Riyadh announced the dismissals of five top officials from the kingdom’s intelligence agency, which directly reports to the king. But in the kingdom, Crown Prince MBS effectively oversees the king’s functions.
After weeks of denial, Riyadh has recently accepted its role in the murder of Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi, announcing high-level dismissals from both its royal court and intelligence apparatus.
Under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), Saudi Arabia has struggled to explain what happened to Khashoggi in its Istanbul consulate after the high-profile journalist entered it on October 2 and did not exit alive.
Riyadh’s current narrative is that Khashoggi was killed in a brawl inside the consulate, and it linked the five dismissals to the alleged brawl-turned-murder.
But the Saudi dismissals paradoxically confirm that without MBS’s knowledge and approval, the murder of Khashoggi would have been unlikely.
Here is an infographic, which shows the dismissed officials’ connections with MBS and the central authority of the kingdom.
The kingdom’s deputy intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Ahmed al Assiri was one of the top fired officials. Assiri was the spokesman for Riyadh’s widely criticised war in Yemen. According to Turkish sources, he also allegedly founded the 15-member hit squad which was tasked to kill Khashoggi.
In Saudi Arabia, the General Intelligence Presidency, where Assiri was the second highest official, directly reports to the king, and in current affairs of the kingdom, its ultimate boss is, therefore, MBS. The presidency’s current head is Khaled Ali al Humaidan, who carries the rank of minister.
Other dismissed officials include Saud al Qahtani, a prominent adviser to the crown prince, Maj. Gen. Mohammed bin Saleh al Rumaih, who was the assistant head of the General Intelligence Presidency, and Maj. Gen. Abdullah bin Khalifa al Shaya, who was leading general intelligence for human resources. They are all part of the Saudi intelligence apparatus.
Another dismissed official, Gen. Rashad bin Hamed al Mohammad, was leading the general directorate of security and protection under the kingdom’s public security department, which is functioning under the interior ministry.
In a 2017 shake-up, the kingdom’s interior ministry was also profoundly restructured under MBS.