This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
OK
Dublin: 12 °C Wednesday 24 April, 2019
Advertisement

'We’re not gonna give up hundreds of billions of dollars' - Trump cites oil prices and sticks by Saudi Arabia

The US President acknowledged that Mohammed bin Salman may have known about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

U.S.-WASHINGTON D.C.-TRUMP-MUELLER-RUSSIA PROBE Trump departing the White House yesterday. Source: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP has cited oil prices and business deals as reasons to stick by ally Saudi Arabia, even while admitting that de facto leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may have been behind the brutal murder of a dissident journalist.

“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 statement.

“We may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr Jamal Khashoggi. In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” he said. “The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner.”

The gruesome murder of Khashoggi, who vanished after being lured into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October, has hugely embarrassed Washington.

But leaving the White House yesterday, Trump said his administration “would not give up hundreds of billions of dollars” from Saudi Arabia.

“It’s America first to me, it’s all about America first. We’re not gonna give up hundreds of billions of dollars in orders and let Russia, China and everyone else have them,” Trump told reporters.

It’s all about for me, it’s very simple, it’s all about America first. Saudi Arabia, if we broke with them I think your oil prices would go through the roof, I’ve kept them down, they’ve helped me keep them down. Right now we have low oil prices, or relatively. I’d like to see them go down further.

Kashoggi’s killing torpedoed a PR campaign led by the crown prince to show that the conservative Islamic state has embarked on a new reformist path.

It also threw into question the White House strategy to make MBS, as the royal is widely known, its main partner in the tinderbox region.

Trump has for weeks resisted accepting mounting evidence of Saudi government involvement in the Khashoggi killing — and accusations that MBS ordered the hit.

However, with The New York Times reporting that the CIA has definitively concluded that Prince Mohammed was involved, the focus turned to whether Trump would punish his Saudi partner or find a way to let it slide.

In his statement, released by the White House press office, Trump took the latter option, saying that the US-Saudi relationship was more important than the possible involvement of Crown Prince Mohammed in the crime.

‘Steadfast partner’

He noted that Saudi King Salman and the crown prince “vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr Khashoggi.”

Saudi Arabia, he said, provides crucial help in the US struggle to contain Iranian ambitions, as well as having committed to $450 billion in US weapons contracts and other investments.

“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,” the president added.

Trump acknowledged a push in Congress for the United States to sanction MBS and take other action against the Saudi leadership.

“I will consider whatever ideas are presented to me, but only if they are consistent with the absolute security and safety of America,” he said.

The Washington Post responded that Trump had placed “personal relationships and commercial interests above American interests in his desire to continue to do business as usual.”

“Trump is correct in saying the world is a very dangerous place. His surrender to this state-ordered murder will only make it more so,” the Post’s publisher and CEO Fred Ryan said in a statement.

Trump’s statement caps a steady campaign to delay judgement on the Saudis over the fate of Khashoggi, a US resident who was sometimes critical of MBS and wrote for the Post.

Long after Turkish sources and others had provided strong evidence that Khashoggi was murdered in the Istanbul consulate, the White House insisted that it was too early to tell.

After Saudi Arabia accepted responsibility and said that 21 people were in custody, with death penalties sought against five men, attention turned to whether MBS would be found culpable.

Again, Washington slow-pedaled, but the CIA report forced Trump into making a definitive statement.

Turkey Saudi Arabia Writer Killed A woman holds a poster during funeral prayers for Jamal Khashoggi Source: Emrah Gurel/PA Images

‘Nothing definitive’

While Trump told journalists that the CIA had found “nothing definitive,” US media reports described the intelligence agency’s analysis as concluding with “high confidence” that the crown prince ordered the murder.

Critics of the no-questions-asked relationship immediately attacked Trump.

“Since Mr Trump excels in dishonesty, it is now up to members of Congress to obtain & declassify the CIA findings on Jamal Khashoggi’s death,” tweeted John Brennan, a former CIA director and fierce Trump critic.

“No one in Saudi Arabia—most especially the Crown Prince—should escape accountability for such a heinous act.”

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has issued a mocking response to President Donald Trump’s stance on the Khashoggi murder.

“Mr. Trump bizarrely devotes the FIRST paragraph of his shameful statement on Saudi atrocities to accuse IRAN of every sort of malfeasance he can think of,” Zarif wrote on Twitter.

© – AFP 2018 with reporting by Rónán Duffy

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article
  •  

About the author:

AFP

Read next:

COMMENTS (83)

This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel