Last week, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released an assessment claiming that “Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.” The Biden White House says it won’t penalize the de facto leader of a traditional U.S. ally for fear of damaging relations. But that’s misleading, because the purpose of publishing the assessment is to make the Saudis look as bad as possible in order to make Team Biden’s preferred Middle East partner, Iran, look better by comparison.
The administration is preparing to reenter President Barack Obama’s 2015 deal with Tehran and legalize the nuclear weapons program of a terror state that has been launching missile attacks on Saudi Arabia for several years. It’s hard to imagine Washington imposing a steeper penalty on Riyadh.
The intelligence assessment that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, often referred to as MBS, was responsible for killing Khashoggi was first leaked nearly 2 1/2 years ago by anonymous U.S. officials. The purpose of the leak was to damage relations between Riyadh and then-President Donald Trump.
Obama had downgraded the alliance with the Saudis and other U.S. Middle East partners because he wanted to realign American interests with the anti-American regime in Iran. Even before Trump exited the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018, he signaled that he was jettisoning his predecessor’s destructive policy and restoring the region’s U.S.-led alliance system. Trump made his first presidential trip to Saudi Arabia to underscore the importance of a relationship that brought Saudi investment and American jobs.
After Khashoggi was killed in October 2018, Obama allies used the press to pressure Trump and make Saudi Arabia radioactive. In Νοvember 2018, The Washington Post published anonymously sourced details from what would become the ODNI assessment. According to the Post’s sources, the CIA believed “there is no way this happened without [MBS] being aware or involved.”
If MBS knew that a team was going to Istanbul for Khashoggi, there is no evidence that the Saudi delegation was sent to kill him, never mind on MBS’s orders. And that is why the ODNI report hedges on its central claim: “Although Saudi officials had pre-planned an unspecified operation against Khashoggi,” the assessment reads, “we do not know how far in advance Saudi officials decided to harm him.”
The result is the same in any case—a man’s life was taken by other men. But exactly who that man was has been intentionally obscured in press coverage and Biden administration statements.
First, Khashoggi wasn’t, as the press asserts, a Washington Post columnist. The several opinion pieces the paper published under his name were written by others. Because he didn’t write English well, his articles were directed, from conception through composition, by paid agents of Qatar, Saudi Arabia’s Gulf Cooperation Council rival, who encouraged him to opine critically on his native country.
Nor was he, as Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote on Twitter, a permanent U.S. resident, and thereby entitled to the protection, attention, and consideration Washington owes U.S. citizens and green-card holders. Khashoggi owned an apartment in Virginia and lived in the United States on a work visa.
Moreover, Khashoggi wasn’t a “dissident.” He was a Saudi insider with ties to the country’s intelligence services. He had managed media companies owned by a member of the Saudi royal family who was a longtime head of Riyadh’s general intelligence directorate. Khashoggi had once considered Osama bin Laden a friend and was sympathetic to other Islamic extremist movements. He frequently expressed anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiments on social media. Before he was killed, Khashoggi sought $2 million from Riyadh to start a think-tank in Washington to promote Saudi interests. In other words, it seems he was using his Post articles and relationship with Doha to negotiate with Riyadh for his loyalty.
His death in turn was used by former U.S. officials to advance their causes. A group of retired CIA officers was hammering away at MBS even before he replaced Mohammed bin Nayef as crown prince in 2017. As a former head of Saudi intelligence, Nayef was well known to U.S. intelligence officials, who expected him to ascend to the throne once the aging King Salman died. They assumed Nayef would feather their retirement nests, as the Saudis frequently bestow favors on former U.S. diplomats and senior spies friendly to the kingdom.
When the king moved his son to the head of the line, those ex-CIA officials saw it as open season on a U.S. ally. The CIA’s anti-MBS initiative intersected with the Obama camp’s efforts to block Trump’s policy to restore the traditional U.S.-led alliance system in the Middle East. Khashoggi’s death was used as the premier platform for the anti-MBS information operation, which was pushed through the press, with The Washington Post as the primary vehicle.
By releasing the DNI assessment, the Biden administration is simply announcing that the Obama policy is once again operative. Virtually all of the Obama officials who swung the Iran deal in 2015 are back with Team Biden, primed to undo sanctions and flood the regime’s war chest.
The assessment is also meant to paint the Saudis as uniquely evil, a tactic similar to the one deployed the last several years against Trump supporters. The establishment smears working-class Americans as racists and now as domestic terrorists to justify destroying them, by sending their jobs to China, opening the doors to millions of illegal immigrants, and so on. And it’s because of Khashoggi, Biden officials and its press surrogates are saying, that the Saudis deserve to live under the threat of a terror state brandishing a nuclear weapon. Of course, legitimizing Iran’s bomb is a problem not only for U.S. Middle East allies but also U.S. national security, even here at home. But what does that matter to an American ruling class that has repeatedly proven it despises America?
Lee Smith is the author of the recently published book “The Permanent Coup: How Enemies Foreign and Domestic Targeted the American President.”
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.