US May Be Poised To Take More Serious Action Over Khashoggi Murder

Protesters hold up posters of Jamal Khashoggi after his disappearance
Chris McGrath / Getty Images

The horrific murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has shocked the globe. Worldwide, there were strong reactions, with plenty of world and business leaders withdrawing their attendance from the investment conference held in Riyadh late in October, and threats of sanctions being thrown their way from all over.

The reaction that appears to have been the most lackluster has been that from Washington so far, with most unsatisfied by U.S. President Donald Trump’s seeming lack of reaction to the horrendous crime. But as the Daily Sabbah reports, it seems that the U.S. is finally ready to take some kind of action against those responsible.

Speaking at a panel of the Middle East Institute in Washington, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale reiterated remarks earlier made by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“We are taking strong steps, such as revoking the visas of Saudi officials and considering examining the applicability of the global Magnitsky sanctions [which targets people responsible for human rights violations or corruption].”

And while he seemed to be pleased that some steps had been taken so far, he also appeared to feel that more serious action should still be taken, although what he had up his sleeve he did not share.

Hale also called for the Saudis to reveal the truth behind what happened to Khashoggi after he entered the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Istanbul on October 2. The Washington Post columnist had made an appointment there to obtain documents he needed to marry his fiancee. According to Turkish officials, assassins had been flown into the city in the hours and days ahead of the appointment, and Khashoggi had been killed within minutes of stepping inside the building.

Despite the heinousness of the crime, Hale still believes that it would be possible for the U.S. to take action for the murder and maintain its “strategic cooperation” with the Saudi government.

So far, the assassins who carried out the murder have supposedly been arrested by the Saudi government, but most believe that the orders came from high up in government, and potentially from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman himself, given that Khashoggi was a strong critic of his. The U.S. reaction up until now has only served to revoke the visas of the assassins who were involved in the murder.

Trump is reluctant to slap sanctions on the country, probably in part due to Saudi Arabia’s threat to hike gas prices if they are sanctioned, and partly because their cooperation is key to holding power over Iran. Lawmakers in the U.S. have called for a suspension of negotiations with the Saudis over a nuclear technology sharing agreement, and hope to also halt an arms sale to Riyadh. Trump is concerned that doing so will cost American jobs, but has decided that Congress should make the call.

He has indicated he will have a “very strong opinion” on the matter come next week, after he has consulted with Congress on the murder.