On Friday evening, Saudi Arabia started trickling out their official report on the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The report, as expected, was carefully worded to avoid implicating any royal family members, and in doing so are giving President Trump wiggle room to avoid any actions to punish them over it.
Trump had set out an expectation that he’d only punish the Saudis seriously if senior royal family members were found responsible. The Saudi reported arrested 18 people, and sacked a few people closely tied to the crown prince, without specifically blaming the prince.
President Trump, unsurprisingly, seems placated. His first statement following the announcement was that he considers killing the journalist “unacceptable,” but that he viewed the arrests as a “good first step” by the Saudis. He also added that he doesn’t want to threaten the arms deal.
With questions doubtless to come about the crown prince’s very real involvement in this plot, the Saudis are also trying to spin the king as checking his growing power. In reality, however, the king’s main official attack was to create a new ministerial group to “reform” the spy agency, and the crown prince has been placed in charge of that, so arguably his power has actually grown.
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