A report warns that the imminent release of an ‘explosive’ US intelligence document could entangle one of the king’s sons.
President Joe Biden is expected to call Saudi Arabian King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud on Wednesday, ahead of the scheduled release of a U.S. intelligence report detailing the disappearance and murder of prominent journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Citing a source, the Axios news site reported on Tuesday night that the “imminent release of the explosives report” could entangle one of the king’s sons without mentioning any names.
If it were to go as planned, the call would be the first conversation between Biden, as US president, and King Salman.
Other issues are likely to be discussed but the Khashoggi case could grab headlines, the report added.
The unclassified report from the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) suggests that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS, was involved in the murder of Khashoggi and the dismemberment of his body.
Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and critic of Saudi government policies, was assassinated by a team of Saudi agents at the country’s consulate in Istanbul in October 2018, according to reports. He had gone into the building to get the documents he needed for his wedding.
US media later reported that the CIA concluded that MBS was involved.
MBS vehemently denied the charges but accepted responsibility as the de facto ruler of the kingdom.
MBS did not speak to Biden, although as the country’s defense minister he had a phone call with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
In response to the murder, the US Congress passed a law in December 2019 that included a provision requiring the DNI to issue an unclassified report on Khashoggi’s murder within 30 days.
The legislation also ordered the DNI to present evidence of any knowledge or role that current or former Saudi government officials or Saudi political figures may have had in “leading, ordering or tampering with evidence” in the murder of Khashoggi.
The Trump administration has refused to release the full report in defiance of the law, telling lawmakers disclosure of the information would compromise the sources and methods of the National Intelligence Bureau.
Former US President Donald Trump was seen as close to the Saudi monarchy, especially MBS. Trump chose Riyadh as the destination for his first overseas visit, strengthening his ties with the country.
Biden is set to recalibrate U.S.-Saudi relations, end U.S. support for the Saudi-led operation in Yemen, and resume talks with Iran – a move Riyadh opposes.
Biden’s April Haines DNI also pledged during her Senate confirmation hearing that she intended to release the unclassified Khashoggi report.
During the hearing, Senator Ron Wyden told Haines she had the opportunity to “immediately turn the page on the excessive secrecy and lawlessness of the outgoing administration.”
When Wyden asked Haines if she would submit the report, she replied, “Yes, senator. Absolutely, I will follow the law.
Human rights groups and UN experts have denounced Khashoggi’s murder and, alongside US lawmakers, have long called for the report to be released.