A new report has revealed that before journalist and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi was killed, Saudi officials close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman discussed a plot to kill the kingdom’s enemies.
The crown prince is believed to have ordered the operation that led to the killing of Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey last month.
Now, a report published by the New York Times on Sunday claims that in 2017, a year before Khashoggi was allegedly killed by a team of Saudi agents, Saudi officials asked a group of businessmen about using private companies to assassinate Iranian enemies.
Citing three people familiar with the talks, the report said that the officials made the inquiry when the crown prince ordered his advisers to ramp up military and intelligence operations abroad.
Prior to admitting that Khashoggi was slain in a premeditated attack, Saudi officials claimed that the Washington Post columnist was killed in a rogue operation ordered by Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri.
Assiri was at the March, 2017, meeting in Riyadh, where businessmen proposed a $2 billion plan to use private intelligence operatives in an attempt to sabotage Iran’s economy.
The report said that during the discussions, the top aides of Assiri asked about assassinating Qassim Suleimani, commander of the Quds force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and an avowed enemy of Saudi Arabia.
The businessmen, who also had intelligence backgrounds, reportedly saw the plan as a valuable source of income and a way to damage a country that they and the Saudis both considered a serious threat.
George Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman who arranged the meeting, had reportedly met Prince Mohammed bin Salman earlier and pitched the Iran plan to Team Trump.
Joel Zamel, an Israeli with ties to the Jewish state’s security and intelligence agencies, was also in the meetings. Zamel’s company, Psy-Group, is said to have approached the Trump campaign in 2016 with social media manipulation plans.
Nader and Zemel are notably witnesses in Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
Prosecutors have questioned these men about their discussions with the U.S. and Saudi officials about the Iran proposal.
Assiri’s aides reportedly also asked the businessmen if they conducted kinetics, or lethal operations, saying they were looking to assassinate senior Iran officials.
The businessmen said that they would have to consult their lawyers, who rejected the plan, and told the Saudis that they would not take part in the killings.