US President Donald Trump said his administration plans to stand by Saudi Arabia amid the Khashoggi crisis.
In a statement on Tuesday, Trump said he intends to maintain Washington’s strong ties to Saudi leaders, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), despite the “unacceptable and horrible crime” committed against Jamal Khashoggi.
The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at Trump’s decision to stand by the House of Saud and the Crown prince, as US lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, and mainstream media outlets, have denounced Trump’s statement.
Meanwhile a G20 summit looms in Argentina, where MbS will be in attendance sitting side-by-side with other G20 leaders.
Within the Saudi Kingdom Prince Ahmed, King Salman’s only surviving full brother, has returned to Riyadh after 2-1/2 months abroad, in what many analysts believe to be a bid by the exiled brother to wrestle away the throne from the Crown Prince.
Read Trump’s full statement below:
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!
Via The Middle East Eye…
Washington Post publisher Fred Ryan called Trump’s comments a “betrayal” of American values, accusing the president of putting his personal relationships and “commercial interests” above US interests.
Ryan said the White House should make public any evidence it may have that would contradict an earlier CIA conclusion that bin Salman ordered the assassination of Khashoggi.
“An innocent man, brutally slain, deserves better, as does the cause of truth and justice and human rights,” Ryan said in a statement Tuesday.
He also called on the US Congress to act where Trump has apparently failed. “In this failure of leadership from President Trump, it now falls to Congress to stand up for America’s true values and lasting interests,” Ryan said.
Washington Post editor Karen Attiah, who edited Khashoggi’s columns at the newspaper, called the White House’s statement “juvenile” and “clumsy”.
She also condemned the US president for repeating a “Saudi lie” in his statement, which Trump used to convey Saudi assertions that Khashoggi was “an enemy of the state” and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, claims the journalist’s family has refuted as baseless.
In a column published on Tuesday afternoon, Attiah went on to say that Trump’s handling of the crisis emboldens repression and endangers journalists around the world.
“If the administration continues down this path, it will further destroy whatever is left of America’s moral credibility on global human rights and freedom of expression,” she wrote. “It puts truth-seekers and journalists who dare challenge the Saudi regime and other intolerant governments in grave danger, no matter where they live.”
US lawmakers call for MBS to be held accountable
Several members of the US House of Representatives and the US Senate also expressed their dismay at the president’s vow to stand alongside Saudi Arabia despite Khashoggi’s killing.
Bob Corker, the retiring Republican chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, accused Trump of acting like a public relations agent for the Saudi government.
I never thought I’d see the day a White House would moonlight as a public relations firm for the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. https://t.co/MQ4JsoQtqk
— Senator Bob Corker (@SenBobCorker) November 20, 2018
The incoming US House Intelligence Committee chairman, Adam Schiff, said Trump’s statement harms Washington’s standing in the world.
“To say ‘maybe he did and maybe he didn’t,’ or that we are incapable of finding out the truth, or that knowing the truth our silence can be bought with arms sales, undermines the Presidency, credibility of our intelligence professionals, and our role as a champion of human rights,” the congressman said on Twitter.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, said she was “shocked” by the president’s decision not to impose consequences on the Saudi crown prince, also known as MBS, for the murder.
“I plan to vote against any future arms sales and appropriation to Saudi Arabia. I also believe that the United States should consider sanctions against the crown prince and that the Saudi ambassador to the United States should not be allowed to continue in that role,” Feinstein said in a statement.
Left-wing Senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders also condemned Trump’s “rambling and dishonest” statement.
Sanders dismissed the White House’s assertion that Tehran, not Riyadh, is to blame for the war in Yemen.
“Trump is clearly very afraid of the prospect of the Senate delivering a serious rebuke to his policy by voting to end U.S. support for the Yemen war. But that is exactly what we will do when we vote on SJ Res 54 next week,” Sanders wrote on Twitter.
The President’s failure to hold Saudi Arabia responsible in any meaningful way for the death of Jamal Khashoggi is just one more example of this White House’s retreat from American leadership on issues like human rights and protecting the free press.
— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) November 20, 2018
Senior Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said although international diplomacy requires dealing with “bad actors and imperfect situations,” the US should not lose its “moral voice” at the world stage.
“While Saudi Arabia is a strategic ally, the behavior of the Crown Prince – in multiple ways – has shown disrespect for the relationship and made him, in my view, beyond toxic,” Graham wrote on Twitter.
“I firmly believe there will be strong bipartisan support for serious sanctions against Saudi Arabia, including appropriate members of the royal family, for this barbaric act which defied all civilized norms.”
Saudi officials have repeatedly denied that the crown prince had any knowledge of the plan to murder Khashoggi or cover up the crime. Still, human rights groups, journalists, UN experts and others have pointed the finger at MBS, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, saying it’s impossible the crown prince was not involved.
Former CIA chief John Brennan, meanwhile, urged the US intelligence agency to release its finding on the murder, criticising Trump’s dishonesty.
“Since Mr. Trump excels in dishonesty, it is now up to members of Congress to obtain & declassify the CIA findings on Jamal Khashoggi’s death. No one in Saudi Arabia – most especially the Crown Prince – should escape accountability for such a heinous act,” he wrote on Twitter.
Brennan has been an outspoken critic of Trump, and previously had his security clearance revoked by the White House.
Iran’s foreign minister weighs in
Trump also used his statement on Khashoggi and Saudi Arabia Tuesday to criticise the Iranian government, saying strong ties between Washington and Riyadh were necessary in “the fight against Iran”.
Shortly after the US president’s comments were made public, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Trump’s decision to bring Tehran into the crisis was “shameful”.
“Mr. Trump bizarrely devotes the FIRST paragraph of his shameful statement on Saudi atrocities to accuse IRAN of every sort of malfeasance he can think of,” Zarif wrote on Twitter.
Zarif then made a dig at Trump’s suggestion – which came over the weekend after a massive, deadly wildfire ravaged parts of California – that Finland prevents wildfires by raking leaves.
“Perhaps we’re also responsible for the California fires, because we didn’t help rake the forests – just like the Finns do?” the Iranian foreign minister asked sarcastically.