WASHINGTON (Dispatches) – Democratic U.S. House members have introduced two bills to penalize Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MbS, for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, signaling tensions between President Joe Biden and lawmakers from his own party over the handling of the situation.
The U.S. intelligence report on the murder stated what many experts, advocates and lawmakers had been saying for more than two years - that the assassination could not have taken place without the approval of the crown prince.
Releasing the report of the U.S. Office of Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) was still significant in that it represented the first official, public acknowledgement of bin Salman’s role by the U.S. government.
Despite declassifying the findings, the Biden administration decided against imposing sanctions on the crown prince to avoid a "rupture” in U.S.-Saudi ties.
The U.S. failure to go after the crown prince angered activists who say accountability cannot be achieved if the mastermind of the assassination is spared consequences.
Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a left-wing progressive, announced on Tuesday a bill that would freeze the crown prince’s assets and impose a visa ban on him.
"This is a test of our humanity,” Omar said in a statement. "If the United States of America truly supports freedom of expreشssion, democracy and human rights, there is no reason not to sanction Mohammed bin Salman - a man our own intelligence found to have approved the murder of U.S. resident and Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”
Congressman Tom Malinowski introduced a different bill on Monday. His legislation, backed by Democratic House members James McGovern and Andy Kim, would mandate a visa ban against MbS, based on existing rules that bar human rights abusers from entering the U.S.
Former U.S. president Donald Trump shielded Riyadh from the fallout of the crime, prioritizing lucrative deals with the regime over human rights concerns.
The U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence confirmed in its four-page report the long-suspected view that bin Salman was behind Khashoggi’s murder.
"We assess that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” said the report, which was based on the prince’s "control of decision-making in the kingdom, the direct involvement of a key adviser and members of [the prince’s] protective detail in the operation, and [his] support for using violent measures to silence dissidents abroad, including Khashoggi.”
Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2, 2018 to retrieve papers that would allow him to marry his Turkish fiancée, but he never left the building.
Saudi Arabia initially issued conflicting stories about Khashoggi’s disappearance, but eventually said that he was killed in what it called a "rogue” extradition operation.