Trump Sides With Saudis In Murder Of Jamal Khashoggi
In what has to qualify as one of the most horrifying displays of moral depravity on the international stage, the Trump Administration is saying it doesn't really care if the Saudi Crown Prince is a murderer or not.
Ignoring the conclusions of his own intelligence agencies and the evidence that is plain as day, Donald Trump issued a statement today on his way out the door for the Thanksgiving holiday that essentially sides with the Saudi Royal Family and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who stands credibly accused of being the person who ordered the murder of Washington Post journalist and Saudi dissident Jama Khashoggi:
President Trump issued an exclamation-mark packed statement Tuesday that defended Saudi Arabia, continued to question the CIA’s conclusion that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and effectively declared the issue closed.
“King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. 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!” the statement read.
The statement came after Trump said he would be receiving a full report on the killing in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last month, and after The Washington Post reported that the CIA had assessed with high confidence that the crown prince ordered Khashoggi’s death.
No intelligence from the CIA was presented in the report, and Trump said the agency was still looking into the issue.
In the eight-paragraph statement, the president lauded Saudi Arabia’s economic ties with the United States and emphasized the country’s opposition to Iran. He noted that Saudi Arabia considered Khashoggi an ”enemy of the state” and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood but insisted that ”my decision was in no way based on that.”
He dismissed suggestions that he slash arms deals with Saudi Arabia, saying Russia and China would benefit instead.
The president seemed to preempt likely criticism from Congress, where a number of pending bills seek to punish Saudi Arabia. Some of Trump’s allies, including Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), have said Mohammed has no credibility and they will not deal with him in the future.
“I understand there are members of Congress who, for political or other reasons, would like to go in a different direction — and they are free to do so. I will consider whatever ideas are presented to me, but only if they are consistent with the absolute security and safety of America,” Trump said.
The world is a very dangerous place!
The country of Iran, as an example, is responsible for a bloody proxy war against Saudi Arabia in Yemen, trying to destabilize Iraq’s fragile attempt at democracy, supporting the terror group Hezbollah in Lebanon, propping up dictator Bashar Assad in Syria (who has killed millions of his own citizens), and much more. Likewise, the Iranians have killed many Americans and other innocent people throughout the Middle East. Iran states openly, and with great force, “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!” Iran is considered “the world’s leading sponsor of terror.”
On the other hand, Saudi Arabia would gladly withdraw from Yemen if the Iranians would agree to leave. They would immediately provide desperately needed humanitarian assistance. Additionally, Saudi Arabia has agreed to spend billions of dollars in leading the fight against Radical Islamic Terrorism.
After my heavily negotiated trip to Saudi Arabia last year, the Kingdom agreed to spend and invest $450 billion in the United States. This is a record amount of money. It will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, tremendous economic development, and much additional wealth for the United States. Of the $450 billion, $110 billion will be spent on the purchase of military equipment from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and many other great U.S. defense contractors. If we foolishly cancel these contracts, Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries – and very happy to acquire all of this newfound business. It would be a wonderful gift to them directly from the United States!
The crime against Jamal Khashoggi was a terrible one, and one that our country does not condone. Indeed, we have taken strong action against those already known to have participated in the murder. After great independent research, we now know many details of this horrible crime. We have already sanctioned 17 Saudis known to have been involved in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi, and the disposal of his body.
Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an “enemy of the state” and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but my decision is in no way based on that – this is an unacceptable and horrible crime. King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. 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!
That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi. 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. It is our paramount goal to fully eliminate the threat of terrorism throughout the world!
I understand there are members of Congress who, for political or other reasons, would like to go in a different direction – and they are free to do so. I will consider whatever ideas are presented to me, but only if they are consistent with the absolute security and safety of America. After the United States, Saudi Arabia is the largest oil producing nation in the world. They have worked closely with us and have been very responsive to my requests to keeping oil prices at reasonable levels – so important for the world. As President of the United States I intend to ensure that, in a very dangerous world, America is pursuing its national interests and vigorously contesting countries that wish to do us harm. Very simply it is called America First!
The Administration’s refusal to hold the Saudi Government in general and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman specifically responsible for Khashoggi’s death flies in the face of all the available evidence, of common sense, and of the evaluation of America’s intelligence agencies. It was just yesterday, for example, that it was reported that the Central Intelligence Agency had concluded that “M.B,S.” as he is known in various parts of the world was the one who authorized the mission that resulted in the detention and murder of the Saudi dissident on October 2nd when he came to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain a document he needed in order to get married in Turkey. Though there was photographic evidence, as well as the statement of Khashoggi’s fiance, showing him walking into the evidence shortly after 1:00 p.m. on that fateful day, there is no record of Khashoggi ever leaving. Despite that, the Saudis initially took the position that this is exactly what happened at the same time they made the absurd claim that they could not provide evidence to support that claim because they did not keep recordings from their security cameras. In the weeks that followed, the evidence against teh Sauids continued to mount, and the Saudi denials became even more ridiculous.
