A phone call made by one of the Saudi operatives to a superior shortly after the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul provides the most damning evidence to date connecting the apparent murder to the very top of the Saudi regime. On the recording of the call, one of the 15 men that arrived in Turkey shortly before Khashoggi’s death can reportedly be heard telling a superior in Arabic to “tell your boss… the deed is done.” American intelligence officials believe the “boss” to be Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman himself.
The recording was shared by Turkish officials with C.I.A. director Gina Haspel last month in Ankara; Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the U.K., France, and Germany were provided access to the recordings, as was Saudi Arabia. Turkish officials acknowledged the audio did not explicitly implicate the Crown Prince, but believed the intent of the conversation was clear. The latest incriminating twist in the Khashoggi saga puts renewed pressure on a White House that has gone out of its way to go easy on the young Saudi leader who came to power promising to be a reformer in the deeply conservative and repressive Saudi kingdom. Prince Mohammed has fostered a close relationship with the Trump administration, in particular Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner.
“The administration, according to current and former officials, is hoping that making some modest moves on sanctions and curtailing support for the Saudi war effort in Yemen will satisfy critics, including those on Capitol Hill,” according to the New York Times. “But the shift in power in Congress, where Democrats take control of the House in January, is also increasing pressure on the administration to take more punitive action.”