The latest reports coming out of Turkey on the last hours of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi are nothing short of stomach-churning.
The least gruesome version of what happened to the 59-year-old Virginia resident involves him being “beaten, drugged, and eventually killed in the Saudi consul general’s office” after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
Turkish authorities are in possession of an audio recording of the incident, in which others in the consulate were told to “listen to music as [a forensic specialist] dismembered Khashoggi’s body.”
There are worse reports, though. A source told the Middle East Eye that the forensic specialist, Salah Muhammad al-Tubaigy (who was a member of the 15-member kill team Saudi sent to meet the journalist at the consulate in Istanbul), “began to cut Khashoggi’s body up on a table in the study while he was still alive.”
It reportedly took them seven minutes to kill Khashoggi, who had written critically about Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in The Washington Post.
The Middle East Eye also reports that Turkish newspaper Sabah has three minutes of audio recording of Khashoggi’s agony, but have not yet released it.
It remains to be seen if or how the Trump administration will respond to this horrific trickle of evidence. So far, President Trump has supported the statements coming from Saudi’s crown prince, who denies any knowledge of what happened to Khashoggi.
He said on Monday that he would send Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Riyadh to help get to the bottom of this.
…during the call, and told me that he has already started, and will rapidly expand, a full and complete investigation into this matter. Answers will be forthcoming shortly.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 16, 2018
And sure enough, in approximately 24 hours Pompeo visited two countries and attempted to quell the outcry over the now certain death of Khashoggi.
First, he went to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, where by his own admission, Pompeo asked Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman no questions about the fate of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Captured smiling and having what seemed like a pleasant chat, Pompeo said it was was important for Riyadh to investigate what happened to Khashoggi.
“I don’t want to talk about any of the facts,” Pompeo said Tuesday, when asked whether Saudi officials said anything about Khashoggi being alive or dead. “They didn’t want to either, in that they want to have the opportunity to complete this investigation in a thorough way.”
Apparently satisfied with that exchange, Pompeo then took off to Turkey on Wednesday, where he met with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to express U.S. “concern” over the case and to reiterate U.S. “willingness to assist Turkey in its investigation.”
And with no answers to questions he did not ask, Pompeo is now planning his next trips to Panama and Mexico. Under the Trump administration, the United States has deepened its ties to Saudi Arabia, relying on its flow of wealth into the United States and its partnership as a regional check against Iran.
But about this investigation into Khashoggi’s death.
So far, as per reports out of Turkey, Saudi officials appear to have attempted a major cover up: By the time they gave Turkish police access to investigate the consulate and the consul general’s residence (just a couple of days ago), there was evidence that they had hastily repainted over some walls in the consulate and had left some toxic chemicals behind. A former CIA interrogator told ThinkProgress those chemicals might have been used to dissolve Khashoggi’s body.
Also, the Saudi consul general had already left Turkey before his residence could be searched.
The Turks have been very insistent on some details from the start, and the information they are releasing is damning for the Saudis, who are highly unlikely to indict their crown prince for Khashoggi’s death.
So far, virtually everything Saudi authorities have said about the case has been a falsehood, raising major credibility issues with any investigations the Saudis launch:
Saudi claim: Saudi officials claimed Khashoggi left the consulate alive.
Fact: There was no evidence of this, as his fiancée was waiting outside for him. Security cameras show Khashoggi walking in, but not out. Erdogan demanded that Saudi Arabia prove that Khashoggi walked out of the consulate alive, to no avail.
Saudi claim: The 15 Saudis who entered Turkey at the time of Khashoggi’s disappearance were “tourists.”
Fact: The group included Saudi Arabia’s top forensic specialist, an expert in mobile autopsies and traveling with a bone saw. Eleven other members of the team include have ties to Saudi security forces.
Saudi claim: Immediately after speaking to the Saudi crown prince, President Trump floated the idea that “rogue killers” may be responsible — a claim that was not disputed by Saudi officials (who have denied everything else), increasing the likelihood that the idea came from them.
Fact: These weren’t rogue players. In fact, at least three of the men on the team were members of the Saudi Royal Guard and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s personal security detail when he traveled.
(Anticipated) Saudi claim: Khashoggi died during the course of a “botched” interrogation.
Fact: A source who has heard the audio recording of Khashoggi’s final hours told the Middle East Eye that “There was no attempt to interrogate him. They had come to kill him.” CIA and FBI experts have also told ThinkProgress that the Saudi mission did not seem to be geared toward taking Khashoggi alive.