Saudi teen Rahaf Alqunun due to arrive in Canada Thailand for asylum

The 18-year-old left Bangkok airport for Canada, officials confirmed, after her ordeal went viral on social media.

An 18-year-old Saudi woman who fled her family saying she feared for her life has been granted asylum in Canada, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday, as Thai officials confirmed the teen was en route to Toronto.

Rahaf Alqunun's flight comes as Riyadh is facing intense scrutiny over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi [AP]
Rahaf Alqunun’s flight comes as Riyadh is facing intense scrutiny over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi [AP]

MORE ON CANADA

|AIWA! NO!|An 18-year-old Saudi woman who fled her family saying she feared for her life, is due to arrive in Canada on Saturday, after being granted asylum in the North American country.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday that Canada had accepted a request from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to take in Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, who grabbed international attention earlier this week after she barricaded herself in a Bangkok airport hotel room to resist being sent home to her family, which denies any abuse.

“Canada is a country that understands how important it is to stand up for human rights, to stand up for women’s rights around the world, and I can confirm that we have accepted the UN’s request,” Trudeau told reporters.

The decision is likely to exacerbate Canada’s already poor relations with Saudi Arabia, which last year barred the Canadian ambassador to Riyadh after Ottawa criticised Saudi authorities for detaining female activists.

Alqunun had arrived in Bangkok on January 5 and was initially denied entry, but she soon started posting messages on Twitter from the transit area of Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport saying she had “escaped Kuwait” and her life would be in danger if forced to return to Saudi Arabia.

Following a 48-hour standoff at Bangkok airport, some of it barricaded in a transit lounge hotel room, she was allowed to enter Thailand and was then processed as a refugee by the UNHCR.

The UNHCR welcomed Canada’s decision and also acknowledged Thailand had given Alqunun a temporary refuge.READ MORE

Canada grants asylum to Saudi teenager Rahaf Alqunun

“Ms Alqunun’s plight has captured the world’s attention over the past few days, providing a glimpse into the precarious situation of millions of refugees worldwide,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a statement.

Alqunun has accused her family of abuse and has refused to meet her father and brother who arrived in Bangkok to take her back to Saudi Arabia.

“It was her wish to go to Canada,” Thailand’s immigration chief Surachate Hakparn told reporters. “She still refuses to meet with her father and brother, and they are going to be travelling back tonight as well … They are disappointed.”

Her case has drawn global attention to Saudi Arabia’s strict social rules, including a requirement that women have the permission of a male “guardian” to travel, which rights groups say can trap women and girls as prisoners of abusive families.

A Korean Air flight carrying Alqunun left Bangkok for Seoul on Friday night at 11:37pm local time (16:37 GMT), an airport official told Reuters news agency.

OPINION

Putting the spat between Saudi Arabia and Canada in context

Bill Law

by Bill Law

Alqunun was expected to board a connecting flight to Toronto from Seoul’s Incheon airport before arriving in Canada on Saturday morning.

Trudeau brushed off a question as to whether Canada’s move might make it harder to repair ties with Saudi Arabia.

“Canada has been unequivocal that we will always stand up for human rights and women’s rights around the world,” he said.

Amid increasing domestic political pressure, Trudeau said last month that his Liberal government was looking for a way out of a multibillion-dollar arms deal with Riyadh.

Alqunun’s flight has emerged at a time when Riyadh is facing unusually intense scrutiny from its Western allies over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October and over the humanitarian consequences of its war in Yemen.

Canada has repeatedly said Khashoggi’s murder was unacceptable and has demanded a full explanation.

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Jamal Khashoggi latest: CCTV ‘shows butchered journalist’s body parts being carried in bags’


🇹🇷Video shows bags believed to contain Khashoggi’s remains

A Turkish pro-government television channel has broadcast video showing men carrying suitcases purportedly containing the remains of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi into the residence of his country’s consul general in Istanbul. 