Once it became clear that the Saudi lies and evasions were not holding up to scrutiny, the government in Riyadh became scrambling to put forward a new serious of explanations for what may have happened to Khashoggi, all of them obviously designed to shield the Crown Prince from culpability in the matter. First, the government put forward the theory that Khashoggi’s disappearance was due to an operation by what President Trump described as ‘rogue killers’ who acted without the knowledge or consent of their superiors. This hard-to-believe explanation was being circulated at the same time that evidence was being released, including the fact that Khashoggi had died inside the consulate and revealed certain facts surrounding his death, including the details surrounding the arrival and departure of a team of fifteen Saudis linked to the Crown Prince, military, and intelligence services who allegedly were involved in whatever happened to the Washington Post columnist and Saudi dissident. Among these revelations was the fact that nearly all of the members of the aforementioned fifteen person team, including the alleged leaders, were linked in some way to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Despite all of this, the Saudis continued to assert that bin Salman knew nothing about what had happened to Khashoggi. This was an entirely implausible explanation that required one to forget everything we know about how things actually operate in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Finally, after it was that they were looking to pin responsibility for Khashoggi’s fate on a fall guy, the Saudis put forward an explanation claiming that Khashoggi’s death was the result of an operation that was carried out by people close to the Crown Prince but done entirely without his knowledge or authorization. They also claimed that the original intent of the operation had been to question Khashoggi and/or return him surreptitiously to the KSA. This story was no more credible than previous explanations, of course, but that is precisely the position that the Saudis took when they finally released an official “explanation” for Khashoggi’s disappearance and death that acknowledged that he was, in fact, dead and that his death had occurred when he was inside the consulate. This explanation, though, maintained the hard to believe a claim that the operation that led to Khashoggi’s death, which Riyadh maintained at the time was due to a rendition (a/k/a kidnapping) operation gone awry. Now, finally, the Saudis have acknowledged that it was the intention of the fifteen man team that arrived in Istanbul the morning of the day Khashoggi was scheduled to visit the consulate and left before sundown the same day to kill Khashoggi, although they continue to maintain the increasingly implausible claim that the Crown Prince knew nothing about what was being carried out in the name of the country he leads.
Throughout all of this, the Trump Administration let the Saudi government quite literally get away with cold-blooded murder. While there have been some bland statements of concern about what happened to Khashoggi, it has been obvious from the start that the President and the White House are not interested in putting pressure on Riyadh to come clean about Khashoggi’s fate and even less interest in putting pressure on King Salman regarding the fate of his favorite son In no small part, of course, this is because M.B.S, has managed to ingratiate himself with both Trump and with Jared Kushner, with whom he apparently communicates on a regular basis a relationship that the Saudis have been more than willing to exploit to their advantage. Finally, the Trump Administration has already made clear that it is willing to look the other way while the Saudis commit nothing less than genocide in Yemen, so it’s not surprising that they’d be okay with the murder of a single journalist.
The cynicism and moral depravity of what this President has done here cannot be exaggerated. To put this into perspective, this is basically as if President Reagan had excused the Soviets for the murder of hundreds of people on board Korean Airlines Flight 007 in 1983 despite the fact that we had radio intercepts making their guilt clear, or if George W. Bush had absolved al Qaeda for the September 11th attacks despite all the available evidence of their guilt. Yes, Jamal Khashoggi was just one man, but that hardly excuses the fact that this President is excusing murder notwithstanding the fact that the blood on the hands of the Crown Prince and de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia is as clear as day. Some will argue that the difference here is that Saudi Arabia is an “ally,” but incidents like this make clear that Saudi Arabia is no ally.
Dave Schuler gets it exactly right in a post that was published this morning before the President issued his statement:
[T}he Saudis are not our allies; they are our enemies. They financed Osama Bin Laden; they financed Al Qaeda’s attack against us; the Saudis have continued to support Al Qaeda in Syria.
There is an old proverb that covers our relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia pretty well: he who sups with the devil should use a long spoon. Ultimately, U. S. and Saudi interests cannot be reconciled. The best we can do is manage them and so far we have refused to do that.
Daniel Larison has similar thoughts:
Perhaps Trump thinks that if he keeps repeating the lie that Saudi Arabia has been a “great ally” to the U.S. that it will magically become true. The odd thing about Trump’s attachment to the Saudis is that the kingdom is not an especially important trading partner and it isn’t a very effective security partner, either. There is almost no other foreign government that consistently receives so much unwarranted praise from Trump. Saudi Arabia isn’t an ally, great or otherwise, and everything it has done over the last few years has backfired and worked to the benefit of Iran. If I were as obsessively hostile to Iran as the president seems to be, I would consider the Saudis to be worse than useless, but that doesn’t stop him from defending the relationship as often as he can. It may be that Trump is such a destructive wrecking ball in his own conduct of foreign policy that he thinks that similar recklessness from the Saudis is a good thing. Then again, Iran hawks have an exceptionally poor understanding of the region, so Trump may just be reciting the talking points he is given by Bolton and others.
The president also said that 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,” but there is no reason to think that having the U.S. as a “steadfast partner” to the Saudis serves the interests of any of these countries. Unconditional support for the Saudis has encouraged them to act as a regional menace, and on numerous occasions they have acted directly against U.S. interests and the interests of other clients in the region. Partnering with Riyadh’s inept and cruel war criminals hasn’t made the U.S. the least bit more secure, but it has implicated the U.S. in their crimes against the civilian population of Yemen. Being aligned with one of the cruelest and most despotic regimes on earth isn’t doing any other states in the region any favors, either.
Donald Trump isn’t the first American President to look the other way while the Saudis violated human rights and acted against our national interests. This is something that has been true virtually from the time the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded in the 1930s through today. The obsequiousness with which we have treated Riyadh has been justified based on a number of factors ranging from their control over a large segment of the world’s oil supply, the Cold War, the so-called “War On Terror,” and the American obsession with undermining the regime in Iran. As a result, we have repeatedly looked the other way as the Saud family has committed human rights violations against its own people, used its oil wealth to fund the expansion of radical Jihadi thought around the globe, and used American weapons to commit what amounts to nothing less than genocide in Yemen. Not only is it morally depraved that e continue to back this regime it is clearly something that is not in our long-term interests. The Saudis cannot be trusted, and even if we must work together with them at times, we should always remember that. Instead, we are coddling them, absolving their crimes, and helping them commit genocide against the people of Yemen. It’s a damn embarressment.