- The Biden administration on Friday announced new sanctions over Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.
- The sanctions did not target Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
- The administration said it would institute a new visa-restriction policy called the “Khashoggi ban.”
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The Biden administration will not sanction Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in 2018 even though a declassified US intelligence assessment explicitly implicated him.
The Treasury Department on Friday unveiled sanctions against Gen. Ahmed al-Asiri, a former deputy head of the Saudi intelligence services, and the Saudi Rapid Intervention Force.
“Those involved in the abhorrent killing of Jamal Khashoggi must be held accountable. With this action, Treasury is sanctioning Saudi Arabia’s Rapid Intervention Force and a senior Saudi official who was directly involved in Jamal Khashoggi’s murder,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement. “The United States stands united with journalists and political dissidents in opposing threats of violence and intimidation. We will continue to defend the freedom of expression, which is the bedrock of a free society.”
A senior administration official told Reuters that the Biden administration was concerned that sanctioning the crown prince could “rupture” the US-Saudi relationship.
Prince Mohammed is the kingdom’s de facto ruler. But in a diplomatic snub, the White House recently announced that President Joe Biden’s official communications with the Saudis would involve King Salman and not the crown prince. Biden and King Salman spoke for the first time on Thursday.
On Friday, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released the declassified report on Khashoggi’s killing.
“We assess that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” the report said. “The Crown Prince viewed Khashoggi as a threat to the Kingdom and broadly supported using violent measures if necessary to silence him.”
Other than being downgraded in the eyes of the US under the Biden administration, it’s unclear what other consequences, if any, Prince Mohammed will face over Khashoggi’s killing.
Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist, was murdered by agents of his own government in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. His body was dismembered, but his remains have never been found.
The ‘Khashoggi ban’
After the ODNI released the report, the State Department announced a new policy involving visa restrictions called the “Khashoggi ban.”
“The Khashoggi Ban allows the State Department to impose visa restrictions on individuals who, acting on behalf of a foreign government, are believed to have been directly engaged in serious, extraterritorial counter-dissident activities, including those that suppress, harass, surveil, threaten, or harm journalists, activists, or other persons perceived to be dissidents for their work, or who engage in such activities with respect to the families or other close associates of such persons,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
“As a matter of safety for all within our borders, perpetrators targeting perceived dissidents on behalf of any foreign government should not be permitted to reach American soil,” Blinken added. “While the US remains invested in its relationship with Saudi Arabia, President Biden has made clear that partnership must reflect US values.”
Blinken said that “to start,” the State Department would impose visa restrictions on 76 Saudis “believed to have been engaged in threatening dissidents overseas, including but not limited to the Khashoggi killing.” It was unclear whether the policy would affect Prince Mohammed.
“Under US law, individual visa records are confidential, and we cannot provide details as to who is or will be included in the Khashoggi Ban,” a State Department representative told Insider.