrels a day figure.
Saudi Arabia is the world’s biggest exporter of oil and produced about 10 million barrels a day in May. The country is reported to have between 1.5 million and two million barrels a day of spare capacity – but experts told The Wall Street Journal it might not be keen to meet the president’s request.
A Saudi official told the WSJ: “Saudi Arabia does not really like going beyond 11 million barrels a day and has no intention of expanding its current production capacity. It is expensive.”
Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized OPEC even though US ally Saudi Arabia is a core member.
On April 20, President Trump tweeted that oil prices were “artificially very high”, saying this was “no good” and “will not be accepted!”
Iran, another OPEC member, has accused Donald Trump of trying to politicize the group and has blamed Riyadh for doing his bidding.
On June 30, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the US was trying to drive a wedge between Iranians and their government using “economic pressure”.
He cautioned on his website: “Six US presidents before him tried this and had to give up.”
The value of Iranian currency, the rial, has tumbled since the US backed out of the Iran nuclear deal in May.
Earlier this week, thousands of traders at Tehran’s Grand Bazaar marched in protest against rising prices and the plummeting value of the rial. It was the biggest protest Tehran has seen since 2012.
Analysts see the unprecedented move as an attempt to cement the power of the heir to the throne.
Prince Mansour was the son of Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, a former intelligence chief who was crown prince between January and April 2015, when he was pushed aside by Prince Mohammed’s father, King Salman.
The late prince served as a consultant to his father’s royal court and in April 2017 was among 8 young royals appointed deputy governors.
An interior ministry statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency said Prince Mansour and seven provincial officials had boarded a helicopter on November 6 to tour a number of coastal projects west of the city of Abha.
The statement also said: “While returning in the evening of the same day, contact with the plane was lost in the vicinity of the Reda reserve.
“The authorities are currently searching for survivors as the wreckage has been found.”
Later, state news channel al-Ikhbariya announced the death of Prince Mansour.
King Salman of Saudi Arabia has issued a new decree allowing women to drive for the first time.
Campaigners have hailed the decision with one female activist calling it a “great victory”, while another said things would “never be the same again”.
The US ambassador in Saudi Arabia has described the move as “the right decision at the right time”.
Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that bans women from driving – and women are still subject to strict dress codes and gender segregation.
Until now, only men were allowed licenses and women who drove in public risked being arrested and fined.
Meanwhile, Latifah Alshaalan, a member of the Shura council, a government advisory panel, told broadcaster Al Arabiya: “This is a great victory for many Saudi women. This was the one file and issue which Saudi women have fought not just years, but decades for.”
A ministerial body will be set up to give advice within 30 days and the royal order will be implemented by June 24, 2018.
Saudi Arabia’s US ambassador, Prince Khaled bin Salman, confirmed that women would not have to get male permission to take driving lessons, and would be able to drive anywhere they liked.
King Salman of Saudi Arabia has reinstated bonuses and special allowances for civil servants and military personnel that had been cut in September 2016 as part of austerity measures when oil revenues were low.
The king also named his son Prince Khalid as new ambassador to Washington.
King Salman’s decrees saw a new national security centre created under the Royal Court.
Photo Getty Images
He also ordered two months extra salary be paid to frontline military personnel taking part in Saudi-led operations in Yemen.
Prince Khalid is a fighter pilot who has trained in the US and carried out air strikes against ISIS in Syria.
The decree said the pay cuts for ministers and government employees – the first in Saudi Arabia, where about two-thirds of working Saudis are employed in the public sector – had been in response to falling oil prices, which sank to a low of $28 a barrel in January 2017.
The oil price has since risen to about $52 a barrel and ministers said budgetary performance had been better than expected in Q1 of 2017.
Under the cuts, ministers had their salaries reduced by 20% and housing and car allowances for members of the advisory Shura Council were cut by 15%.
Wage increases for lower-ranking civil servants were suspended, and overtime payments and annual leave capped.
Salaries and allowances accounted for 45% of government spending in 2015, or $128 billion, and contributed to a record budget deficit of $98 billion.
King Salman of Saudi Arabia has ordered a safety review for the annual Hajj pilgrimage after at least 717 people died in a stampede near the holy city of Mecca.
Another 863 people were injured in the incident at Mina, which occurred as two million pilgrims were taking part in the Hajj’s last major rite.
It is the deadliest incident to occur during the pilgrimage in 25 years.
King Salman said there was a need “to improve the level of organization and management of movement” of pilgrims.
The crush occurred after two massive lines of pilgrims converged on each other from different direction at an intersection close to the Jamarat Bridge in Mina.
As part of the Hajj, pilgrims travel to Mina, a large valley about 3 miles from Mecca, to throw seven stones at pillars called Jamarat, which represent the devil. The pillars stand where Satan is believed to have tempted the Prophet Abraham.
The crush is the second disaster to strike in two weeks, after a crane collapsed at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, killing 109 people.
Photo Getty Images
Offering condolences to the relatives of the dead and injured, King Salman said: “We have instructed concerned authorities to review the operations plan and to raise the level of organization and management to ensure that the guests of God perform their rituals in comfort and ease.”
