Mohammed bin Salman, then Saudi Arabia’s deputy crown prince, during a bilateral meeting with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on April 4, 2017. (Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg)

Saudi Prince Slams CIA Assessment Report on Khashoggi Murder

(Bloomberg) -- A former head of Saudi intelligence cast doubt over the credibility of any CIA report that incriminates Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

Several news organizations including the Washington Post and New York Times have reported that the CIA concluded the crown prince ordered the columnist’s assassination in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, contradicting Riyadh’s version that he wasn’t involved. CIA officials have high confidence in their conclusion, which is based on multiple sources of intelligence, the Post reported Nov. 16.

Saudi Prince Slams CIA Assessment Report on Khashoggi Murder

“The CIA has been proved wrong before,” Prince Turki Al-Faisal, a longtime Saudi intelligence chief, said in an interview in Abu Dhabi Saturday. “Just to mention the invasion of Iraq for example.” Assertions made before the 2003 invasion of Iraq by ex U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, with former CIA head George Tenet “sitting right behind him,” that the country’s manufacturing of chemical weapons was “a slam-dunk conclusion” proved to be “absolutely false,” he said.

President Donald Trump has disputed that U.S. intelligence officials have definitively concluded that the Saudi crown prince ordered the murder of U.S.-based columnist Khashoggi, while continuing to tout the importance of maintaining economic ties with the kingdom.

“The CIA is not necessarily the best measure of creditable intelligence reporting or intelligence assessment,” Al Faisal said at the launch of the Beirut Institute Summit recommendations in Abu Dhabi.

Al Faisal, who was a key figure in Saudi-U.S. ties in the 1980s as intelligence chief and also served as ambassador to London and Washington, said the relationship between the allies is facing a “big challenge.” That’s even compared with earlier difficult periods, such as the widespread “vilification of Saudi Arabia” in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks on the U.S., he said.

He said the Saudi-U.S. relationship extends far deeper than merely revolving around the price of oil and weapons sales and that the kingdom won’t be “reluctant to undertake the challenge of facing these issues.”

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