Manama: A former intelligence chief on Saturday became the second Saudi senior official to dismiss conclusions attributed to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) suggesting Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman had ordered the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
“The CIA has been proved wrong before,” Prince Turki Al Faisal said. “Just to mention the invasion of Iraq for example.”
Assertions made before the 2003 invasion of Iraq by ex-US 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 in an interview with AP.
“So we don’t take it as being, as I said, divine revelation,” he said of the US intelligence reports.
“The CIA is not necessarily the best measure of creditable intelligence reporting or intelligence assessment,” Al Faisal added according to media reports.
BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner seemed to support Prince Turki’s view, saying that “intelligence agencies rarely offer their governments cast-iron, 100 per cent conclusions, instead producing nuanced assessments often based on probabilities.”
“This wariness has become more pronounced since the mistakes made in the run-up to the Iraq invasion of 2003,” he reportedly said.
Last week, Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir said that claims the CIA believes the crown prince ordered the killing of Khashoggi “have no basis in truth and we totally reject them.”
“We in the kingdom know that such allegations about the crown prince have no basis in truth and we categorically reject them,” he told Al Sharq Al Awsat.
A report quoting a US official said the agency’s conclusion came as a result of “an understanding of how Saudi Arabia works,” rather than a “smoking gun.”
US President Donald Trump disputed that the CIA had made the conclusions about Prince Mohammad’s involvement.
The conclusions were first reported by a US newspaper.
“They didn’t conclude,” Trump told reporters at Mar-a-Lago in Florida. “No no, they didn’t conclude. I’m sorry. No they didn’t conclude. They did not come to a conclusion. They have feelings certain ways. I have the report … they have not concluded, I don’t know if anyone’s going to be able to conclude the crown prince did it.”
Khashoggi was killed on October 2 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. His death sparked an international war of narratives, allegations and veiled and open accusations that have deepened the intrigue shrouding it.