READ RELATED: Jamal Khashoggi: How the ‘stupid, naïve’ plot to kill Washington Post journalist backfired on Saudi Arabia

Sophie Evans, Orhan Coskun, MIRROR|AIWA! NO!| Disturbing footage purportedly showing murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s body parts being carried in bags has emerged.

In the CCTV men can be seen carrying black bags and suitcases into the home of the Saudi consul general in Istanbul, Turkey.

Dressed in normal clothes, the males bring in the luggage – allegedly containing the butchered journalist’s remains – one after another.

The residence is a short distance from the consulate where Mr Khashoggi, a leading critic of Saudi policies, was killed in early October.

Reports have claimed he was murdered and cut into pieces.

Last month, Turkey’s Foreign Minister said the 60-year-old was killed within seven minutes in a “premeditated” murder recorded on tape.

The CCTV footage shows men carrying black bags and suitcases into the Saudi consul general's residence in Turkey
The CCTV footage shows men carrying black bags and suitcases into the Saudi consul general’s residence in Turkey (Image: REUTERS)
Reports have claimed Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered and cut into pieces
Reports have claimed Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered and cut into pieces (Image: X80001)
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Mevlut Cavusoglu said he had listened to the “disgusting” clip – which captured a forensic expert’s ‘enjoyment’ as he cut up Mr Khashoggi.

He told Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper: “It can be heard how the forensics expert instructs the others: they should listen to music while he cuts up the body. One notices how he enjoys it.”

The footage showing a number of bags being carried into the Saudi consul general’s residence – allegedly on the day of the murder two months ago – was broadcast by a Turkish pro-government TV channel.

The channel A Haber reported that a total of five cases were apparently taken through the main entrance of the residence by the men.

The footage purportedly shows the journalist's body parts being carried into the building
The footage purportedly shows the journalist’s body parts being carried into the building (Image: Reuters)
READ MORE

A Turkish official said the media report, also carried by the pro-government Sabah newspaper on its website, appeared to be accurate.

However, they did not give further details.

According to Sabah, the cases had been brought to the residence in a black minibus at 3:09 pm (12.09pm GMT).

There was no immediate reply from Saudi authorities to a Reuters request for comment on the footage.

Mr Khashoggi was a royal insider who became a critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He began writing for the Washington Post after moving to the United States last year.

Mr Khashoggi was caught on CCTV footage arriving at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2
Mr Khashoggi was caught on CCTV footage arriving at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 (Image: AFP/Getty Images)
He was a royal insider who became a critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
He was a royal insider who became a critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (Image: AFP/Getty Images)
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Saudi officials have rejected accusations that the crown prince ordered his death.

His murder has sparked global outrage and damaged the international reputation of the 33-year-old prince, the kingdom’s de facto leader.

After offering numerous contradictory explanations regarding the fate of Mr Khashoggi, Riyadh said he had been killed and his body dismembered when negotiations to persuade him to return to Saudi Arabia failed.

The journalist’s remains have not been found and Turkey has repeatedly asked Saudi Arabia where they are.

A Turkish forensic police officer is seen carrying a box at the consulate in October
A Turkish forensic police officer is seen carrying a box at the consulate in October (Image: AFP/Getty Images)

OUTGOING CHIEF Of Staff John Kelly: ‘My tenure as Chief of Staff should be judged by not what the president did but what I stopped him from doing’

John F. Kelly says his tenure as Trump's chief of staff is best measured by what the president did not do

In an exclusive interview with The Times, outgoing White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly argued that his tenure is best measured by what President Trump did not do when Kelly was at his side. (Jabin Botsford / Washington Post)

John F. Kelly says his tenure as Trump’s chief of staff is best measured by what the president did not do

MOLLY O’TOOLE, LOS ANGELES TIMES|AIWA! NO!|In August 2017, shortly after John F. Kelly became White House chief of staff, he convened crucial meetings on Afghanistan at President Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, N.J.

