Trump defends crown Saudi’s prince, says he ‘may or may not’ have known about Khashoggi’s murder

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Donald Trump has expressed his unstinting support for Saudi Arabia and questioned whether Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince, knew about the murder of the Washington Postcolumnist Jamal Khashoggi

US President Donald Trump has strongly defended ties with Saudi Arabia despite international condemnation of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.

The kingdom is a “steadfast partner” that has agreed to invest “a record amount of money” in the US, Mr Trump said in a statement.

Mr Khashoggi was murdered on 2 October on a visit to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

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.

Saudi Arabia has blamed the killing on rogue agents but denied claims that the crown prince had knowledge of the operation.

However, the CIA reportedly believes Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder .

Mr Trump’s statement said: “[It] could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”

In an interview on Sunday, the president told Fox News that he had refused to listen to a recording of Khashoggi’s murder provided by Turkey , calling it “a suffering tape”.

What does the statement say?

“The world is a very dangerous place!”, Mr Trump states, before holding up Saudi Arabia as an ally of the US against Iran.

The kingdom spent “billions of dollars in leading the fight against Radical Islamic Terrorism” whereas Iran has “killed many Americans and other innocent people throughout the Middle East”, it says.

The statement also stresses Saudi investment pledges and arms purchases. “If we foolishly cancel these contracts, Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries,” it adds.

While admitting the murder of Jamal Khashoggi was “terrible”, Mr Trump wrote that “we may never know all of the facts” about his death.

“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.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo echoed Mr Trump, saying after talks with the Turkish foreign minister that “it’s a mean, nasty world out there” and that the president was “obliged to adopt policies that further America’s national security”.

In a statement, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein said she was shocked the president was not going to punish Mohammed bin Salman over the “premeditated murder” of Khashoggi.

Donald Trump is a different kind of president, and nowhere is that more clear than in his foreign policy, exclamation points and all. His release on the death of Jamal Khashoggi is remarkable for many reasons, and not just its blunt language.

The president quickly tries to change the subject to Iran. He dismisses reports that Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder with a maybe-he-did, maybe-he-didn’t shrug. He cites the economic impact of $450bn in investment and arms sales to the Saudis, although much of that is little more than paper promises.

Perhaps most jarring is his casual observation that the Saudis viewed Khashoggi – a permanent US resident – as an “enemy of the state” with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Mr Trump has distilled his “America First” worldview down to its very essence. Morality and global leadership take a back seat to perceived US economic and military security.

Although the CIA is not said to have direct evidence linking Mohammed bin Salman to the murder, officials reportedly believe it could not have taken place without his approval.

But at the weekend, the state department said the US government was yet to reach a final conclusion on the killing, with “numerous unanswered questions” remaining.

The US – along with major powers such as France and Britain – has continued to sell arms to Saudi Arabia.

But on Monday the German government said it was blocking all arms deliveries to the kingdom, even those that had been previously approved.

 

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