“Lavish me with praise and money” and “we will turn our head” – Trump and Khashoggi’s killing
The attitude of United States president, Donald Trump towards Saudi Arabia and Kashoggi’s killing has come under fire from various quarters.
Speaking Wednesday on the BBC, Corker said Trump’s remarks reflected a complete “lack of moral standing.” He said Trump seemed to be saying, “Lavish me with praise and money” and “we will turn our head” when it comes to killing a journalist.
Trump’s refusal to abandon the crown prince wasn’t the first time U.S. administrations have supported strongmen in spite of human rights abuses.
President Barack Obama continued backing Abdel Fattah al-Sisi after the Egyptian leader’s forces killed more than 800 protesters in 2013. And the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein got arms and U.S. backing for years despite his unleashing gas attacks on his enemies.
Yet Trump’s message, whose second sentence said “the world is a dangerous place,” comes when many are accusing Saudi Arabia of increasing that danger, especially with its 33-year-old leader’s no-holds-barred approach to critics.
In the three years since his father became king, the crown prince has consolidated his influence by pushing out his rivals, blackmailing opponents and imprisoning activists.
“It reflects the mind-set of the (Saudi) government, the feeling they can do anything,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division, in an interview on Wednesday.
Whitson added that some of those imprisoned face the death penalty. “What happens to them may be something that Trump’s remarks have a role to play in,” she warned.
“Rather than reining (the crown prince) in, Trump has given him the green light.”
Trump’s statement – which excoriated Iran, exaggerated Saudi Arabia’s U.S. investments and only mentioned Khashoggi’s killing in the fifth paragraph – was celebrated in the kingdom.
In the 633-word statement, Trump cast doubt on the CIA’s reported high degree of confidence that Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, ordered the journalist’s killing and sent his allies to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, to carry it out on Oct. 2
“It’s all about America First,” Trump said in the statement, which exaggerated the financial gains U.S. companies stood to earn from Saudi arms deals. He also linked his actions to oil prices, something previous presidents avoided doing, and lied about his personal financial dealings with Riyadh, saying falsely that he had no business investments in the kingdom. He previously boasted about selling millions of dollars worth of apartments to Saudis.
He took the decision yesterday that the relationship with Saudi Arabia is a strategic one and that he wouldn’t let the tragedy of Khashoggi affect this relationship,” said Ahmad Farraj, a Saudi academic and commentator with the United Arab Emirates-based Trends Research and Advisory think tank.
Trump’s statement “proved he was a true, solid leader,” Farraj said in an interview Wednesday, claiming that other countries were trying to politicize Khashoggi’s death to damage U.S.-Saudi relations. “He did not submit to the pressures,” he said.
But Trump’s clear indication of his priorities infuriated other parties in the region, including putative U.S. allies as well as those who have looked to Washington to further human rights in the area.
“Yesterday’s statement is a comic statement,” Numan Kurtulmus, a leading Turkish politician, said Wednesday.