Biden hits Saudis with sanctions in Khashoggi murder — but not crown prince

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The White House on Friday announced tough new visa restrictions and asset-freeze sanctions after a newly-declassified CIA report confirming that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the murder of Jamal Khashoggi — but none of the penalties strike at the prince himself.

The son of Saudi King Salman will dodge direct penalties for the 2018 murder of the Virginia-based journalist and Saudi dissident in order to preserve America’s relationship with a key Middle East ally, administration officials said.

“The aim is a recalibration (of ties) — not a rupture,” one senior Biden official said. “That’s because of the important interests that we do share.”

Instead, both the Treasury and State departments announced sanctions against dozens of other Saudis identified as involved in Khashoggi’s murder and dismemberment inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Under the new, so-called “Khashoggi Ban,” the U.S. will impose visa restrictions on people who engage in serious counter-dissident activities on behalf of foreign governments.

The U.S. has immediately restricted the visas of 76 Saudis “believed to have been engaged in threatening dissidents overseas, including but not limited to the Khashoggi killing,” Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in press statement Friday.

Those Saudis and their family members face the possible future denial of visas, Blinken said.

Meanwhile, the Treasury Department announced it has frozen the U.S. assets former deputy Saudi intelligence chief Ahmad Hassan Mohammed al Assiri, who is accused in a Turkish indictment of being the ringleader behind Khashoggi’s murder.

Also frozen are the American assets of members of Saudi Arabia’s elite rapid intervention force, which has been singled out by Friday’s declassified intelligence report for its role in Khashoggi’s killing.

After initial denials, the Saudi government eventually admitted that the 59-year-old dissident and Washington Post columnist was killed in a “rogue” extradition operation after being lured to the consulate with the promise of paperwork that would clear the way for his marriage to his Turkish fiance — but the crown prince has himself denied knowledge of the operation.

With Post wires

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