On October 16th, unnamed Turkish officials reportedly provided the Washington Post with scans of passports supposedly carried by seven men who were part of the 15-person team suspected in the disappearance and likely killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The passports add to the public information provided by Turkish officials as it seeks to fill out gaps in the narrative of what purported after Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate on October 2nd. The Washington Post published the passports, but obscured the names and faces of the suspects, because it reportedly had no time to verify the people’s identities.
Turkey maintains that Jamal had been killed and dismembered within the Saudi Arabian consulate. It also claims that a 15-man team dispatched from Saudi Arabia played a major role in the killing. One man from the group is the head of the medical forensics department in the Saudi ministry of interior.
Turkish officials also reportedly confirmed that the 15 names reported in the Daily Sabah are the actual names of the suspects.
Saudi Arabian officials have repeatedly denied any involvement in the disappearance of Khashoggi. The Saudi side also allowed Turkish investigators into the consulate.
The Washington Post, however, reported that the investigators were frustrated by a lack of cooperation from the Saudi side, citing the long delay and the attempts to scrub the scene by bringing in a cleaning crew.
A report on the Saudi-owned al-Arabiya news channel said the 15 suspects were “Tourists” who had been falsely accused.
On the same day, the New Your Times reported that four of the suspects had ties to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. One of them, with pictures provided, could be considered a frequent companion of the Crown Prince. “Seen disembarking from airplanes with him in Paris and Madrid and photographed standing guard during his visits this year to Houston, Boston and the United Nations,” the NYT reported.
Photos released by NYT:
Three other suspects are linked by witnesses and other records to the Saudi crown prince’s security detail.
The NYT also claimed that it has independently confirmed that at least 9 of the 15 suspects worked for the Saudi security services, military or government ministries. “One of them, Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, was a diplomat assigned to the Saudi Embassy in London in 2007, according to a British diplomatic roster. He traveled extensively with the crown prince, perhaps as a bodyguard.”
The Crown Prince and his father King Salman have denied any knowledge of Khashoggi’s whereabouts. The NYT reported that Saudi officials did not even respond to requests to comment on their findings.
According to reports from October 14th, the Saudi side was expected to release a report acknowledging that Jamal was killed in the consulate. The one to blame was supposed to be an intelligence agent who made a mistake while interrogating Khashoggi and ended up killing him. On the same day, President Trump floated the possibility that the journalist was the victim of “rogue killers.” However, the suspects’ links to the Crown Prince make it difficult to indemnify him from blame.
This all happens as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Saudi Arabia and spoke to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He was cited as saying that Riyadh is being treated as “guilty until proven innocent.” Something he had no issue with every time it happens to Moscow and Beijing.
Donald Trump has also urged against rushing to blame Saudi Arabia over the disappearance. It once again becomes apparent that the US will support its allies in the face of Saudi Arabia, similarly to how it supports Israel. Any humanitarian issues are easily and instantly abandoned when they do not correlate with Washington’s interests. Similarly to the incident when a Saudi airstrike struck a school bus and killed 40 children, the US will find a way to find an excuse for one of its key allies in the Middle East.
The US is coming into mid-term elections on November 4th and a rising price of fuel would not benefit Donald Trump. He also requires the finalizing of the $110 billion weapons deal with Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, pressuring Iran and cutting off the Islamic Republic’s oil exports would be night impossible without Saudi assistance.