A full translated transcript of an audio recording of the murder of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2nd shows that the killing was pre-planned – and refutes Ryiadh’s claims.
A source, who read the translated version and who has been briefed on the investigation into Khashoggi’s killing, made the revelations to CNN. He said the transcript of the last words of the Washington Post columnist make it clear that the murder was no botched interrogation – as Saudi officials initially claimed – but a premeditated plan to kill him.
The last three words that Khashoggi repeated three times as he struggled against his attackers shortly after entering the consulate, were: ‘I can’t breathe.’ The transcript describes the last painful moments of his life, and his screams and gasps can be heard on the tape.
It also identifies the sounds of sawing and cutting as the victim’s body is dismembered.
The source also told CNN that Turkish authorities have identified the voice of one of the attackers as that of Salah Muhammad al-Tubaiqi, the head of forensic medicine at Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry.
In the audio, he is reportedly heard advising the hit squad to ‘Put your earphones in, or listen to music like me’ in order to help them deal with the appalling task. The transcript does not specify the moment the journalist dies.
At least three phone calls were placed by Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, a former Saudi diplomat and intelligence official working for the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (known as MbS), briefing someone, whom Turkish officials say was in Riyadh, on the progress of the job.
‘Tell yours, the thing is done, it’s done.’ According to the source, the word ‘yours’ refers to a superior, or boss. The transcript of Mutreb’s phone conversation does not describe an unexpected situation, but one going entirely according to plan, the source said.
‘The transcript is relatively short, given the timespan it describes,’ the source told CNN, refuting the Saudi claim that Khashoggi was being interrogated. The fullest account of the transcript is likely to increase pressure on US President Donald Trump, who has avoided rebuking Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi’s murder and vowed to stand with the US ally, citing lucrative arms deals among the reasons for his support.
Trump has been at odds with the CIA, which is said to have concluded that bin Salman was indeed behind the killing. But reports in a leading Turkish daily says the audio recording of the murder, which is expected to be released this week, will ‘shake the world’ and ‘turn the Saudi palace upside down.’
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has refused to extradite the two Saudi officials Istanbul identifies as planning the killing to Turkey. ‘We don’t extradite our own citizens,’ Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told a news conference at the annual (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council (P)GCC) summit in Riyadh on Sunday.
Turkish officials said last week that the Prosecutor’s Office in the country had concluded there was ‘strong suspicion’ that Saud al-Qahtani, a top aide to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, and General Ahmed al-Asiri, who used to serve as deputy head of foreign intelligence, were among the planners of Khashoggi’s killing at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2nd.
The Washington Post columnist, who was a strong critic of bin Salman, had gone to the diplomatic facility in Istanbul to secure documents for his pending marriage.
He never left the building.
At first, Riyadh denied the killing, but finally admitted Khashoggi had been murdered claiming it was during a ‘rogue’ operation. However, a recent report by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) suggested that bin Salman had indeed been behind the crime and ordered Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.
Meanwhile, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, speaking at the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council – where he had already refused to extradite the two officials Turkey accuses of planning the Khashoggi killing – also said Qatar had been asked to ‘adjust its negative polices’ in order to ‘return as an active member of the (P)GCC’.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt all cut off diplomatic ties with Qatar on June 5th last year, after officially accusing it of ‘sponsoring terrorism’. Doha roundly rejects the accusation.
Turning down an invite, Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani shunned this year’s summit, and instead sent the emirate’s foreign minister. Jubeir also said Saudi Arabia is in talks with the United States about a new security alliance of Arab countries specifically aimed against Iran.
Speaking at a press briefing in Riyadh on Sunday, the Saudi FM said the new pact would be similar in style to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and would seek to protect the Middle East from ‘external aggression.’ ‘Talks are continuing between the United States and the (Persian) Gulf states around this question and ideas are being drawn up,’ he said at the press call, which came after the annual (P) GCC summit.
‘The aim is to achieve security arrangements in the Middle East that can protect the region from external aggression … and strengthen relations between the United States and the countries of the region,’ Jubeir added.
The Saudi diplomat said the agreement, which will also include Egypt as a member, would be called the Middle East Strategic Alliance, or MESA. The remarks confirmed months-long media reports about a joint push between Riyadh and Washington for the establishment of a so-called ‘Arab NATO’ that would also serve Israeli interests in the Middle East region. During his first state visit to Saudi Arabia, Trump convinced bin Salman to sign a massive $110 billion arms deal.
The American head of state said in early October that he warned Salman the kingdom would not last ‘for two weeks’ without US military support. Trump said: ‘I love Saudi Arabia. They are great, King Salman, I spoke with him this morning. I said, king, you have got trillions of dollars. Without us, who knows what’s going to happen … With us they are totally safe. But we don’t get what we should be getting.’
However, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said Saudi Arabia would be defeated by Iran militarily ‘in about a week’ if it did not have the support of the United States. ‘Let me put it this way, I want to be very blunt with you: If it weren’t for the United States, they’d be speaking Farsi (the Iranian language) in about a week in Saudi Arabia,’ he said.
Citing informed sources, The Washington Post reported in mid-November that the CIA ‘has concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (known as MbS) ordered Khashoggi’s assassination.’ But Trump said at the time that the CIA’s conclusion was ‘very premature’.
The CIA has not published its findings on Khashoggi’s murder. But the agency’s director, Gina Haspel, recently briefed a group of senators on the matter. Graham was among them. In his Fox News interview, Graham confirmed the report that the CIA believed the Crown Prince was responsible.
‘It’s the most brilliant briefing I’ve ever received in my time in Congress … There is no doubt by any senator who received this briefing that MbS was complicit in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi,’ Graham told Fox News.
The US senator also dismissed the notion that the US is reliant on Saudi Arabia.
‘They give us nine per cent of our oil imports. We need them a lot less than they need us,’ Graham said. ‘I don’t buy this idea you’ve got to hook up to a murderous regime, a thug like MbS, to protect America from Iran. ‘Quite the opposite. I think by hooking up with him we hurt our ability to govern the region.’
Graham had formerly called bin Salman ‘a wrecking ball’ who ‘has got to go.’
In November, Republican and Democrat senators at US Congress introduced legislation to suspend weapons sales to Saudi Arabia in the wake of Khashoggi’s murder.
Graham said the Congress would press ahead with that legislation and would officially hold bin Salman responsible for the murder. ‘Well, we’re going to label him complicit. We’re going to have a vote in the Senate saying that MbS was complicit in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi,’ Graham said. ‘I’m never gonna support any more arms sales to Saudi Arabia.’