Several of the suspects identified by Turkish officials in the disappearance and suspected death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi have ties to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to a New York Times report.
One individual has been a frequent companion of the Saudi crown prince; three have links to his security detail; and a fifth is a forensic doctor holding senior positions in the Saudi Interior Ministry and medical establishment — an individual of such stature, The Times notes, that his directives would come only from a high-ranking Saudi authority.
> If, as the Turkish authorities say, these men were present at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul where Mr. Khashoggi disappeared on Oct. 2, they might provide a direct link between what happened and Prince Mohammed. That would undercut any suggestion that Mr. Khashoggi died in a rogue operation unsanctioned by the crown prince. Their connection to him could also make it more difficult for the White House and Congress to accept such an explanation.
> The royal court was expected to acknowledge that Mr. Khashoggi was killed in the consulate, and to blame a rogue operation conducted without the direct knowledge of the crown prince, according to a person familiar with the Saudi plans. The Saudis, this person said, will hold accountable an intelligence official who received approval from the crown prince to capture and interrogate Mr. Khashoggi but ended up killing him instead.
However, the number of obstacles to such a story — even with the limited information and evidence currently available — makes for a tough sell.
> The suspects’ positions in the Saudi government and the links of several to the crown prince could make it more difficult to absolve him of responsibility. And the presence of a forensic doctor who specializes in autopsies suggests the operation may have had a lethal intent from the start.
> Turkish officials have said they possess evidence that a team of 15 Saudi agents flew into Istanbul on Oct. 2, assassinated Mr. Khashoggi, dismembered his body with a bone saw they had brought for the purpose, and flew out the same day. They said Mr. Khashoggi was killed within two hours of his arrival at the consulate. That timeline would hardly have allowed time for an interrogation to go awry.