Earlier today, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee declared Mohammed bin Salman guilty of ordering Jamal Khashoggi’s murder:
Following a briefing to senators by CIA director Gina Haspel Tuesday on the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi leading Republicans told reporters that there was “zero question” that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the brutal murder.
Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, said “I have zero question in my mind that the Crown Prince MBS ordered the killing, monitored the killing, knew exactly what was happening. Planned it in advanced. If he was in front of a jury he would be convicted in 30 minutes. Guilty,” Corker said.
Corker called the Trump administration’s claim that there is no direct evidence of the crown prince’s involvement “unacceptable.”
Corker’s comments confirm what we have all assumed for the last two months, but it is significant that someone in Corker’s position with his past record of supporting the Saudis has been willing to go as far as he has in his public remarks about the crown prince’s culpability. The evidence that Corker has seen must be even more damning than the information that is already publicly available. If the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee is prepared to make this charge publicly against the de facto ruler of another government, the crown prince’s guilt must be undeniable. Corker’s certainty about this shows the extent to which Secretaries Mattis and Pompeo have abased themselves in trying to cover up for Trump and the Saudis.
There has never been any serious doubt that Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder. He has consolidated too much power in his own hands for the “rogue” operative cover story to make any sense, and it is just the sort of aggressive, reckless behavior that we have come to expect from him. The crown prince was able to do even more destructive things with impunity, so he probably thought that no one would even notice if he had one of his critics killed. Once again, he was undone by his own terrible judgment.
The U.S.-Saudi relationship has become even more noxious in the last few years because of Mohammed bin Salman’s role in the government, but the relationship was already becoming a liability for the U.S. well before that. Assuming that the king won’t remove his son from the succession, Mohammed bin Salman’s continued status as the heir apparent and de facto ruler should make it much easier to downgrade the relationship with Riyadh. That change should have happened anyway, but now it is imperative that the U.S. disentangle itself from the kingdom as quickly as possible. The first step in doing that is cutting off all U.S. support to the war on Yemen, and that means passing S.J.Res. 54.