WASHINGTON After Jamal Khashoggi entered Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul a little over a week ago and disappeared, leaders and media worldwide demanded the kingdom explain Turkish claims that the journalist had been killed by the Saudi government.
The US initially stayed relatively quiet — but pressure for a more robust response is increasing as lawmakers called for a probe into the 59-year-old’s fate.
A combination of Trump’s world view and his Middle East ambitions have meant the White House has been loath to criticize Saudi Arabia or Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s 33-year-old de facto ruler.
Trump has made clear that his administration will not make human rights overseas a priority; he and especially his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner maintain close ties to the crown prince; and Trump has long had business ties to Saudi Arabia, where he made his first foreign trip as President.
More crucially, Trump has established a trio of goals in the Middle East that depend on Saudi Arabia’s rulers and their money. The kingdom is central to the Trump administration’s goals on Middle East peace, its effort to fight ISIS in Syria and elsewhere, and its foreign policy priority of countering Iran.
That combination of factors explains low key US responses following aggressive Saudi foreign policy moves and the muted response to Khashoggi’s suspected assassination. They also create a dilemma for the White House, as lawmakers moved Wednesday to force a showdown over US values in foreign policy by triggering a human rights probe that could lead to sanctions.
“For this administration, getting into an issue like this is absolutely the worst-case scenario,” said Gerald Feierstein, a former ambassador to Yemen who now heads the Gulf Affairs Program at the Middle East Institute. “I’m sure they’re all wishing it would all go away. But the reaction in Washington is so strong, they probably can’t get away from that, so you’ll see increasingly strong statements from the administration. … I think that they see they have no choice but to respond to this.”
Khashoggi’s disappearance also raises questions about whether recent US policy toward the Saudis has emboldened them.
Moniz quits Saudis $500bn megaproject
Former US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is quitting a Saudi mega-project over the monarchys possible assassination of a dissident journalist.
Moniz said Wednesday that he was suspending his role in the proposed city mega-project after the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey.
The secretary of former President Barack Obama had been invited to join an international advisory board for the development of NEOM, worth $500 billion.
I share the deep concerns of many about the disappearance and possible assassination of Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. The recent trend in many countries of targeting journalists for doing their jobs is a fundamental threat to freedom of the press, human rights and the rule of law, he said. In particular, I have been asked to offer guidance on achieving zero net greenhouse gas emissions. Success with this vision will have global implications for a low-carbon future.
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