U.S. Sanctions Saudi Officials, Troops as Khashoggi Report Spreads

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the video G20 Summit in Riyadh on Nov. 22, 2020

The U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions of an asset freeze and ban on business dealings on Saudi officials on Friday (Feb. 26), after the U.S. government released a report earlier in the day that said the Saudi side was involved in the death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The sanctions target Ahmad-Hassan Mohammed al Asiri, the former deputy director of Saudi Arabia’s General Intelligence Service, and Saudi Arabia’s Rapid Intervention Force (RIF), also known as the “Tiger Squad.

Al Asiri was responsible for sending a 15-member team to dismember Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey in October 2018, the Finance Ministry said in an announcement Friday. The announcement said that several of the men sent to intercept Khashoggi were members of the “Tiger Team.”

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement, “Those who abominably killed Jamal Khashoggi must be held accountable. Through this action, the Treasury Department will sanction Saudi Arabia’s Rapid Intervention Force and senior Saudi officials directly involved in Khashoggi’s murder.”

The Biden administration also announced Friday visa restrictions on 76 Saudi citizens over Khashoggi’s killing, U.S. officials said, although it did not impose any sanctions on the crown prince.

The U.S. publicly reported Friday that Khashoggi, who wrote op-eds for The Washington Post critical of the crown prince’s policies, was killed and dismembered by operatives linked to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

U.S. media reported that the declassified intelligence released Friday was allegedly carefully designed to limit damage to U.S.-Saudi relations. Even so, the practice in question is the first Time the U.S. has directly linked and imposed sanctions on the Saudi government in connection with Khashoggi’s death.

On Thursday (Feb. 25), Joe Biden spoke with the crown prince’s 85-year-old father, King Salman, in a call in which the two sides said they reaffirmed their decades-old alliance and pledged to cooperate.