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White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Sunday wouldn’t directly say whether President Biden would take action to sanction Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman personally for the death of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi — saying only that there are “more effective” means.
“We believe there is more effective ways to make sure this doesn’t happen again and to also be able to leave room to work with the Saudis on areas where there is mutual agreement — where there is national interest for the United States,” Psaki said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“That is what diplomacy looks like. That is what complicated global engagement looks like. And we have made no secret and been clear we are going to hold them accountable on the global stage and with direct actions,” she continued.
CNN anchor Dana Bash pressed her, saying that Biden slapped sanctions on other Saudi officials but spared bin Salman — who is also known by his initials MBS — in the death of Khashoggi, a US resident and journalist for the Washington Post, in 2018.
“So isn’t punishing them like punishing the hitman and not the mob boss who actually put out the hit?” Bash asked Psaki.
“First, and historically, and even in recent history Democratic and Republican administrations, there have not been sanctions put in place for the leaders of foreign governments where we have diplomatic relations and even where we don’t have diplomatic relations,” Psaki said.
Facing criticism from bipartisan congressional lawmakers for not taking direct action against bin Salman, Biden told reporters on Saturday more will be coming Monday.
“There will be an announcement on Monday as to what we are going to be doing with Saudi Arabia generally,” Biden said in response to a question from The Post.
The Biden administration released an intelligence report last Friday that put the blame for Khashoggi’s death squarely on bin Salman, the de facto ruler of the kingdom.
“We assess that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey, to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” the report said.
It cited bin Salman’s control of “decision making” in the oil-rich country and the involvement of a key top adviser and members of his security detail as evidence.
“Since 2017, the Crown Prince has had absolute control of the Kingdom’s security and intelligence organizations, making it highly unlikely that Saudi officials would have carried out an operation of this nature without the Crown Prince’s authorization,” the report said.
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