Top officials from the Pentagon and the CIA, the director of national intelligence, diplomats and lawmakers huddled with Trump as Kelly and others urged him not to give up in Afghanistan.

“When I first took over, he was inclined to want to withdraw from Afghanistan,” Kelly recounted during an exclusive two-hour interview with the Los Angeles Times.

“He was frustrated. It was a huge decision to make … and frankly there was no system at all for a lot of reasons — palace intrigue and the rest of it — when I got there.”

The retired four-star Marine general will leave the administration on Wednesday. First as Homeland Security chief and then in 18 months at the White House, he presided over some of the Trump administration’s most controversial immigration and security policies.

In the phone interview Friday, Kelly defended his rocky tenure, arguing that it is best measured by what the president did not do when Kelly was at his side.

It was only after Kelly’s departure was confirmed Dec. 8, for example, that Trump abruptly announced the pullout of all U.S. troops from Syria and half the 14,000 troops from Afghanistan, two moves that Kelly had opposed.

Kelly’s supporters say he stepped in to block or divert the president on dozens of matters large and small. They credit him, in part, for persuading Trump not to pull U.S. forces out of South Korea, or withdraw from NATO, as he had threatened.

Kelly said he made sure that Trump had access to multiple streams of detailed information before he made a decision — even if the president says he often relies on his gut, rather than U.S. intelligence.

“It’s never been: The president just wants to make a decision based on no knowledge and ignorance,” Kelly said. “You may not like his decision, but at least he was fully informed on the impact.”

Kelly allowed that spending nearly every waking minute of 15-hour days with a president seemingly inundated with one crisis after another has been a “bone-crushing hard job, but you do it.”

On most days, he said, he woke up at 4 a.m. and typically came home at 9 p.m. Then he often went straight into a secure area for classified reports and communications so he could keep working.

“I’m guarded by the Secret Service. I can’t even go get a beer,” he quipped.

Trump sometimes pressed his advisors on the limits of his authority under the law, often asking Kelly, “‘Why can’t we do it this way?’”

But Trump never ordered him to do anything illegal, Kelly stressed, “because we wouldn’t have.”

“If he had said to me, ‘Do it, or you’re fired,’” Kelly said he would have resigned.

Trump enlisted him to bring order to a White House racked by inter-agency rivalry, high staff turnover and constant controversy, Kelly said. Although he sometimes clashed with other aides, he said, he tried to leave politics out of it.

“I told the president the last thing in my view that you need in the chief of staff is someone that looks at every issue through a political lens,” Kelly said.

Kelly served 46 years in the Marines, from the Vietnam War to the rise of Islamic State, making him the U.S. military’s longest-serving general when he retired in January 2016.

When Trump picked him to head Homeland Security, and then serve as White House chief of staff, officials from the Pentagon to Capitol Hill expressed hope that Kelly would be one of the “adults in the room” to manage a mercurial president.

To critics, Kelly failed at that task, unable to rein in Trump’s angry tweets or bring order to executive decision-making.

Worse, they argue, he aggressively advocated and implemented harsh immigration measures, including separating migrant children from their parents on the border last summer, that quickly ran aground or were reversed in the courts.

President Trump shakes hands with White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly after he was sworn in July 31, 2017.
President Trump shakes hands with White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly after he was sworn in July 31, 2017. (Pool photo)

Kelly rejects reports that Trump bristled at the endless briefings and Kelly’s tight-fisted control of access to the Oval Office.

But his anticlimactic exit reflects a tenure dogged from the outset by the indignities of constant speculation, fueled by the president’s own public remarks, that he would be fired.

Kelly said he decided it was time to leave after the Nov. 6 midterm election, which saw heavy Republican losses in Congress and statehouses. The president announced Kelly’s decision Dec. 8.

