Holding Saudi Arabia "responsible" for the murder, the rapporteur said there was "credible evidence" to warrant further investigation of the involvement of high-level Saudi officials in the murder, including that of the powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman MBS. Callamard urged UN bodies, particularly the office of the secretary-general UNSG , to launch an international criminal investigation and called for sanctions against MBS. Hours after the release of the report, Saudi Arabia dismissed Callamard's findings as "nothing new" and "baseless".
But Turkey "strongly endorsed" the rapporteur's call for accountability. Analysts said Callamard's report lent credibility to widely-reported Turkish intelligence leaks on high-level Saudi involvement in the assassination of Khashoggi, a critic of MBS. Still, much depended on the response of Antonio Guterres, the UN chief, as well as that of the United States , where the journalist was living in self-imposed exile at the time of his killing. Hours after Callamard's investigation, a spokesman for Guterres said the UN chief could only launch an inquiry with a mandate from "a competent intergovernmental body".
To pursue a criminal investigation that would oblige all countries to cooperate would require a UN Security Council resolution, he added. But Callamard said she believed the UN chief "should be able to establish a follow-up criminal investigation without any trigger" by other UN bodies or member states. The call was supported by prominent rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Urging Guterres to "immediately take up" Callamard's recommendation, Amnesty's Middle East Director of Research Lynn Maalouf said the measure was necessary because steps taken by Riyadh to ensure accountability has been "inadequate".
But Saudi Arabia sits on the body and may be able to stop other countries from launching an inquiry. Calling the Callamard investigation "remarkable in its specifics", Bryza added: "These shocking and horrific details make the Saudi government's claim this was an interrogation that went off the rails seem absurd and impossible to be true … an impartial UN investigation is required. The US's spy agency has reportedly blamed MBS for Khashoggi's murder, while US senators have passed a resolution assigning responsibility for the killing to the crown prince.
But Trump, despite calling the murder an "unacceptable and horrible crime", has insisted the US plans "to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia" to ensure Washington's business and political interests, including reported multi-billion dollar arms sales and countering its arch-foe, Iran. And the largest suppliers are, of course, the United States and many European countries after that.
It is also vital to world's oil supplies. Momani said the Trump administration would be reluctant to move against Saudi Arabia because of its ongoing confrontation with Iran. Tensions between Washington and Tehran have risen since last year when Trump unilaterally pulled the US out of a landmark nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers in Since its withdrawal, Washington has reimposed and tightened sanctions on Tehran in a "maximum pressure" campaign it said was aimed at curbing its nuclear and ballistic missiles programme.
The conflict pits a coalition of Arab and Muslim nations led by the Saudis against Houthi rebels allied to Iran and forces loyal to a former Yemeni president.
What will Guterres do?
But while Saudi Arabia has the third-largest defense budget in the world behind the United States and China, its military performance in Yemen has been mixed, current and former U. They said that Saudi forces have killed twice as many civilians as other forces in Yemen. On the ground, Saudi-led forces have often struggled to achieve their goals, making slow headway in areas where support for Iran-allied Houthi rebels runs strong. And along the Saudi border, the Houthis and allied forces loyal to former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh have attacked almost daily since July, killing hundreds of Saudi troops.
Efforts to create an effective pan-Arab military force have been disappointing. Behind the scenes, the West has been enmeshed in the conflict. Between 50 and 60 U. And six to 10 Americans have worked directly inside the Saudi air operations center in Riyadh.
Last year, the Obama administration had the U. Administration officials argued that even more Yemeni civilians would die if the Saudis had to use bombs with less precise guidance systems. Saudi officials see the intervention as a qualified success, halting Iranian expansionism in Yemen and bringing their opponents to the negotiating table. They compare it to the Gulf War when a military threat was addressed overwhelmingly by military power.
Saudi Arabia calls urgent summit with Gulf and Arab League leaders
They said Saudi-led forces have stabilized large parts of the country and allowed its government under President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to remain viable. They also dispute the number of civilian deaths and have announced investigations into the strikes. Among many of their fellow Gulf Arabs, who believe they face a broader struggle against Iran, the war continues to be popular. At a forum in Riyadh this week the mostly young audience started to cheer when speakers said the campaign had demonstrated a new self reliance.
Spokesman for the Saudi-led Arab coalition, Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asseri, said the main goal of degrading Houthi capabilities had been achieved. Coalition-backed Yemeni forces had paused after taking ground north of Sanaa at the request of the U. Prince Sultan bin Khaled al Faisal, a former Saudi special forces officer and now a senior fellow at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh, said the intervention had succeeded. They are surrounded in every single city that they are in … and they are blockaded from the sea.
The United States has been helping equip and train Saudi armed forces since U. Our infantry vehicles are American.
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Some of the largest beneficiaries of the alliance have been U. In an effort to counter Iran, U. Bush administration and even more under the Obama White House. The primary goal of the huge sale was to defend against Iran, according to both American and Saudi officials. The Obama administration also saw a chance to turn Saudi Arabia into a regional military power that could act as a stabilizing influence in the Middle East.
Saudis emphasize their own interests rather than those of the United States.
Current and former U. They also said the sales boosted U. Even with more weaponry, the Saudi-led coalition has struggled in Yemen.
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He said targeting rules had improved in the second half of last year. Problems with targeting are particularly embarrassing because they were also issues during the border war between Saudi Arabia and the Houthis in , U.
A cable dated Feb. Six years on, errors are still occurring. Just last month, two American-made laser-guided bombs struck a market and killed at least 97 civilians, 25 of them children, along with 10 Houthi fighters, according to Human Rights Watch investigators who reached the site of the bombing. Asseri said the coordinates had been provided by coalition-backed Yemeni forces fighting in that area, and the bombs had struck a gathering of Houthis, not civilians.
American officials said they have repeatedly tried to find ways to improve Saudi targeting. As well as the extra precision-guided bombs, the Pentagon sent U.
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They say the Saudis have American software designed to help them determine whether certain munitions might cause destruction beyond the target. Michael Knights, an expert on the conflict in Yemen at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said the fact that the Saudi military had been able to maintain a year-long intervention in a country as complex as Yemen has surprised some observers. But investigations by the U. A January report by a U.
Security Council panel of experts found that the Saudi-led coalition had carried out attacks that appeared to violate international humanitarian law times, including 41 strikes on residential neighborhoods, 22 on medical facilities and 10 on marketplaces.
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Using these kinds of bombs in this context is indiscriminate. They said the team members, both foreigners and Yemeni nationals, follow a thorough methodology that U.