In an extraordinary statement pre-empting and defying his intelligence agencies, Donald Trump gives unconditional support to Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
A series of Saudi statements have crumbled since Khashoggi was killed and dismembered by a 15-member team, despatched from Riyadh, in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on October 2.
But soon after the killing, Trump put the priority on US arms sales to the Kingdom, including a $110 billion deal announced during his visit to Riyadh in May 2017. Last week, after media published a summary of a CIA assessment concluding that the Crown Prince was responsible, Trump repeated that Saudi Arabia provided the US with “jobs”, “business”, and “economic development”.
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Trump said then that a full report on the killing would be issued Tuesday night. But yesterday afternoon, he issued a statement with the trademark slogans and exclamation points of his Twitter feed.
The declaration began, “America First! The world is a very dangerous place!” Trump then pointed to another motive for unwaving support of the Saudi monarchy — the Administration’s campaign for regime change in Iran:
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.”
He invoked the $110 billion arms deal as part of a Saudi agreement “to spend and invest $450 billion in the United States”, a “record amount of money” to “create hundreds of thousands of jobs”.
After slyly repeating unfounded claims that have justified the murder — “Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an ‘enemy of the state’ and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood” — Trump handed down his absolution of Mohammed bin Salman:
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!
Repeating that Saudi Arabia is “a great ally in our very important fight against Iran”, Trump then called to his base to stand against any legislators — including Republicans — who still want action against Riyadh: “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!”
Having taken a cautious line amid the dispute between Trump and the CIA, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave the President cover with the declaration that the US must remain allied with the Saudi monarchy in a “mean, nasty world”.