“John Kelly will be leaving, I don’t know if I can say retiring,” Trump said from the South Lawn as he left for the annual Army-Navy football game. “But he’s a great guy.”

Unlike Kelly’s friend James N. Mattis, the retired Marine general who resigned as secretary of Defense with a public letter rebuking the president for abandoning allies and undermining alliances, Kelly kept his counsel.

But his impending departure from the eye of the storm created an embarrassing void at the White House as one candidate after another publicly pulled out or declined the chief of staff job.

On Dec. 14, Trump named Mick Mulvaney, his budget director, as acting chief of staff.

Even administration critics see Kelly’s departure as worrisome, saying he brought hard-edged national security experience and the integrity and ability to stand up to the president.

“It’s a loss, there’s no question,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif).

“Now, it just seems to be a free-for-all,” said Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I). “There’s no real consistent figure that’s going to stand there and just make sure literally the trains run on time. I think that was one of Kelly’s major contributions.”

Kelly leaves as Trump has been cocooned in the White House as a partial government shutdown moves into a second week over his demands for $5 billion for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

The president has responded by firing off angry tweets at Democrats, who refuse to provide more than $1.3 billion for border security, rather than seeking to negotiate a solution.

The stalemate also highlights the distance, at least in language, between Kelly and Trump over the president’s signature promise — to build a wall.

“To be honest, it’s not a wall,” Kelly said.

When Kelly led Homeland Security in early 2017, one of his first steps was to seek advice from those who “actually secure the border,” Customs and Border Protection agents whom Kelly calls “salt-of-the-earth, Joe-Six-Pack folks.”

“They said, ‘Well we need a physical barrier in certain places, we need technology across the board, and we need more people,’ ” he said.

“The president still says ‘wall’ — oftentimes frankly he’ll say ‘barrier’ or ‘fencing,’ now he’s tended toward steel slats. But we left a solid concrete wall early on in the administration, when we asked people what they needed and where they needed it.”

Asked if there is a security crisis at the southern border, or whether Trump has drummed up fears of a migrant “invasion” for political reasons, Kelly did not answer directly, but said, “We do have an immigration problem.”

From the 1980s to the mid-2000s, apprehensions at the border — the most common measure of illegal immigration — routinely reached more than 1 million migrants a year.

Today, they are near historical lows. In the fiscal year that ended in September, border authorities apprehended 521,090 people.

But immigration officials are seeing a dramatic rise in families and unaccompanied minors at the border, mostly from Central America.

Kelly saw the corruption and violence that spurred migrations from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, first as head of the Pentagon’s Southern Command, which stretches from South America to Mexico’s southern border, then at Homeland Security.

He says that experience has given him a nuanced view on immigration and border security — one that at times appears at odds with Trump’s harsh anti-immigration messaging and policy.

“Illegal immigrants, overwhelmingly, are not bad people,” Kelly said, describing many migrants as victims misled by traffickers. “I have nothing but compassion for them, the young kids.”

But he blamed immigrants and lawmakers, not the White House, for the tense situation at the border, where thousands of Central Americans are stranded in Mexico — and two Guatemalan children have died in Border Patrol custody in Texas and New Mexico this month.

“One of the reasons why it’s so difficult to keep people from coming — obviously it’d be preferable for them to stay in their own homeland but it’s difficult to do sometimes, where they live — is a crazy, oftentimes conflicting series of loopholes in the law in the United States that makes it extremely hard to turn people around and send them home,” Kelly said.

“If we don’t fix the laws, then they will keep coming,” he continued. “They have known, and they do know, that if they can get here, they can, generally speaking, stay.”

On Saturday, Trump blamed Democrats for the deaths of the two migrant children this month. He also threatened to cut off U.S. aid to Central America if another reported migrant caravan isn’t stopped.

Kelly didn’t respond to Trump’s threats directly but suggested part of the problem lies on the U.S. side of the border.

