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To Restore the Credibility of the Monarchy, Saudi King ‘Could Have Crown Prince Replaced’

According to the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who in few days has faced claims he may have been behind the death of the journalist who went missing after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Saudi Arabia first denied any role in Khashoggi’s disappearance before blaming his October 2 death on a botched attempt to return him to the kingdom.

On Thursday, Jamal Khashoggi’s eldest son left Saudi Arabia for Washington DC with his family after a travel ban intended to lure the journalist home was lifted.

It came as Saudi prosecutors said the murder was planned and suspects were being interrogated.

According to Colonel Brian Lees, once the UK’s defence attaché to Saudi Arabia and Yemen, the Crown Prince’s days as de facto ruler are numbered and his father, King Salman, may now look to replace him following his disastrous handling of the case.

Saudi Arabia's King could have the Crown Prince replaced to restore the credibility of the monarchy amid turmoil over the Jamal Khashoggi murder, according to Britain's former defence attaché to the kingdom

Saudi Arabia’s King could have the Crown Prince replaced to restore the credibility of the monarchy amid turmoil over the Jamal Khashoggi murder, according to Britain’s former defence attaché to the kingdom

According to Colonel Brian Lees, once the UK's defence attaché to Saudi Arabia and Yemen, the Crown Prince's days as de facto ruler are numbered and his father, King Salman (pictured), may now look to replace him following his disastrous handling of the case

According to Colonel Brian Lees, once the UK’s defence attaché to Saudi Arabia and Yemen, the Crown Prince’s days as de facto ruler are numbered and his father, King Salman (pictured), may now look to replace him following his disastrous handling of the case

Saudi Arabia first denied any role in the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi (pictured) before blaming his October 2 death on a botched attempt to return him to the kingdom

Saudi Arabia first denied any role in the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi (pictured) before blaming his October 2 death on a botched attempt to return him to the kingdom

Colonel Lees, author of A Handbook of the Al Sa’ud Ruling Family of Saudi Arabia, told Rudaw: ‘The Saudis will never admit that MbS (Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman) was culpable but this does not mean that he is in the clear. I believe that the king – assuming he is in one of his “clear” periods – will get rid of MbS by replacing him.

‘He cannot do so immediately, or even in the next few months, because that would look like bowing to foreign pressure. He may use the already established device of using the special advisory council within the family to appoint a successor. This would certainly restore the credibility of the monarchy.’

Yesterday US President Donald Trump, in his toughest comments on the case yet, said the Crown Prince bore ultimate responsibility for the operation that led to the journalist’s killing, piling pressure on his ally.

Critics suspect the royal ordered the high-profile operation or at least knew about it.

But at an investment forum in Riyadh yesterday the defiant 33-year-old declared the murder a ‘heinous crime that cannot be justified’ and said Saudi Arabia was cooperating ‘to bring the perpetrators to justice’.

It come days after it emerged that King Salman is now personally intervening in the Khashoggi case amid claims he had been kept in the dark about the crisis by his powerful son’s aides.

The 82-year-old monarch has delegated vast powers to his son, essentially handing him the day-to-day running of the kingdom.

King Salman is pictured (right) shaking hands with the son of murdered Jamal Khashoggi in Riyadh. The Crown Prince (second right) is pictured shaking hands with another man

King Salman is pictured (right) shaking hands with the son of murdered Jamal Khashoggi in Riyadh. The Crown Prince (second right) is pictured shaking hands with another man

US President Donald Trump, in his toughest comments on the case yet, said the Crown Prince bore ultimate responsibility for the operation that led to the journalist's killing, piling pressure on his ally 

US President Donald Trump, in his toughest comments on the case yet, said the Crown Prince bore ultimate responsibility for the operation that led to the journalist’s killing, piling pressure on his ally

A tough critic of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Khashoggi, disappeared after he entered the Saudi consulate (pictured) in Istanbul on October 2 to collect a document for his upcoming marriage

A tough critic of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Khashoggi, disappeared after he entered the Saudi consulate (pictured) in Istanbul on October 2 to collect a document for his upcoming marriage

Khashoggi’s son leaves Saudi Arabia

Salah bin Jamal Khashoggi, a dual US-Saudi citizen, had his passport blocked last year because officials wanted to lure his dissident father home, it was reported.

Today his travel ban was lifted and he flew to Washington DC with his family, Human Rights Watch was told by a friend.

