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Donald Trump in convenient denial over Crown Prince Bin Salman’s role in the murder of Khashoggi

Trump’s Utter Denial About Saudi Arabia and Its Crown Prince, New Yorker, By Robin Wright,November 20, 2018

So much for American justice. In a statement both stunning and coldhearted, President Trump on Tuesday

gave Saudi Arabia a pass on the grisly murder and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the

name of U.S. national security. He blithely rejected a U.S. intelligence assessment as well as damning

physical evidence provided by Turkey indicating that the kingdom’s de-facto ruler, Crown Prince

Mohammed bin Salman, authorized the Saudi dissident’s execution, in Istanbul, on October 2nd. The President

of the United States sounded more like a defense attorney—or lobbyist—for the oil-rich kingdom than

a protector of American values.

“It could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event—maybe he did and maybe

he didn’t!” Trump said in a two-page statement. He condemned the Khashoggi assassination as an

“unacceptable and horrible crime,” but then said Saudi Arabia was too important a purchaser of U.S. weaponry,

an exporter of oil, and an ally in “our very important fight against Iran” to take punitive action. “The United

States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country,” Trump said.

“Very simply,” he concluded, “it is called America First!”

The President’s statement was riddled with falsehoods and contradictions. He embraced the “vigorous” denials

from King Salman and his tempestuous young heir, Prince Mohammed—even though several members of the fifteen-man hit squad that killed Khashoggi worked for the crown prince, who is known by his initials, M.B.S. Trump based his justification on what he claimed was the kingdom’s promise to invest or spend four hundred and fifty billion dollars, including a hundred and ten billion dollars in arms purchases, in the United States. Last month, however, Politifact concluded that Trump’s claim earned a “pants

on fire” rating. “Orders on that scale don’t exist” and are only a “mirage,” it said. “There is no data behind the $450

billion, and the $110 billion is a blend of smaller deals in progress, old offers”—from the Obama era—“that have

not come through, and speculative discussions that have yet to move forward.”

Saudi Arabia, in fact, has only followed through so far on fourteen and a half billion dollars in arms and aircraft,

the State Department acknowledged last month. Other deals are merely vague memorandums of understanding

that cover the next decade, not this year. On Tuesday, a new report by the Center for International Policy also

called Trump’s claims “wildly exaggerated”—and noted that many of the jobs created from the arms sales are

in Saudi Arabia, not the United States.

Washington is also far from dependent on Riyadh’s oil wealth. Rather, the Center for International Policy’s new

report detailed the kingdom’s “extreme dependence” on the United States. With the U.S.-Saudi relationship

under scrutiny after Khashoggi’s murder, “it’s important to remember that the United States has substantial

leverage over Saudi behavior,” William Hartung, the director of the center’s Arms and Security Project, wrote.

“The Saudi military depends on U.S. arms, spare parts and maintenance to carry out its brutal war in Yemen

and could not prosecute that war for long without that support.”

The President’s comments, which flouted a C.I.A. assessment that M.B.S. likely ordered Khashoggi’s death,

provoked scorn, dismay, and outrage from human-rights groups, politicians, and foreign-policy experts.

Joseph Cirincione, the president of the Ploughshares Fund, a global-security foundation, told me, “This is,

without a doubt, the most uninformed, toady, poorly written, categorically untrue statement I have ever seen

a President of the United States make. His statement has provoked such a strong, overwhelmingly negative

reaction for good reason: it raises serious questions about the President’s fitness for office.”

Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of the Middle East division of Human Rights Watch, told me that

Trump’s statement “isn’t just immoral, it’s reckless and will come back to haunt and hurt U.S. interests.” She

said the crown prince has proved to be “an impulsive, sadistic, unhinged leader” who has destabilized the

region, most notably by launching the deadly war in Yemen, in 2015. “This only signals to tyrants around

the world that it’s open season on journalists and critics, wherever they are, so long as they’re cozy with Trump.”

The former U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power, who won the Pulitzer Prize for her book on efforts to halt

genocide and other war crimes, tweeted that the President’s remarks were “an abomination that will define

the ignorance, corruption, cruelty and recklessness of this presidency for generations to come.” The former

nato Ambassador Nicholas Burns, a career diplomat who is now at Harvard’s Belfer Center, called Trump’s

seven-paragraph statement “beyond embarrassing. It is shameful. He cites uncritically the MBS smear that

Khashoggi was a traitor. He argues the U.S. can’t afford to alienate Riyadh due to oil+Iran. He is silent on

our most important interest—Justice.”…….

Trump, apparently, believes that his policies could be endangered if he spurns Prince Mohammed, who has

amassed authoritarian powers. The Prince is now gaming his own rehabilitation, which Trump’s statement

will help. The Saudi press recently reported that M.B.S. will represent the kingdom at the annual G20

summit of the world’s twenty most important economies, which is next week in Buenos Aires. Trump is

expected to meet with the crown prince there…….

November 24, 2018 - Posted by | politics international, USA

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