By Mohammad Homaiefar

Khashoggi, Bin Salman’s nightmare

January 21, 2019

TEHRAN - While the Khashoggi case has recently subsided in the media and Mohammed bin Salman all along has been keen to overcome any challenge, but it seems that the American Senator Lindsay Graham has not been indifferent and has launched a blistering attack on the Saudi Crown Prince. 

Khashoggi, the Washington Post columnist, visited the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in early October last year and was killed shortly afterward. For 18 days the Saudis denied involvement in the disappearance of the prominent Saudi critic when he entered the consulate allegedly to gather paperwork for his upcoming marriage. Riyadh eventually acknowledged the murder under international pressure. Turkey says Khashoggi was killed by a team of 15 Saudis. The remains of the insider turned critic of the kingdom have yet to be found, three months after this murder.

Riyadh has denied any claims of MBS’s involvement but the case has caused strains with Washington. Earlier this month the trial of 11 of the accused opened in Saudi Arabia with the attorney general seeking the death penalty for five defendants.

 A case that was resurfaced

Republican Lindsey Graham, an influential ally of President Donald Trump, has previously said that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was complicit in the grisly killing of the journalist.

 “I have concluded that the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States cannot move forward until MBS has been dealt with,” Graham said, using the initials for the crown prince. Graham also threatened on Saturday new sanctions against those suspected of involvement in the murder during a press conference in Ankara.

 “We will start sanctioning those involved in the killing of Khashoggi. We'll make a definitive statement that MBS knew about it and is responsible for it and come up with a series of sanctions,” the South Carolina lawmaker said. Graham acknowledged that he had earlier been “enthusiastic” in his support of MBS but accepted he had been “wrong”.

In an article referring to Lindsay Graham's current position, Ray Al-Youm wrote: “Graham reiterated that Jamal Khashoggi's assassination has become the focus of attention. During a news conference in Ankara, he stated that MBS was responsible for journalist’s murder and has tacitly referred to harsher penalties on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the death.” 

Graham is a fervent Trump ally and also a moderator of a move in Congress to cut off U.S. support for Saudi military operations in Yemen. 

Graham has said he regrets any support of MBS. He emphasized that he and other members of the Senate will issue a statement in the coming days. They will emphasize that MBS was complicit in the murder of Khashoggi to the highest level possible and a series of punishments or sanctions may be imposed. But he did not speak of the nature of these sanctions.

The question is whether Senator Graham and his colleagues can enforce penalties or punishment and persuade Trump to agree to them. Another question is how will the Crown Prince's react to sanctions. Would MBS resign from his office? But it remains unlikely that Graham and colleagues will succeed in exerting pressure on Trump, as he has been weakened by the various probes of his connections to Russia.

Ray Al-Youm added: “Bin Salman, the Saudi de facto ruler, dominates all matters in Saudi Arabia, especially security and military, and it is perhaps difficult to quit his position. His closest friends say that Bin Salman will confront power with the slightest betrayal.”
The coming days may be tough for Saudi Arabia.

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