Trump: Saudi Arabia will remain ‘steadfast partner’ of U.S. after journalist’s murder
President Trump said Tuesday that the U.S. will remain “a steadfast partner” of Saudi Arabia despite its government being implicated in the murder of a dissident journalist, citing the kingdom’s help in fighting Iran and its importance as a source of oil.
“We may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi,” Mr. Trump said in a statement. “In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. 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 said if Congress wants to punish Saudi Arabia for the killing, “they are free to do so.” But Mr. Trump said he will always place U.S. national security as his first priority.
“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. “After the United States, Saudi Arabia is the largest oil producing nation in the world. They have worked closely with us and have been very responsive to my requests to keeping oil prices at reasonable levels so important for the world.”
The president’s announcement came on the same day he was expected to have received a thorough intelligence assessment on the culpability for the killing of Mr. Khashoggi, a legal U.S. resident. He was killed on Oct. 2 at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
The U.S. has audiotapes of Mr. Khashoggi being tortured and killed; Mr. Trump said he won’t listen to the “vicious” recordings.
Many current and former U.S. officials say the murder, which was carried out by at least 17 Saudi operatives, could not have taken place without the approval of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has day-to-day control in the kingdom and is a key ally of the administration.
“King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi,” Mr. Trump said. “Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”
Former CIA Director John O. Brennan, an outspoken critic of Mr. Trump, called on Congress to publicize the CIA’s report on the murder.
“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,” Mr. Brennan tweeted. “No one in Saudi Arabia most especially the Crown Prince should escape accountability for such a heinous act.”
The president’s statement also raised contentions that Mr. Khashoggi, who wrote columns for The Washington Post, was a subversive.
“Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an ‘enemy of the state’ and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but my decision is in no way based on that this is an unacceptable and horrible crime,” Mr. Trump said. “After great independent research, we now know many details of this horrible crime. We have already sanctioned 17 Saudis known to have been involved in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi, and the disposal of his body.”
Human-rights groups, and lawmakers in both parties in Congress, have been calling for the administration to sanction Saudi Arabia and reassess the U.S. alliance with the kingdom.
Mr. Trump outlined a foreign policy that essentially reaffirms the position of Saudi Arabia, a longtime ally of the U.S., as the most dependable Arab partner in a region that includes adversaries such as Iran, Syria and Islamist terrorist networks.
“The world is a very dangerous place!” Mr. Trump said in the statement. “The country of Iran, as an example, is responsible for a bloody proxy war against Saudi Arabia in Yemen, trying to destabilize Iraq’s fragile attempt at democracy, supporting the terror group Hezbollah in Lebanon, propping up dictator Bashar Assad in Syria (who has killed millions of his own citizens), and much more.”
He said Iranians “have killed many Americans and other innocent people throughout the Middle East.”
“Iran states openly, and with great force, ‘Death to America!’ and ‘Death to Israel!‘” Mr. Trump said. “Iran is considered ‘the world’s leading sponsor of terror.’ Saudi Arabia has agreed to spend billions of dollars in leading the fight against radical Islamic terrorism.”
The president also put a price tag on the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia, saying the kingdom is a crucial customer for American businesses.
“After my heavily negotiated trip to Saudi Arabia last year, the Kingdom agreed to spend and invest $450 billion in the United States,” Mr. Trump said. “This is a record amount of money. It will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, tremendous economic development, and much additional wealth for the United States. Of the $450 billion, $110 billion will be spent on the purchase of military equipment from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and many other great U.S. defense contractors.”
He asserted, “If we foolishly cancel these contracts, Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries and very happy to acquire all of this newfound business. It would be a wonderful gift to them directly from the United States!”