Wednesday, 19 December, 2018

Top US Officials Defend Close Saudi Ties Despite Khashoggi Killing

The Latest: Pompeo to defend role in Yemen before senators Saudi crown prince arrives in Argentina for G20 amid Khashoggi murder furor
| 30 November, 2018, 05:11

Senators after the briefing said they were upset the Trump administration did not allow the Central Intelligence Agency director to brief them on the murder of a Saudi journalist and indicated they would continue to raise the issue, including through legislative means.

The director of Canada's spy service travelled to Turkey and heard a recording of the Khashoggi's killing during a briefing provided by Turkish officials.

Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat who co-authored the bipartisan Yemen resolution, said he's open to considering a small number of amendments to his plan, but was anxious too many changes could weaken the proposal. In a statement, the American president said "foolishly" cancelling US$110-billion in arms sales - as some in Congress have suggested - would only mean that Saudi Arabia would go to other countries to acquire them.

He wrote that the Kingdom also contributed millions of dollars to the US-led effort to fight Daesh and other terrorist organizations.

Republican Senator Bob Corker joined Lindsay Graham in questioning the administration's handling of recent events.

The government of Saudi Arabia has been bombing and starving the Middle East's poorest country for about three years, now. If oil prices rise significantly, Riyadh probably wouldn't escape the ire of the White House.

The Republican-led Senate voted 63 to 37 on Wednesday to advance legislation which would end the US military's support of the Saudi-led war in Yemen. Khashoggi, a frequent contributor to The Washington Post and critic of the crown prince, was killed on October 2 inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. He added that "the Trump administration will consider further punitive measures if more facts about Khashoggi's murder come to light".

In short, the Khashoggi murder and Thursday's vote in the U.S. Senate puts pressure on Saudi Arabia to dial back any action it had planned on taking in Vienna.

To date, Trump's deputies have shown no indication of planning to change course.

But at least five of the Republican Senators who voted against the bill have received funding from lobbyists working for Saudi Arabia, a fact that illustrates how the Kingdom uses its vast wealth to influence US foreign policy.


Save the Children has said up to 85,000 Yemeni children may have died in the three-year-old conflict.

Lee, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Sen. He also argued that the resolution could thwart negotiations to secure a ceasefire - an argument lawmakers disputed.

Pompeo was asked why Haspel didn't accompany him and Mattis.

In a Wednesday opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, Pompeo characterised the reaction to Khashoggi's slaying as "Capitol Hill caterwauling and media pile-on". Her failure to testify was the result of an order from the White House, given that she would be compelled to either lie under oath or contradict the narrative advanced by Pompeo and Mattis.

The vote showed a significant number of Republicans were willing to break with Trump to express their deep dissatisfaction with Saudi Arabia and with the United States response to Khashoggi's brutal killing in Turkey last month.

"The Saudis, lobbyists, the Secretary of Defense, none of them have been able to stop this anger which is brewing". The U.S. government has turned a blind eye to these atrocities for years.

"We are working on an amendment that would strike what's on the floor and more fully express ourselves as to what our policy should be towards Saudi Arabia", Corker said.

As pressure to reduce United States military ties with the Saudis has increased, Riyadh has emphasised that it has other options, including with Russian Federation.

"The consulate should have been a safe refuge for any journalist, irrespective of their affiliation", Sakina Abdel Samad, secretary-general of the syndicate, said at a news conference on Monday. If they are successful, it will be the first time since the act was passed in 1973 that it has been used to end a foreign operation - putting the Senate in somewhat uncharted legislative territory. "Except we're firing with real bullets; these are real laws".

The Trump administration has threatened to veto the resolution if it passes.

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