President Donald Trump has demanded answers from Saudi Arabia after the suspected murder of a US-based Saudi critic in Turkey, but ultimately seemed unwilling to block arms sales to the country. Saudi Arabia is widely suspected of having murdered Jamal Khashoggi in its Istanbul consulate October 2.
- President Donald Trump has demanded answers from Saudi Arabia after the suspected murder of a US-based Saudi critic in Turkey, but ultimately seemed unwilling to block arms sales to the country.
- Saudi Arabia is widely suspected of having murdered Jamal Khashoggi in its Istanbul consulate on October 2.
- US Senators and global authorities have expressed outrage at the critics disappearance, with one saying the US should consider halting arms sales.
- Trump on Wednesday said he didn’t want to block arms sales, which he’s often touted as a big achievement.
- Saudi Arabia stands accused of using US arms in war crimes in Yemen, but the US still arms them.
President Donald Trump has demanded answers from Saudi Arabia after the suspected murder of a US-based Saudi critic in Turkey, but has so far seemed unwilling to block arms sales to the country.
Jamal Khashoggi, 59, a prominent journalist and insider-turned-critic of Saudi Arabia’s monarchy, entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to file paperwork to get married. He never returned to his fiance, and the Saudis have not yet proven he ever left the building.
Turkish authorities alleged that a 15-person hit team flew in to kill and dispose of Khashoggi, and that Saudi officials have not cooperated in the investigation.
On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of 22 US senators called for an investigation of the incident that could bring sanctions down on Saudi Arabia, a staunch US ally. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said that if the Saudis did have Khashoggi killed, then the Senate could work to halt arms sales to the country.
But while Trump appeared to agree in principal that the case bore investigating, he told Fox News he didn’t go for curtailing arms sales, which he’s held up as a grand achievement of him improving ties with the Saudi monarchs.
“I think that would be hurting us,” Trump told “Fox News @ Night” on Wednesday of blocking arms sales to the Kingdom. “We have jobs, we have a lot of things happening in this country. We have a country that’s doing probably better economically than it’s ever done before.”
He continued: “Part of that is what we’re doing with our defense systems and everybody’s wanting them. And frankly I think that that would be a very, very tough pill to swallow for our country. I mean, you’re affecting us and, you know, they’re always quick to jump that way.”
Trump has embraced Saudi Arabia’s new leader, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, and on a trip to the country early in his administration signed a deal for $110 billion in planned arms sales to the Kingdom.
While Salman has moved to improve women’s rights, and loosen the grip of religious enforcement over the general population, he’s done so with a somewhat iron fist. Saudi Arabia still beheads and crucifies prisoners, and under Salman has responded harshly to even light criticism of its jailing of activists.
But American senators and activists have long called for the US to stop arms sales to Saudi Arabia, as the country stands accused of war crimes against civilians in Yemen. Recently, the Saudi-led coalition fighting rebels in Yemen admitted to an “unjustified” airstrike that killed 51 civilians — including 40 children — with US munitions and support.
Additionally, Saudi blockades of Yemeni ports have led to one of the most severe cholera outbreaks in modern times.
Through the three-year civil war in Yemen, the US has stood by its Saudi ally, and Trump on Wednesday seemed to indicate that Khashoggi’s case wouldn’t change that.
Saudi Arabia heavily relies on US military technology to defend against its chief regional rival, Iran, and its related proxies. But the US has long argued that if Saudi Arabia stops buying US arms, it would simply look to Russia or China to fill the need.