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayyef, who chairs the Hajj committee, has begun an inquiry into the tragedy.
Interior ministry spokesman, Major General Mansour al-Turki, said the reason for the unusual number of pilgrims at the site of the disaster was “not known yet”.
Health Minister Khaled al-Falih promised a “fast” investigation and said the crush occurred “perhaps because some pilgrims moved without following instructions by the relevant authorities”.
Iran has fiercely criticized Saudi Arabia’s handling of the pilgrimage.
Announcing three days of national mourning, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said: “The Saudi government should accept the responsibility of this sorrowful incident… Mismanagement and improper actions have caused this catastrophe.”
The disaster began at 09:00 local time on September 24.
Gen. Mansour al-Turki said: “The great heat and fatigue of the pilgrims contributed to the large number of victims.”
The temperature in Mina was 46C on September 24.
Photographs showed the bodies of dozens of pilgrims on the ground, some piled high. They were all dressed in the simple white garments worn during the Hajj.
Pope Francis, who is visiting the US, expressed his “sentiments of closeness” with Muslims, during a prayer service at St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.
Mirandole public beach in southern France that was closed for King Salman of Saudi Arabia has reopened after he cut his trip short.
King Salman had been due to stay for three weeks on the French Riviera, but left after only eight days to travel to Tangiers in Morocco.
The beach in Vallauris was closed for King Salman’s trip, causing uproar among locals.
The beach was reopened on August 3, and a lift installed for King Salman was being dismantled.
“All the security measures are gradually being lifted,” the region’s sub-prefect Philippe Castanet told France Bleu.
Jean-Noel Falcou, a town councilor in Vallauris who lodged a petition against the changes to the beach, welcomed the news that it had reopened.
“All the illegal building work, all the trouble it caused, all the refusal of dialogue by the French state – all of that for only eight days of holiday for the Saudi king,” he wrote on his Facebook page on August 3.
More than 100,000 people signed a petition against the closure of the beach. Critics of the move said it was a breach of French laws on equality.
The Mirandole beach is directly below King Salman’s private villa and French officials agreed to seal it off for the monarch’s security.
Building the lift had involved pouring a large concrete slab on the sand.
King Salman of Saudi Arabia has fired the head of royal protocol, Mohammed al-Tobayshi, days after he was filmed slapping a photographer.
In a decree published by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) news agency on May 5th, the royal house gives no reason for Mohammed al-Tobayshi’s removal.
TV footage seemingly showed Mohammed al-Tobayshi hitting the photographer while King Salman greeted Morocco’s King Mohammed at Riyadh airport on May 3rd.
A royal decree named Khalid al-Abbad as the replacement of Mohammed al-Tobayshi, the SPA reported.
Photo Getty Images
King Salman’s decision was welcomed by Saudis on social media networks.
After the video was posted online, many had accused Mohammed al-Tobayshi of abusing his authority.
“This is a great day for journalists and media figures,” journalist Abdullah al-Bergawi told Gulf News.
“Removing the head of the royal protocol in support of a journalist is a clear consolidation of the status of the media and a victory for journalism.
“King Salman is again showing that no-one is above the law and that all people, officials or not, are to be held responsible for their words and deeds and for not respecting people’s right to dignity.”
Last month, King Salman banned a senior member of the royal family, Prince Mamdouh bin Abdul Rahman, from taking part in all sports activities and speaking to the media after he made remarks considered racist during a TV talk show.
King Salman also replaced Ahmed Al-Khatib as health minister earlier in April after he was filmed having a heated argument with a member of the public who had come to speak to him about the condition of a hospital in Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has announced a major cabinet reshuffle, a week after he acceded to the throne following King Abdullah’s death.
The chief of intelligence and the head of the national Security Council have both been replaced.
Other top officials, including the ministers of defense, oil, and foreign affairs, have kept their jobs.
The governor of Mecca and the governor of the capital Riyadh were replaced as were several senior religious officials.
King Salman – who was a half-brother of the late King Abdullah – also gave a bonus of two months’ salary to all Saudi state employees and military personnel. Pensioners and students received similar bonuses.
The changes were announced in 30 royal decrees.
“Dear people: You deserve more and whatever I do will not be able to give you what you deserve,” King Salman said later on his Twitter account.
The king asked citizens to “not forget me in your prayers”.
The Saudi Press Agency said King Salman had relieved intelligence chief Prince Khalid bin Bandar bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud of his post.
General Khalid bin Ali bin Abdullah al-Humaidan becomes the new intelligence chief, with cabinet rank.
A nephew of the late king, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, was removed from his posts as secretary general of the National Security Council and adviser to the king.
Two of King Abdullah’s sons were also removed – Prince Mishaal, governor of the Mecca region, and Prince Turki, who governed the capital Riyadh.
The Oil Minister, Ali al-Naimi, Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal and Finance Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf remain in the cabinet.
Another of King Abdullah’s sons, Prince Mutaib, stays as minister of the National Guard.
King Salman also replaced several senior religious officials, removing two clerics regarded as comparative liberals who headed the Justice Ministry and Religious Police.
