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As more details leak about why the CIA believes Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the assassination of a critic, the agency finds itself increasingly isolated within the Trump administration.

The White House talking point, repeated by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to CNN over the weekend, is that “there’s no direct evidence linking [the crown prince] to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi … ”

The weasel word is “direct.” There actually is lots of evidence. It isn’t direct but it is substantial.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the CIA’s finding that MBS order the killing Khashoggi, consists of 11 communication between MBS and Saudi al-Qatani around the time of Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Saudi al-Qatani
Saudi al-Qatani, MBS aide implicated in Khashoggi affair (Credit: Al-Jazeera).

From Al Jazeera’s account of the Journal story (which is behind a paywall).

According to the assessment, Prince Mohammed told associates in August 2017 that if efforts to persuade Khashoggi to return to Saudi Arabia were not successful, saying, “We could possibly lure him outside Saudi Arabia and make arrangements.”

The assessment said that this “seems to foreshadow the Saudi operation launched against Khashoggi.”

Qatani has served as MBS messenger and propagandist on Twitter. He harshly criticized Khashoggi before he was killed. Qatani was fired after Khashoggi disappeared but he is not among the 17 men charged with Khashoggi’s murder by the Saudi public prosecutor.

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