ISTANBUL – The rulers of Saudi Arabia are considering blaming a top intelligence official for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, three people said Thursday with a knowledge of the Saudi plans.
The Plan to Blame General Ahmed al-Assiri, a senior adviser to the Crown Prince, would be an extraordinary recognition of the scale of the international backlash that has hit the kingdom since the death of Mr. Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi dissident. The Virginia-based and Washington Post contributor, Mr. Khashoggi, was recently delivered to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul 16 days ago.
General Assiri could also provide a plausible explanation for the assassination and help avert the blame of the Crown Prince, whom American intelligence agencies are increasingly convinced were behind Mr Khashoggi's disappearance.
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But even in the alleged ongoing investigation, the Saudis point to General Assiri as the culprit, according to the three people familiar with the Saudi plans. People who are close to the White House have already been informed and have been given the name of Mr. Assiri.
Whether this move will suffice to calm the international crisis and what this might mean for Prince Mohammed, king of the kingdom
President Trump, who made the Crown Prince a pillar of his Middle East policy, was undecided and asked at times questions about Saudi Arabia's debt and resisted Congressional demands for sanctions.
Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump's son-in-law and adviser to the Middle East, urged the President to join Prince Mohammed as a person near the White House and a former official with knowledge of the discussions said
. Kushner has argued that indignation will erupt over the disappearance and possible killing of Mr. Khashoggi, as well as other Saudi blunders, including the abduction of the Lebanese Prime Minister and the killing of a busload of children in Yemen by a Saudi air strike. However, the US legislators of both parties are far more shocked by the brutal killing of Mr. Khashoggi, a veteran of the Saudi establishment known to journalists and diplomats. Its history has caught the attention of the American public much more than the mass killings and other atrocities in the region, and a growing body of lawmakers are calling for some sanction.
General Assiri, who had previously served as spokesman for the Saudi leadership The military intervention in Yemen is close enough to the crown prince to have easy access to his ear, and has considerable authority to gain lower-ranking personnel for a mission.
Saudi rulers are expected to receive verbal approval from Mr. Assiri Prince Mohammed is reported to have taken Mr. Khashoggi prisoner for questioning in Saudi Arabia, but either misunderstood his instructions or exceeded his approval and taken the life of the dissident have, so the two persons who are familiar with the Saudi plans. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to inform journalists.
In this scenario too, however, Prince Mohammed had ordered an operation to kidnap a resident of the United States, apparently only on the basis of his public criticism of Saudi leaders.
Given the high rank of General Assiri, his guilt would also reflect the Crown Prince. Prince Mohammed elevated General Assiri to his current post, and General Assiri is close enough for him to sit there often as the Crown Prince meets American officials.
Some critics of the Kingdom already argue that scapegoats would scapegoat
"The responsibility lies with the de facto ruler, who is the crown prince," argued Madawi al-Rasheed, a professor at the London School of Economics and frequent critic of Prince Mohammed. 19659002] Four of the suspects who blamed Turkey for the disappearance of Mr. Khashoggi belong to the security team traveling with Prince Mohammed, and one of them was photographed on recent visits to or seen near at least five cities – Paris, Madrid, Houston, Boston and the New York United Nations Headquarters.
But General Assisi's seniority makes the notion that he would carry out the operation without the further participation of Prin ce Mohammed, at least technically plausible. Subordinate Saudi officers might have trusted the general to give them orders on behalf of the prince.
If Mr. Khashoggi was murdered, this could be treated as a capital offense. How the kingdom could assassinate General Assiri, however, is another matter.
The General has been a prominent face of international news media since he was named spokesman for the Saudi Arabia-led coalition that intervened in Yemen in 2015. He gave interviews in fluent French, English and Arabic, but frequently harassed journalists privately, if their reports did not meet his wishes.
General Assiri was promoted to his current job in the secret service last year, and the Saudis should deny it. In the case of Khashoggi, he tried to prove himself, as the people who were familiar with their plans knew.
General Assiri did not respond to calls seeking a comment.