‘Salah and his family are on a plane to DC now,’ said Sarah Leah Whitson, the group’s executive director for the Middle East and North Africa.

There was no immediate comment from Saudi officials but Ms Whitson said the family were apparently allowed to leave after a travel ban on Salah was lifted.

But his 33-year-old heir is facing a battle to contain the fallout from the disappearance of Khashoggi amid claims the journalist was tortured, murdered and cut up after entering the Saudi consulate.

Such a development would prove hugely embarrassing for the young Crown Prince, who has implemented a series of high-profile social and economic reforms since being handed increasing authority to run Saudi Arabia.

Since he acceded to the throne in January 2015, the king has given MbS, his favourite son, increasing authority to run Saudi Arabia. But the king’s intervention reflects growing disquiet among some members of the royal court about MbS’s fitness to govern, five sources told Reuters last week.

MbS has implemented a series of high-profile reforms since his father’s accession, including ending a ban on women driving and opening cinemas in the conservative kingdom.

But he has also marginalized senior members of the royal family and consolidated control over Saudi’s security and intelligence agencies.

His reforms have been accompanied by a crackdown on dissent, a purge of top royals and businessmen on corruption charges, and a costly war in Yemen.

Khashoggi’s disappearance has further tarnished the crown prince’s reputation, deepening questions among Western allies and some Saudis about his leadership.

‘Even if he is his favourite son, the king needs to have a comprehensive view for his survival and the survival of the royal family,’ a Saudi source with links to the royal court told Reuters. ‘In the end it will snowball on all of them.’

The murder of Jamal Khashoggi: Key moments surrounding the writer’s disappearance and death

Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who wrote critically of the kingdom’s policies and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Turkish officials say a 15-men team tortured, killed and dismembered the writer, while Saudi Arabia says he died in a ‘fistfight.’

Here are some key moments in the slaying of the Washington Post columnist:

BEFORE HIS DISAPPEARANCE

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September 2017: The Post publishes the first column by Khashoggi in its newspaper, in which the former royal court insider and longtime journalist writes about going into a self-imposed exile in the U.S. over the rise of Prince Mohammed. His following columns criticize the prince and the kingdom’s direction.

September 28, 2018: Over a year after the Post published his first column, Khashoggi visits the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, seeking documents in order to get married. He’s later told to return October 2, his fiancee Hatice Cengiz says. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says a plan or a ‘road map’ to kill Khashoggi was devised in Saudi Arabia during this time.

September 29: Khashoggi travels to London and speaks at a conference.

October 1: Khashoggi returns to Istanbul. At around 4.30pm, a three-person Saudi team arrives in Istanbul on a scheduled flight, checks in to their hotels then visits the consulate, according to Erdogan. The Turkish president says another group of officials from the consulate travel to a forest in Istanbul’s outskirts and to the nearby city of Yalova on a ‘reconnaissance’ trip.

Jamal Khashoggi (right) arriving at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul on October 2. He has not been seen since and Turkey has accused Saudi agents of murdering him 

Jamal Khashoggi (right) arriving at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul on October 2

THE DAY OF HIS DISAPPEARANCE

3.28am, October 2: A private jet arrives at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport carrying some members of what Turkish media will refer to as a 15-member Saudi ‘assassination squad.’ Other members of the team arrive by two commercial flights in the afternoon. Erdogan says the team includes Saudi security and intelligence officials and a forensics expert. They meet at the Saudi Consulate. One of the first things they do is to dismantle a hard disk connected to the consulate’s camera system, the president says.

11.50am: Khashoggi is called to confirm his appointment at the consulate later that day, Erdogan says.

1.14pm: Surveillance footage later leaked to Turkish media shows Khashoggi walking into the main entrance of the Saudi Consulate. No footage made public ever shows him leaving. His fiancee waits outside, pacing for hours.

3.07pm: Surveillance footage shows vehicles with diplomatic license plates leaving the Saudi Consulate for the consul general’s home some 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) away.

5.50pm: Khashoggi’s fiancee alerts authorities, saying he may have been forcibly detained inside the consulate or that something bad may have happened to him, according to Erdogan.

7pm: A private plane from Saudi Arabia carries six members of the alleged Saudi squad from Istanbul to Cairo, the next day returning to Riyadh.

11pm: Seven members of the alleged Saudi squad leave on another private jet to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, which the next day returns to Riyadh. Two others leave by commercial flights.