“If you want to stop illegal immigration, stop U.S. demand for drugs, and expand economic opportunity” in Central America, he said.

Kelly faulted the administration for failing to follow procedure and failing to anticipate the public outrage for the two most controversial initiatives of his tenure: Trump’s travel ban in January 2017, and the “zero tolerance” immigration policy and family separations this year.

Shortly after taking office, Trump issued an executive order immediately suspending the entire U.S. refugee program for 120 days, indefinitely freezing the entry of refugees from Syria and barring travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Refugees already approved for resettlement, green card holders and others were turned awayfrom flights, detained, and in some cases deported. Federal judges issued emergency stays, and several iterations of the travel ban have been challenged in court.

At the time, despite reports he’d been caught off-guard by the president’s order, Kelly gave a full-throated defense.

“I had very little opportunity to look at them,” before the orders were announced, Kelly acknowledged in the Times interview. “Obviously, it brought down a greater deal of thunder on the president.”

Blain Rethmeier, who helped shepherd Kelly and his replacement at Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, through their Senate confirmations, put it more colorfully: “He got handed a [crap] sandwich the first week on the job.”

“There’s only so many things a chief of staff can do, particularly with a personality like Donald Trump,” said David Lapan of the Bipartisan Policy Center, who worked with Kelly at Defense and Homeland Security.

In May, Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions announced a zero-tolerance policy for immigration violations. U.S. officials already had begun to put the policy into practice, resulting in hundreds of migrant children being separated from their parents.

Kelly said Sessions’ announcement caught the White House by surprise.

“What happened was Jeff Sessions, he was the one that instituted the zero-tolerance process on the border that resulted in both people being detained and the family separation,” Kelly said. “He surprised us.”

The chaotic implementation then fell primarily on the Department of Health and Human Services and Nielsen, who came under fire for standing on the White House podium and saying there was no policy of separating families.

“She is a good soldier; she took the face shot,” a senior White House official said on background. “No one asked her to do it, but by the time we could put together a better strategy, she’d already owned it.”

Kelly surprised some of his friends when he backed Trump after a deadly clash between neo-Nazis and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Va., in August 2017.

When Trump blamed “both sides” for the violence, Kelly seemed to hang his head in disapproval. But later he defended Confederate memorials and suggested the Civil War was not caused by slavery but inability to compromise.

In early 2018, Kelly conceded he’d mishandled the removal of Rob Porter, then-White House staff secretary, after reports emerged that two ex-wives had accused Porter of abuse.

But an episode in October 2017 may have been most telling for Kelly’s struggles as a public face of the administration.

After a deadly ambush against U.S. troops in Niger, Kelly gave a rare White House news briefing to defend the president. He attacked a Florida congresswoman who was friends with the family of one of the soldiers who’d been killed, and despite video evidence contradicting his claims, did not apologize.

Kelly’s eldest son Robert, also a Marine, was killed in Afghanistan in 2010. He said that before his son’s death, as a Marine commander, he would go to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center or to too many funerals and try to imagine what the parents were going through.

“I couldn’t have imagined that loss,” he said. “There is no burden a family bears that is heavier than to have lost a child, and with that child serving.”

Asked why he stayed 18 months in the White House, despite policy differences, personality clashes, the punishing schedule, and a likely lasting association with some of Trump’s controversies, he said simply: duty.

“Military people,” he said, “don’t walk away.”

Jamal Khashoggi: The Free Thinker Whose Murder Shook the World

Jamal Khashoggi

Mohammed Al-Shaikh/AFP/Getty Images

SIGURD NEUBAUER , POLITICO MAGAZINE|AIWA! NO!|The brutal murder of my friend, journalist Jamal Khashoggi, inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul this past October, has triggered a geopolitical tsunami. Unlike during the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when the American political establishment was mostly unified in its quest to preserve the U.S.-Saudi partnership, the consensus in Congress now is that business as usual—as defined by the presidency of Donald Trump—cannot continue.

