- President Donald Trump on Tuesday released a lengthy defence of Saudi Arabia over the killing of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
- Trump signalled he does not intend to call for significant changes to the US-Saudi relationship.
- The president also would not state whether Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de factor ruler of the kingdom, was responsible for Khashoggi’s death.
President Donald Trump on Tuesday released a lengthy defence of Saudi Arabia over the killing of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
In doing so, Trump signalled he does not intend to demand significant changes to the US-Saudi relationship despite bipartisan calls in Congress for America to reevaluate the partnership in the wake of the brutal killing.
“The crime against Jamal Khashoggi was a terrible one, and one that our country does not condone,” Trump said in the statement. “In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They have been a great ally in our very important fight against Iran. The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region.”
Trump added that maintaining the US-Saudi relationship was a “paramount goal to fully eliminate the threat of terrorism throughout the world!”
In his statement, Trump said his decision was not based on Saudi representatives describing Khashoggi as an “enemy of the state” or a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, repeating smears about the slain journalist that have even been dismissed by the Saudi government.
The president also would not state whether Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de factor ruler of the kingdom, was responsible for Khashoggi’s death. Crown Prince Mohammed is widely suspected of orchestrating the killing.
“King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi,” Trump said. “Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”
This all comes less than a week after a bombshell report from The Washington Post indicated the CIA had concluded with “high confidence” that Crown Prince Mohammed directly ordered Khashoggi’s killing.
The CIA was expected to deliver a report to Trump on Khashoggi’s killing later Tuesday.
Critics feel Trump has once again undermined the US intelligence community, a judgment previously made over his response to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
The president acknowledged the calls in Congress for more significant actions to be taken against Saudi Arabia and said he would “consider whatever ideas are presented to me, but only if they are consistent with the absolute security and safety of America.”
Trump’s statement embellishes the economic benefits of the US-Saudi partnership, particularly in terms of arms sales. The president claimed the kingdom had agreed to invest $US450 billion in the US, including $US110 billion in military equipment. Trump has cited similar numbers in the past, numbers that fact-checkers have repeatedly said are blatantly false.
Beyond the purported economic gains from retaining a strong relationship with Saudi Arabia, the president also touted America’s strategic partnership with the kingdom. In doing so, he downplayed Saudi Arabia’s human-rights violations, particularly in Yemen, as well as the various ways in which it’s exported terrorism across the world in recent years.
Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy in October told INSIDER that the Saudis were an important counterterrorism partner but added they “have also become very militaristic in their movements around the region.”
“They have continued to export a brand of Islam that often forms the building blocks for groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS,” Murphy said. “And their record on human rights is getting worse not better, despite pronouncements from the crown prince that he’s committed to modernisation.”
The Trump administration has targeted Saudis it has linked to Khashoggi’s killing with sanctions, but Murphy and others in Congress are pushing for the US to be far more forceful in its reaction to the kingdom.
Khashoggi, a US resident who wrote for The Washington Post, was killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2. After nearly three weeks of denials after Khashoggi’s initial disappearance, the Saudis finally acknowledged the journalist had been killed.
The kingdom’s narrative on Khashoggi’s killing has shifted multiple times since early October, but it has maintained that Crown Prince Mohammed had no knowledge of the operation that led to his death.
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