Nikki Haley: MBS 'responsible' for Jamal Khashoggi's murder

#Khashoggi

Trump continues to support Mohammed bin Salman and stands by the Saudi royal accused of ordering Khashoggi's murder

Haley said that America should criticise Saudi Arabia for its role in Khashoggi but fell short of calling for sanctions against the Gulf Kingdom (AFP)
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Wednesday 12 December 2018 17:02 UTC
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Nikki Haley, the United States's outgoing UN ambassador, said on Wednesday that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was "responsible" for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Expected to step down from her position at the UN by the end of the year, Haley explicitly blamed bin Salman, known as MBS, for Khashoggi's murder and said that Saudi Arabia should not "get a pass".

"It was the Saudi government, and MBS is the head of the Saudi government," Haley told NBC News in a wide-ranging interview. 

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"So they are all responsible, and they don't get a pass, not an individual, not the government - they don't get a pass."

Haley, however, only suggested talking down Saudi Arabia for its role in the murder of Khashoggi, and not going as far as issuing sanctions against Riyadh. 

"We do have to work with them in that case," she said of the Saudis, adding: "I think we need to have a serious hard talk with the Saudis to let them know we won't condone this. We won't give you a pass. And don't do this again.

"And then I think that the administrations have to talk about where we go from here. What I can tell you that's so important is that the Saudis have been our partner in defeating and dealing with Iran. And that has been hugely important."

Trump defends MBS

US President Donald Trump has continued to publicly support MBS and said on Tuesday that the Saudi crown prince "vehemently denies" involvement in the death of Khashoggi. 

Speaking to Reuters, Trump said: "He's the leader of Saudi Arabia. They've been a very good ally."

Haley's comments, meanwhile, come a day after Khashoggi was named "person of the year" by Time Magazine alongside other journalists killed and imprisoned in 2018.

Writing about Khashoggi, Time Magazine said: "He told the world the truth about its brutality towards those who would speak out. And he was murdered for it.

"His death laid bare the true nature of a smiling prince, the utter absence of morality in the Saudi-US alliance and - in the cascade of news feeds and alerts, posts and shares and links - the centrality of the question Khashoggi was killed over: whom do you trust to tell the story?"

Khashoggi, a Middle East Eye contributor and Washington Post columnist, was killed more than two months ago by a Saudi hit squad inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in an operation that is widely suspected to have been ordered by MBS.

Saudi Arabia has denied that the crown prince was involved and has arrested 21 people in connection with the killing.

But the case has cast scrutiny on the close relationship between the Saudi crown prince and Trump's administration, with some US lawmakers declaring there is "zero question" that MBS ordered the killing.

CIA briefing on Wednesday

The CIA previously concluded that MBS gave the order to kill Khashoggi, a finding that has been disputed by Trump and some of his most senior officials.

On Wednesday, CIA Director Gina Haspel was expected to hold a closed-door briefing for members of the US House of Representatives on the case.

Before the meeting, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was on Fox News programme Fox & Friends, declaring once more that the US "has an important ally" in Saudi Arabia.

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"The murder of Jamal Khashoggi was a tragic incident; it was heinous. It’s not something that America approves of," Pompeo said, according to a read-out of the interview put out by the US State Department.

"We’ve already held a number of individuals accountable by putting sanctions on them, those that we have evidence were directly involved. We’ll continue to develop the facts, but America has an important ally in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They work with us on issues that provide security for America and for Israel," Pompeo said.

However, asked directly if the CIA's conclusion that MBS ordered Khashoggi's murder was false, he pivoted, saying "the direct evidence isn't yet available".

"When you looked [MBS] in the eye and he denied it, did you believe him?" Pompeo was asked on the programme.

Pompeo answered: "The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia decides who’s running the country. I think this is what the president said yesterday. We are working closely with the kingdom to make sure that America is protected. That’s our interest there."