“I am here to sound the alarm about a psychopath killer in the Middle East with infinite resources, who poses a threat to his people, to the Americans, and to the planet,” Saad al-Jabri, a former top Saudi intelligence official, told 60 Minutes in a wide-ranging interview on October 23.
The alleged “killer” is Saudi Crown Prince and de facto ruler of the kingdom, Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), who the CIA holds responsible for the grisly murder and dismemberment of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.
Al-Jabri has been in exile under special security protection during the past three years, after fleeing the Kingdom shortly before his then boss, former Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef (MbN), was deposed by royal decree in 2017, and then later in 2020 arrested and charged with treason.
Al-Jabri has been in exile under special security protection during the past three years
Bin Nayef is being held “not because of any crime he committed but because he presents a problem for the current crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman,” observed Bruce Riedel in a piece for the Brookings Institute.
Al-Jabri claims he was present at a meeting in 2016, when MbS bragged to MbN and him that he could “kill the king” to clear the throne for his father, King Abdullah.
According to Al-Jabri, MbS said “I want to assassinate King Abdullah. I got a poisoned ring from Russia. It is enough for me to shake hands with him, and it will be over.” Al-Jabri also claimed the existence of a video recording of the meeting.
In every meaning of the word, these are bombshell allegations, and there’s little reason to doubt the veracity of Al-Jabri’s claims, given the undeniable top-level access he had to the Saudi monarchy, as well as the fact that he has backed up this testimony in a federal lawsuit filed in Washington DC. There, he alleged, “There is virtually no one defendant bin Salman wants dead” more than Al-Jabri because of his close ties to the US government as a “long-time trusted partner of senior US intelligence officials.”
In his interview with 60 Minutes, Al-Jabri said he expects to be “killed one day because this man [MbS] will not rest until he sees me dead.” He told 60 Minutes, “The warning I received was not to approach any Saudi mission in Canada— not to go to the consulate, not to go to the embassy . . . . You are at the top of the list.”
Two of Al-Jabri’s eight children, Sarah and Omar, are currently being held in Saudi prisons, along with his son-in-law Salem Al-Muzaini, who was kidnapped from Dubai and returned to Saudi Arabia, where he was lashed more than 100 times. Al-Muzaini was told he was being tortured “as a proxy for his father-in-law.”
In an October 27 interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Hissah Al-Muzaini, wife of Salem Al-Muzaini and daughter of Saad Al-Jabri, said she too was targeted by the Saudi Crown Prince and feared for her life and young children. Hissah travelled to Washington to advocate for her siblings and husband. She called on President Biden, who personally understands the pain and trauma of loss, to intervene and help reunite her family.
Two of Al-Jabri’s eight children are currently being held in Saudi prisons, along with his son-in-law Salem Almuzaini.
The former top Saudi spy also told CBS News journalist Scott Pelley that MbS had requested his help in 2015 to set up the political assassination team known as the “Tiger Squad.” The same team that carried out the hit on Khashoggi, this elite force was originally formed to kidnap Saudi princes in Europe whom MbS perceived to be opposed to his rule.
Al-Jabri says he rejected the offer. He allegedly told MbS that he would not risk ruining the reputation of Saudi intelligence agencies, and stated, “No, we are a country. We cannot do that.”
When Pelley described the Tiger Squad’s assassination of Khashoggi as “amateurish,” Al-Jabri replied, “They are criminals. They want to achieve the goal without professionals working. If they want to kill somebody, they could have done it easily by other means. It’s just MbS and his style.”
Al-Jabri said MbS will send his Tiger Squad anywhere to capture and kill his political opponents and critics, including Canada, where he has alleged MbS plotted to kill him in 2018.
“Carrying two bags of forensic tools, and complete with forensic personnel experienced with the clean-up of crime scenes . . . . the Tiger Squad Defendants attempted to enter Canada covertly, traveling on tourist visas and seeking to avert the detection of Canadian border security by entering through separate kiosks,” reads Al-Jabri’s affidavit against MbS.
Al-Jabri told 60 Minutes that MbS likens himself to Alexander the Great, even once telling him he wants to mimic the Macedonian king who established in his early 30s one of the largest empires in the ancient world.
No doubt, these revelations will light a fire under the growing anti-Saudi caucus within the Democratic Party, which has opposed the Saudi led war in Yemen and its blockade of Qatar and expressed condemnation of Saudi Arabia’s appalling human rights record.
In turn, President Joe Biden is already facing backlash from the progressive Democrats, who accuse him of paying only lip service to promises made towards the advancement of global human rights and democracy.
Biden may well feel pressured into condemning MbS at a time when he’s seeking Saudi Arabia’s cooperation in dampening sky-rocketing oil prices.
Biden may well feel pressured into condemning MbS at a time when he’s seeking Saudi Arabia’s cooperation in dampening sky-rocketing oil prices. Fareed Zakaria illustrated Biden’s bind in his recent column for the Washington Post. Zakaria accused Biden of championing democracy and climate change at home, while at the same time urging autocracies such as Saudi Arabia and Russia to “drill, baby, drill” to increase global oil supply.
More to the point, however, despite the CIA’s conclusion that MbS had ordered the murder of Khashoggi, and notwithstanding his promises on the 2020 presidential campaign trail to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” state, Biden ignored pleas to sanction MbS earlier this year.
Therefore, it’s likely Biden will now ignore Al-Jabri’s claims and his daughter Hissah’s request for help, as well as the chorus of condemnation that flows from them. This seems especially so given that Biden has signalled a diplomatic and military decoupling from the Middle East in order to advance his “pivot to Asia,” where his administration confronts a rising and increasingly aggressive China.
In short, MbS continues to get away with murder.