Jamal, as all of us who had the privilege of knowing him are aware, was a proud Saudi patriot—one who, overall, was supportive of Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s economic and social reform agenda in the country. But he was highly critical of the crown prince’s repressive tactics and had no illusions about the brutality of the Saudi government—for instance, when several high-profile Saudis, including members of the royal family, were detained at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh in late 2017. Jamal was also highly critical of the Saudi leadership’s embrace of President Trump.

The community of Gulf scholars in Washington is small. I first met Jamal sometime in early 2015, when he came to speak at a think tank event. He was not a sleek public relations executive playing up Saudi Arabia’s “historic change” or Prince Mohammed’s “personal virtues” as a larger-then-life figure transforming his country from Wahabi Islam into a modern state where women would have equal rights and the youth would be able to watch movies at theaters. But nor did Jamal engage in hyper anti-Iran rhetoric, which has become fashionable in certain Washington policy circles where Prince Mohammed’s own hardline stance on Tehran has been embraced.

Instead, Jamal, who eventually sought a self-imposed exile in Washington in 2017, engaged everyone interested in Saudi Arabia and in the Arab region generally. He always did so in good faith. His reasoning and analysis were fact-based as opposed to the polemical, which is why he was so well-liked and respected in Washington policy circles.

Outside these circles and among readers of his Washington Post column, Jamal wasn’t well-known until his death. Now, for U.S. lawmakers, Democrats and Republicans alike, the Khashoggi affair has spurred a widespread indictment of Trump’s transactional foreign policy approach. Finally, these lawmakers have begun to argue publicly that the United States cannot abide by the Saudi kingdom’s war in Yemen, or other atrocities like Jamal’s death, in exchange for Saudi oil or investments in the U.S. economy.

Most notably, the Senate recently passed a resolution unanimously accusing Prince Mohammed of orchestrating the Khashoggi murder, in line with the CIA’s assessment of the death. (The Saudi government has denied that the crown prince was involved.) The Senate also voted 56-41 to pass a resolution that would withdraw U.S. support for Saudi forces in the civil war in Yemen. While Trump still appears to be committed to the Saudis, these resolutions have set the stage for further congressional investigation into the Khashoggi death and Trump’s Yemen policy, once Democrats resume control of the House in January.

What’s more, it was only after the CIA shared with Congress its assessment about the Saudis’ role in Khashoggi’s death that Yemen’s Saudi-backed government in-exile—which is based in Riyadh—finally adhered to international pressure and agreed earlier this month to engage in United Nations-sponsored peace talks in Sweden with Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. Before that, repeated calls for peace talks by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis were consistently ignored, even as Yemen’s humanitarian catastrophe deteriorated. That the peace talks are now occurring suggests the Saudis, and their allies the Emiratis, are on their heels given the intense pushback in the United States to Jamal’s tragic death.

While Congress’ renewed interest in Yemen and the peace talks are positive developments, Jamal has unfortunately also been smeared since his death in what I believe might be a sinister Washington influence game meant to salvage Prince Mohammed’s damaged reputation. When the crown prince visited the United States this past spring, there was a flurry of positive press about him ushering in reforms that would modernize the Saudi nation. Many of those writing in favor of the crown prince are highly skeptical of reforms in Qatar, a frequent competitor of Saudi Arabia. Some of these same people have, since Jamal’s death, smeared him on Twitter as a Qatari “agent” and even a Muslim Brotherhood supporter, based on his friendship with a mutual friend of ours who is an executive with Qatar Foundation International, an educational institute for Arabic language and culture that is supported by the Qatari government.

