The U.S. is still looking for an appropriate response to the murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, given that Saudi Arabia is one of its most important allies in the region.
U.S. Senate leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday that he could not find the best way to respond to the murder that took place at the Saudi consulate Istanbul while describing Saudi Arabia as an important ally for the U.S. against Iran in the region. "We're trying to figure out the best way to respond," McConnell told reporters during a roundtable meeting.
"Obviously what clearly happened is outrageous and unacceptable. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia is an important ally against the Iranians. So it is a difficult problem to figure out exactly the most appropriate response," he added.
It is known that some members of Congress from both the Republicans and Democrats have demanded that the U.S. administration take a stronger line against the kingdom. The murder of Khashoggi is not the only issue that disturbs critical members in Congress; the heavy toll on the civilians in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition is battling Iran-backed Houthi rebels, is another major issue. The CIA's assessments about the murder have pointed out that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) was the mastermind behind the killing. However, the kingdom has denied these accusations, claiming that the prince did not have any involvement in the murder.
Recently, legislation to impose sanctions on Saudi officials was proposed by lawmakers to the Senate. However, the Senate did not approve the legislation. McConnell would not say whether he foresaw a vote on those measures. "It's a tough situation," he said.
Khashoggi was killed in the kingdom's Istanbul Consulate on Oct. 2, 2018, by a team of 15, consisting of Saudi officials who arrived in Turkey for his murder and a cover-up team also in charge of dismembering Khashoggi's body.
The CIA concluded in October that MBS ordered the assassination of Khashoggi. However, Trump has disputed the CIA report and told reporters: "The CIA points it both ways. Maybe he did, maybe he didn't," a phrase he had used in a controversial statement released on the incident. When the reporter asked who should be held responsible for the killing, Trump responded, "Maybe the world should be held accountable ‘cause the world is a vicious place."
After weeks of denying any involvement in the crime, Saudi Arabia later admitted that Khashoggi had been killed inside the consulate but denied that the royal family and the crown prince had any prior knowledge of or responsibility for Khashoggi's killing. The incident was blamed on lower-level officials, including five that are now facing the death penalty over their involvement; the kingdom has indicated 21 people are officially involved in the case.
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