Hours after King Abdullah died on January 23, Salman appointed one of his own sons, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as defense minister.
He named another of King Abdullah’s half-brothers, Prince Muqrin, who is in his late 60s, as the new crown prince.
Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, 55, was appointed deputy crown prince, making him second in line to the throne and effectively smoothing the line of succession for years to come.
King Salman of Saudi Arabia has pledged continuity, hours after his accession to the throne following the death of his half-brother, King Abdullah.
The new king moved swiftly to appoint heirs and ministers, including one prince from the ruling dynasty’s third generation.
King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud died last night, weeks after being admitted to hospital with a lung infection.
He was buried in an unmarked grave in Riyadh, following Friday prayers.
King Abdullah’s burial was conducted in line with the traditions of Wahhabism – the ultra-conservative form of Sunni Islam followed by the kingdom – where funerals are austere and simple.
His body was wrapped in a shroud and taken by ambulance to the Imam Turki bin Abdullah mosque in Riyadh.
Following prayers, which were attended by Gulf heads of state as well as foreign leaders including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif, King Abdullah’s body was taken to a public cemetery and buried.
Within hours of acceding to the throne of the oil-rich kingdom, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, 79, vowed to maintain the same policies as his predecessors.
“We will continue adhering to the correct policies which Saudi Arabia has followed since its establishment,” the king said in a speech broadcast on state television.
King Salman’s profile was updated on his official Twitter account, where he wrote: “I ask God to help me succeed in my service of the dear [Saudi] people.”
He named another of King Abdullah’s half-brothers, Muqrin, who is in his late 60s, as the new crown prince.
Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, 55, was appointed deputy crown prince, making him second in line to the throne and effectively smoothing the line of succession for years to come.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef is a grandson of King Abdulaziz, usually referred to as Ibn Saud, the founder of modern Saudi Arabia. The crown has so far passed between Ibn Saud’s sons, but few are still alive.
King Salman also appointed his own son, Mohammed bin Salman, as defense minister. Other ministers, including foreign, oil and finance, were kept in place, state TV reported.
King Salman spent 48 years as governor of Riyadh province before becoming crown prince and defense minister.
King Abdullah came to the throne in 2005 but had already been Saudi Arabia’s de-facto leader for 10 years because his predecessor, King Fahd, had been debilitated by a stroke.
Abdullah was said to be aged about 90. He had suffered frequent bouts of ill health in recent years, and King Salman had recently taken on the ailing monarch’s responsibilities.
President Barack Obama paid tribute to King Abdullah as a leader who “was always candid and had the courage of his convictions”. Vice-President Joe Biden said he would lead a delegation to Riyadh to pay respects.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin praised King Abdullah’s “grounded, considered and responsible leadership”, while Iran offered Saudi Arabia its condolences and said its foreign minister would travel to Riyadh for an “official ceremony” on Saturday.
However, human rights groups said Saudi Arabia’s human rights record had been poor under King Abdullah.
Saudi Arabia’s new king, Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, acceded to the throne on the death of his half-brother, King Abdullah, on January 23.
King Salman, 79, was governor of Riyadh province for 48 years before becoming defense minister in 2011 and crown prince a year later.
He had already taken on the duties of the king as Abdullah’s health faded.
King Salman is part of an influential faction within the royal family formed of sons and grandsons of the late King Abdulaziz (usually referred to as Ibn Saud) by a favorite wife, Princess Hassa al-Sudairi.
After the deaths of the former king, Fahd, who ruled from 1982 until 2005, and two previous crown princes, Sultan and Nayef, Salman was already the most powerful surviving member of this faction.
As governor of Riyadh, Salman oversaw its transformation from an isolated desert town into a crowded city of skyscrapers, universities and Western fast-food chains.
The post raised Salman’s international profile as he hosted visiting VIPs and envoys and helped secure foreign investment.
As defense minister Salman was head of the Saudi military as it joined the US and other Arab countries in air strikes in Syria in 2014 against the Islamic State militant group.
King Salman’s sons include:
Deputy Oil Minister Prince Abdulaziz
Prince Faisal, the governor of Medina
Prince Sultan, the head of the tourism authority and a former Royal Saudi Air Force pilot and astronaut.
King Salman is not believed to be as personally interested in political or social reform as his predecessor and his priority will be to maintain stability in Saudi Arabia.
Commentators have drawn attention to King Salman’s reputation as a mediator within the huge Saudi royal family, with its complex network of competing factions.
This task has become more fraught as the second tier of senior political posts in Saudi Arabia – the control of key ministries and governorships – has passed from the sons to grandsons of the late King Abdulaziz.
King Salman’s own Sudairi faction within the family, once a powerful and united group of seven full brothers, has itself developed internal rivalries as the sons of those brothers establish their own power bases.
The king’s health has also been a concern. He is reported to have suffered at least one stroke that has left him with limited movement in his left arm.
Correspondents say King Salman has appeared alert and well-briefed in recent meetings but, given his age, there are concerns about his stamina.
After becoming king, Salman announced that the new crown prince would be his half-brother Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, the youngest surviving son of the late King Abdulaziz.
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