| 20.03,19. 08:24 AM |
‘Saudi war on dissent reveals kingdom’s true nature’
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s death was part of a broader operation to crack down on dissidents, which should shed any remaining illusions about the kingdom, The New York Times said Tuesday.
"It comes as little surprise, sadly, that the Saudi thugs who slaughtered Jamal Khashoggi were a secret crew of enforcers for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman," The Times' editorial board wrote in an opinion piece.
The team had been kidnapping, detaining and torturing Saudi dissidents for over a year before they traveled to Istanbul to murder the Washington Post columnist.
The team of enforcers is known as the “Saudi Rapid Intervention Group”, which carried out at least a dozen operations before the Khashoggi murder, U.S. intelligence officials told The Times.
The editorial board said that while this new information is not surprising, it serves to finally dispel the "modernizing liberal" image that bin Salman had been cultivating among Western leaders and shows the world that he is a "despot who suppressed those who challenged his image and his power".
"The revelation that the killing of Mr. Khashoggi was part of a systematic campaign against dissidents strips away any remaining illusions about Prince Mohammed," the editorial board wrote.
"It was part of a systematic campaign to silence dissidents that was overseen by a top aide to Prince Mohammed, Saud al-Qahtani," it added.
Prisoners of Conscience, a Saudi group that tracks political prisoners, noted that more than 2,600 Saudi dissidents had been locked up in the kingdom while the crown prince was trying to brand himself as a reformer.
Khashoggi was killed shortly after he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.
Saudi Arabia initially denied any knowledge of his whereabouts but following a rising number of contradictions in its narrative sought to blame the journalist's death on a botched rendition operation being carried out by rogue agents.
While the CIA reportedly determined with high confidence in November that bin Salman ordered Khashoggi's killing, U.S. President Donald Trump shied away from placing any blame on the crown prince.
The Senate, however, demonstrated that they were willing to work to hold Saudi Arabia accountable, passing a resolution to end U.S. military support for the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen, which has caused a humanitarian crisis in the country.
"Even if Mr. Trump insists on continuing to back this damaged and damaging prince, the president should be using his leverage to extract such concessions on human rights," the paper’s editorial board said.