Erdogan confirms reports that a ‘body double’ – a man wearing Khashoggi’s clothes, glasses and a beard – leaves the consulate building for Riyadh with another person on a scheduled flight later that day.

CCTV images showed a a private jet alleged to have been used by a group of Saudi men suspected of being involved in Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi's death

CCTV images showed a a private jet alleged to have been used by a group of Saudi men suspected of being involved in Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s death

INITIAL REACTION

October 3: Khashoggi’s fiancee and the Post go public with his disappearance. Saudi Arabia says Khashoggi visited the consulate and exited shortly thereafter. Turkish officials suggest Khashoggi might still be in the consulate. Prince Mohammed tells Bloomberg: ‘We have nothing to hide.’

October 4: Saudi Arabia says on its state-run news agency that the consulate is carrying out ‘follow-up procedures and coordination with the Turkish local authorities to uncover the circumstances of the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi after he left the consulate building.’

October 5: The Post prints a blank column in its newspaper in solidarity with Khashoggi, headlined: ‘A missing voice.’

October 6: The Post, citing anonymous Turkish officials, reports Khashoggi may have been killed in the consulate in a ‘preplanned murder’ by a Saudi team.

October 7: A friend of Khashoggi tells the AP that officials told him the writer was killed at the consulate. The consulate rejects what it calls ‘baseless allegations.’

October 8: Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Turkey is summoned over Khashoggi’s disappearance and alleged killing.

LEAKED FOOTAGE

October 9: Turkey says it will search the Saudi Consulate as a picture of Khashoggi walking into the diplomatic post surfaces.

October 10: Surveillance footage is leaked of Khashoggi and the alleged Saudi squad that killed him. Khashoggi’s fiancee asks President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump for help.

October 11: Turkish media describes Saudi squad as including royal guards, intelligence officers, soldiers and an autopsy expert. Trump calls Khashoggi’s disappearance a ‘bad situation’ and promises to get to the bottom of it.

October 12: Trump again pledges to find out what happened to Khashoggi.

October 13: A pro-government newspaper reports that Turkish officials have an audio recording of Khashoggi’s alleged killing from his Apple Watch, but details in the report come into question.

INTERNATIONAL UPROAR

October 14: Trump says that ‘we’re going to get to the bottom of it, and there will be severe punishment’ if Saudi Arabia is involved. The kingdom responds with a blistering attack against those who threaten it, as the manager of a Saudi-owned satellite news channel suggests the country could retaliate through its oil exports. The Saudi stock exchange plunges as much as 7 percent at one point.

Khashoggi (pictured), went missing after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul

Khashoggi (pictured), went missing after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul

October 15: A Turkish forensics team enters and searches the Saudi Consulate, an extraordinary development as such diplomatic posts are considered sovereign soil. Trump suggests after a call with Saudi King Salman that ‘rogue killers’ could be responsible for Khashoggi’s alleged slaying. Trump says Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to the Mideast over the case. Meanwhile, business leaders say they won’t attend an economic summit in the kingdom that’s the brainchild of Prince Mohammed.

October 16: A high-level Turkish official tells the AP that ‘certain evidence’ was found in the Saudi Consulate proving Khashoggi was killed there. Pompeo arrives for meetings in Saudi Arabia with King Salman and Prince Mohammed. Meanwhile, Trump compares the case to the appointment of now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing, saying: ‘Here we go again with you’re guilty until proven innocent.’

October 17: Pompeo meets with Turkey’s president and foreign minister in the Turkish capital, Ankara. Turkish police search the official residence of Saudi Arabia’s consul general in Istanbul and conduct a second sweep of the consulate.

October 18: A leaked surveillance photograph shows a member of Prince Mohammed’s entourage walked into the consulate just before Khashoggi vanished there.

October 20: Saudi Arabia for the first time acknowledges Khashoggi was killed in the consulate, claiming he was slain in a ‘fistfight.’ The claim draws immediate skepticism from the kingdom’s Western allies, particularly in the U.S. Congress.

October 22: A report says a member of Prince Mohammed’s entourage made four calls to the royal’s office around the time Khashoggi was killed. Police search a vehicle belonging to the Saudi consulate parked at an underground garage in Istanbul.

October 23: Erdogan says Saudi officials murdered Khashoggi after plotting his death for days, demanding that Saudi Arabia reveal the identities of all involved.

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Written by MT

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