On December 20, Saudi Arabia announced the creation of three new government departments aimed at improving the country’s intelligence operations.
The Saudi Press Agency reported that the new departments – for strategy and development, legal affairs, and performance evaluation and internal review – are meant to ensure that intelligence operations align with national security policy, international law and human rights treaties. King Salman ordered a restructuring of the intelligence service in October after Saudi authorities acknowledged that the Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, had been killed inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul by a team of fifteen Saudi intelligence and security agents put together by Saud al-Qahtani, a top aide to crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, and General Ahmed al-Asiri, who served as deputy head of foreign intelligence.
In late November Saudi Arabia announced it was seeking the death penalty for five of those arrested in connection with the murder. Deputy public prosecutor, Shalaan al-Shalaan, told reporters that Khashoggi was murdered after “negotiations” for his return to the kingdom failed, and that the killing was ordered by the lead negotiator after he decided it wasn’t feasible to remove him from the consulate. He said crown prince Mohammed bin Salman knew nothing of the operation in which Khashoggi’s body was dismembered, removed from the building and handed
over to an unidentified “local cooperator.”
In an interview with CNN on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, defended the US administration’s handling of the Khashoggi case. “I continue to
work on this issue” he said. “President Trump and this administration sanctioned seventeen people that we came to learn were connected to the murder — the heinous murder — of Jamal Khashoggi.
All across the United States government we continue to investigate, to try and learn to make determinations about what happened. I will continue to hold those responsible accountable. I have been very, very clear about that since literally since the very beginning.
We ‘re also doing everything we can to make sure that we get it right from the beginning for America, that we keep the strategic relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and protect the American people.
Those two things can both be done, and we’ve done that very effectively.”
Asked about CIA allegations linking crown prince Mohammed bin Salman to the killing Pompeo said: “I have read every piece of intelligence that is in the possession of United States government.
When it is done, when you complete that analysis, there’s no direct evidence linking
him to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
That is an accurate statement, an important statement and it is a statement that we are making publicly today.” Asked if the Central Intelligence Agency had concluded with “high confidence” that the crown prince was involved, Pompeo said: “ I can’t comment on intelligence matters … CIA conclusions…. I didn’t do it when I was director, I’m not going to do it now” Pompeo went on to say that the United States was working with Saudi Arabia in Afghanistan and against Iran, and that Riyadh was “an enormous support” for Washington. “They’re a relationship that has mattered for seventy years across Republican and Democrat administrations alike … we’re aiming to keep that relationship,” he said.
Pompeo went on to say that the United States was working to end the hostilities in Yemen. “This administration has put almost a billion dollars into stopping the humanitarian crisis” he said. “The Saudis have put even more money in of theirs.
The Iranians have put zero dollars into stopping that humanitarian crisis. We are determined to fix the problem of the humanitarian crisis while ensuring that we don’t end up with a Hezbollah organization on the southern edge of Saudi Arabia”.
A U.S. senate resolution passed on 13 December called for an end to U.S. military support for the war in Yemen. It was the first time either the senate or congress had used the 1973 War Powers Act to withdraw U.S. forces from a military engagement.