The White House on Friday cleared the release of a long-delayed intelligence report that determined that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the country's day-to-day leader, ordered the operation that led to journalist Jamal Khashoggi's death in 2018.
Fifty-nine-year-old Khashoggi, a dissident Saudi journalist who lived in the U.S. as a legal permanent resident and wrote for the Washington Post, was critical of the prince's policies and was killed in the Saudi Arabian Consulate in the Turkish city on October 2, 2018.
A critic of the prince's apparent authoritarian rule, Washington Post journalist Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.
But the United States stopped short of directly targeting the 35-year-old crown prince, known by his initials MBS, with officials contending there was no precedent for sanctions on a senior leader of an ally.
While the Biden administration values the 75-year strategic partnership with the oil-rich kingdom, "the reality here in the United States and in Washington is that the Saudis have just lost both political parties [and the] support of the American people", a senior US official said.
"Jamal believed anything was possible in America and I place my trust in the American civil justice system to obtain a measure of justice and accountability", Ms Cengiz said previous year. But with no military solution on the horizon, and the impoverished country shattered by years of war, the Biden administration says it will press the Saudis to find a diplomatic solution in Yemen.
In 2018, Khashoggi visited the Saudi consulate in Turkey in order to pick up documents needed for his wedding.
"Does this send a message to the world that the USA will tolerate this?"
The Washington-based campaign group Freedom House said it was "disappointing and frustrating that the U.S.is yet unwilling to act on its own intelligence" and impose sanctions on the Saudi Prince. The activist and writer, who was friends with Khashoggi, lives in exile in Norway, where local authorities have warned him he is under threat from Saudi agents.
The hit team, it stated, "included seven members of Mohammed bin Salman's elite personal protective detail, known as the Rapid Intervention Force", which "exists to defend the crown prince, answers only to him, and had directly participated in earlier dissident suppression operations in the Kingdom and overseas at the crown prince's direction".
Under heavy pressure from the United States and the global community, the Saudi government put some of the perpetrators on trial.
Saudi Arabia pledged a thorough investigation in response to the worldwide outcry over Khashoggi's death. Among the options may be cutting back arms sales to Saudi Arabia and imposing sanctions.
He was, they concluded, simply too important to US interests to punish.
To start with, the United States banned 76 people from Saudi Arabia on Friday, saying it will not tolerate individuals who threaten or assault activists, dissidents and journalists on behalf of foreign governments.
The report, due to be released shortly, is expected to implicate the king's son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Government documents released on Monday showed a large increase in export licenses of United Kingdom arms destined for the Saudis, which Oxfam suspects will be used in Yemen. Prince Nayef was arrested in 2017 and is now under arrest, accused of corruption and plotting against the crown prince.
Another piece of evidence was a recording of the murder obtained by Turkish intelligence from inside the Istanbul consulate.