In the month and a half since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, President Trump has repeatedly made clear that he intended to do very little about it. In the end, however, he not only gave the Saudis a pass on the murder, but loudly defended them as an “important ally against Iran.”
Trump claimed the Saudis have committed to spend $450 billion in the United States, once again underpinning this was the message that Khashoggi’s life simply wasn’t worth that much. It’s also noteworthy that this is the highest dollar figure yet quoted by Trump.
As far as Khashoggi’s murder went, Trump said the US doesn’t condone it, but dismissed the CIA assessment of the crown prince’s responsibility, saying that “we may never know all of the facts,” and insisting that it is in the interests of the US and Israel to move on with supporting the Saudis.
The decision was quickly derided in Congress, with Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) accusing the White House of moonlighting as a “public relations firm for the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.” A number of senators have been advocating moves against the Saudis over the murder, including cutting off arms sales to the Saudis.
The arms sales were already controversial because of Saudi war crimes in Yemen, though here too Trump tried to blame Iran, falsely claiming that the Saudis “would gladly withdraw from Yemen if the Iranians would agree to leave,” even though there is no sign of any Iranian presence on the ground in Yemen in the first place.
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