But the truth is that Jamal always thought of himself as an independent voice, which is part of what made his analysis so widely sought after. He never wanted to become a political pawn in the Gulf crisis, which pits Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain against Qatar. Prior to his arrival in Washington, he reached out to a UAE-funded think tank here to secure an institutional affiliation; he did not end up joining the organization, but his interest should make clear that he is no agent of Qatar’s. He also turned down invitations to appear on Qatar’s Al Jazeera network, even though he was friendly with many Al Jazeera journalists. And he engaged on a regular basis with Prince Mohammed’s surrogates in Washington, including his brother, Khalid Bin Salman, the Saudi ambassador to Washington.

In Jamal Khashoggi, we have lost someone who was friendly with policy influencers on all sides of the Gulf crisis, always willing to share his views about a changing Saudi Arabia with anyone interested, myself included, without engaging in the frantic propaganda to which Washington is too often susceptible. His tragic death has also revealed how calamitous Washington’s recent policy toward the Gulf region is. Our solace now is that, perhaps, we can finally have hope that human rights, freedom of expression and a free media might once again become central pillars of the U.S. foreign policy agenda in the Arab world.

Saudi Arabia rejects Senate’s ‘interference’ over Khashoggi case

Middle East Eye
Jamal Khashoggi killer heard saying 'I know how to cut' in recording: Erdogan
A man lights-up candles by posters picturing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a gathering outside the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, on October 25, 2018. – Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor, was killed on October 2, 2018 after a visit to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain paperwork before marrying his Turkish fiancee. (Photo by Yasin AKGUL / AFP)

Riyadh denies Prince Mohammed bin Salman was involved in the Oct. 2 killing of the Washington Post columnist.

VICE News
Khashoggi's last words: “I can't breathe, I can't breathe.”

VICE NewsKhashoggi’s last words: “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.”

Senate passes resolution saying Saudi crown prince responsible for Khashoggi killing

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia issued an unusually strong rebuke of the U.S. Senate on Monday, rejecting a bipartisan resolution that put the blame for the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi squarely on the Saudi crown prince and describing it as interference in the kingdom’s affairs.

It’s the latest sign of how the relationship between the royal court and Congress has deteriorated, more than two months after Khashoggi was killed and dismembered by Saudi agents inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul. The assassins have been linked to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

‘Smoking saw’ ties Saudi crown prince to Khashoggi killing, Graham says

U.S. Senators last Thursday passed the measure that blamed the prince for Khashoggi’s killing and called on Riyadh to “ensure appropriate accountability.” Senators also passed a separate measure calling for the end of U.S. aid to the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

In a lengthy statement early Monday, Saudi Arabia said the Senate’s resolution “contained blatant interferences” in the kingdom’s internal affairs and undermines its regional and international role. The resolution was based on “unsubstantiated claims and allegations,” the statement also said.

“The kingdom categorically rejects any interference in its internal affairs, any and all accusations, in any manner, that disrespect its leadership … and any attempts to undermine its sovereignty or diminish its stature,” it said.

Such language is usually reserved for those who criticize the kingdom’s human rights record, such as Sweden in 2015 after the public flogging of a blogger, and Canada this year over the arrests of women’s rights activists.

Image: Jamal Khashoggi in 2014
Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH / AFP – Getty Images

Bu the statement was also tempered in saying the kingdom “reaffirms” its commitment to relations with the United States and describing the Senate as “an esteemed legislative body of an allied and friendly government.”

President Donald Trump has been reluctant to condemn the crown prince, despite U.S. intelligence officials concluding that Prince Mohammed must have at least had knowledge of the plot. Trump instead has touted Saudi arms deals worth billions of dollars and has thanked the Saudis for lower oil prices.

Saudi Arabia denies Prince Mohammed was involved in the Oct. 2 killing of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who wrote critically of the crown prince. Under intense international pressure, the kingdom recently acknowledged that the plot was masterminded by top Saudi agents close to Prince Mohammed.

After shifting accounts about what happened to Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia said its investigations concluded that the crown prince’s aides had plotted to bring Khashoggi by force back to Saudi Arabia and that the agents on the ground exceeded their authority and killed him.