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Khashoggi murder: Bahrain, UAE reaffirm support for Saudi Arabia after CIA report

US intelligence report blames Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi
Protesters in London demonstrate against former president Donald Trump, Saudi Arabia and the UAE (MEE/Kaamil Ahmed)

Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) stood behind Saudi Arabia's position on a newly released CIA intelligence report that blames Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Manama said on Friday that it rejected any attempts to "undermine" Saudi Arabia's sovereignty, according to Bahrain's state news agency, BNA.  

"Bahrain emphasizes the importance of the fundamental role of Saudi Arabia under the leadership of King Salman and his crown prince, its policy of moderation regionally, in the Arab region, and internationally, its efforts to enhance regional security and stability, and promote global economic development," BNA said. 

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved Khashoggi murder, US report says
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The UAE's foreign ministry said it "expressed its confidence in and support for the Saudi judiciary rulings, which affirm the kingdom's commitment to implementing the law in a transparent and impartial manner, and holding all those involved in this case accountable." 

Both shows of support came after US President Joe Biden allowed the release of a long-awaited report detailing the US intelligence community's findings on the October 2018 murder. 

Saudi Arabia on Friday said it "completely" rejected the declassified US report and described it as a "false and unacceptable assessment."

"The kingdom rejects any measure that infringes upon its leadership, sovereignty, and the independence of the judicial system," Saudi Arabia's foreign ministry said. 

"It is truly unfortunate that this report, with its unjustified and inaccurate conclusions, is issued while the kingdom had clearly denounced this heinous crime, and the kingdom's leadership took the necessary steps to ensure that such a tragedy never takes place again."

Getting away with murder

The report, released by the director of national intelligence, will likely alter US policymakers' ties with Saudi Arabia and, particularly, with the crown prince, known as MBS. Activists and rights groups were quick to call for US sanctions against bin Salman on Friday. 

"We assess that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi," said the report, a summary of which was released on Friday.

The National Assembly party (NAAS), a group led by Saudi dissidents calling for democracy in Saudi Arabia, urged Washington to release the full report into Khashoggi's murder. 

"While we welcome the publication of the report, we await real actions to bring justice in the heinous murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and guarantees that such crimes are never committed against people who express opinions that amount to criticism of the Saudi regime's policies," said Madawi al-Rasheed, an academic and spokesperson for NAAS.

In a television interview on Friday, Biden said he told King Salman that Saudi Arabia has to tackle human rights abuses as a precondition to dealing with the United States.

"[I] made it clear to him that the rules are changing, and we're going to be announcing significant changes today and on Monday," Biden said on Spanish-language network Univision.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed that Washington will not take action against the crown prince himself. 

The US State and Treasury departments had announced sanctions against dozens of Saudi individuals over their involvement in the Khashoggi murder and other rights violations, without identifying them.

"What we've done by the actions that we've taken is really not to rupture the relationship but to recalibrate it to be more in line with our interests and our values," Blinken told reporters.

Earlier on Friday, the State Department unveiled new visa restrictions dubbed the "Khashoggi Ban" that would allow Washington to target "individuals who, acting on behalf of a foreign government, are believed to have been directly engaged in serious, extraterritorial counter-dissident activities".

The US Treasury said it had imposed sanctions on several Saudi officials, including Ahmed al-Asiri, former deputy head of military intelligence at the time of Khashoggi's assassination, and members of the hit team that carried out the murder, known as the "Tiger Squad" or Rapid Intervention Force.

However, without sanctions against MBS, whom the US government has now publicly acknowledged was responsible for the killing, some advocates and lawmakers say the mastermind of the assassination is getting away with murder.