Congress and Western Allies Demand Answers on Fate of Journalist as Saudi Arabia Balks

October 9, 2018 - Istanbul, Turkey - Protestors demonstrate at the entrance of Saudi Arabia consulate over the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, on October 9, 2018, in Istanbul. The journalist disappeared a week ago after entering Saudi Arabia's consulate to obtain paperwork required for marriage to his Turkish fiancee. Turkish officials have alleged he was killed in the compound while Saudi officials say he left the building unharmed. (Depo Photos/Zuma Press/TNS)

October 14, 2018

By Laura King

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump faced growing pressure from congressional allies and Western partners to vigorously seek answers from Saudi Arabia over the fate of Jamal Khashoggi, even as the kingdom on Sunday harshly threatened anyone seeking to punish its ruling royals over the journalist’s disappearance and reported death.

Khashoggi, a former palace insider turned critic of Saudi Arabia’s absolute monarchy and of its impetuous young crown prince in particular, walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on Oct. 2 and has not been seen since. The journalist lived in Virginia and wrote opinion columns for The Washington Post.

Saudi Arabia had until now confined itself to disavowing any knowledge of what happened to Khashoggi, saying he freely left the consulate, but on Sunday the kingdom unleashed threats of major economic retaliation against anyone who sought to act against it.

“The kingdom affirms its total rejection of any threats and attempts to undermine it, whether through economic sanctions, political pressure or repeating false accusations,” said the official communique from Riyadh, which did not mention Khashoggi by name.

It added that if Saudi Arabia is targeted, “it will respond with greater action.”

Trump, who has sealed a close alliance with the kingdom, was initially silent about Khashoggi’s disappearance. Amid reports that there was audio and video proof that the journalist had been killed and his body dismembered in the consulate, Trump said it was important to find out what happened. But he rejected the idea of a retaliatory cutoff of arms sales to Saudi Arabia if the reports were borne out.

In an interview taped for airing Sunday on “60 Minutes,” Trump said proof of Saudi involvement in anything “terrible and disgusting” that had befallen Khashoggi would be met with “severe punishment.”

But the president, who sometimes publicly touts denials of wrongdoing by those he supports as evidence of innocence, said Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had spoken by phone with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and disavowed knowledge of anything untoward.

“They deny it,” Trump said. “They deny it every way you can imagine.”

Congress has taken a far tougher stance, and even GOP allies of the president insisted that Saudi Arabia must produce proof it did not harm Khashoggi.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Khashoggi’s fate was still unknown, but that it was incumbent on Saudi Arabia to provide swift answers.

“I can tell you he walked into that consulate, and we have never seen him come out. And something happened,” Rubio said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “And if he’s not alive, then it is the Saudis who would know what happened.”

If Saudi culpability is established, Rubio predicted lawmakers would act in concert in support of punitive measures, despite Trump’s aversion to using an arms cutoff as punishment.

“If this is proven to be true, there is going to be a response from Congress,” he said. “It’s going to be nearly unanimous. It’s going to be swift. And it’s going to go pretty far.”

In a separate interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Rubio was asked whether Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin should cancel his appearance at a high-profile upcoming economic gathering in Saudi Arabia. The senator said the United States should not conduct “business as usual” while the Khashoggi disappearance is unresolved.

The White House’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” defended Mnuchin’s plan to attend the conference later this month, although some influential business leaders have dropped out.

“He’s intending to go because of the importance of the issue of ending terrorist financing,” Kudlow said, adding that plans could change.

Meanwhile, Germany, Britain and France expressed “grave concern” over the Khashoggi affair and said Saudi Arabia needed to provide a “complete and detailed” account of what had happened to the journalist.

The joint statement also offered an understated but sharp contrast to Trump’s frequent depiction of the news media as an “enemy of the people.”

“Defending freedom of expression and a free press and ensuring the protection of journalists are key priorities for Germany, the United Kingdom and France,” the statement said.

A number of retired intelligence professionals have said that any move to kidnap or kill Khashoggi would have had to come at the behest of the highest echelons of the Saudi government. Former CIA director John Brennan, a frequent Trump critic, said on “Meet the Press” that the Saudi denials “ring hollow.”

It would be “inconceivable,” Brennan added, that such an operation would take place without “the knowledge of the day-to-day decision maker of Saudi Arabia — that’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The Saudi statement denouncing a “campaign of false allegations and falsehoods” against the kingdom was unprecedentedly strident, coming from the Trump administration’s closest Arab ally. Hours later, the Saudi Embassy in Washington sought to soften the tone by offering up seeming praise for Trump’s thus-far noncommittal stance.

“To help clarify (the) recently issued Saudi statement, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia extends its appreciation to all, including the U.S. administration, for refraining from jumping to conclusions on the ongoing investigation,” the embassy tweeted.

———

©2018 Los Angeles Times

Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Foreign Affairs

Resolution Supporting Three Seas Initiative Unanimously Passes House
Foreign Affairs
Resolution Supporting Three Seas Initiative Unanimously Passes House
November 24, 2020
by Sean Trambley

WASHINGTON – Last week, a bipartisan resolution introduced by Reps. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., and Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, supporting the Three Seas Initiative unanimously passed the U.S. House of Representatives. The Three Seas Initiative is a strategic partnership of twelve Central and Eastern European nations with the... Read More

Biden Looks to Rehire Diplomats, Others Fired by Trump to Rebuild State Department
Dep. of State
Biden Looks to Rehire Diplomats, Others Fired by Trump to Rebuild State Department

WASHINGTON — Five days after President Donald Trump took office, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, assistant secretary of State for African Affairs, was summarily fired — the start of what was to become a purge of senior State Department officials and career professionals over nearly four years. Now Thomas-Greenfield is back, leading President-elect Joe Biden's State Department transition... Read More

EU Auditors: Antitrust Probes Too Slow to Curb Tech Giants
European Union
EU Auditors: Antitrust Probes Too Slow to Curb Tech Giants

LONDON (AP) — The EU's efforts to rein in the power of big tech companies such as Google and Facebook through antitrust investigations have taken too long, dulling their effectiveness, a report said Thursday. Legal tools available to the bloc's competition regulators, meanwhile, have not kept... Read More

A Look at Trans-Atlantic Cooperation After the US Election
Foreign Affairs
A Look at Trans-Atlantic Cooperation After the US Election
November 17, 2020
by Kate Michael

WASHINGTON — The recent U.S. election left much for both Americans and European allies to process in terms of the shaping of U.S. politics and global affairs.  President-elect Biden, historically a committed trans-Atlanticist, has reaffirmed his commitment to European allies in early statements post-election.  Yet doubts... Read More

Bipartisan Coalition Leads Charge to Strengthen Partnerships with African Nations
Foreign Affairs
Bipartisan Coalition Leads Charge to Strengthen Partnerships with African Nations
November 16, 2020
by Sean Trambley

WASHINGTON – Reps. Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., Anthony G. Brown, D-Md., Austin Scott, R-Ga., and Richard Hudson, R-N.C., have introduced the Africa Foreign Relations, International Cooperation, and Assistance Act, H.R. 8186, to enhance security and economic partnerships between the United States and African countries.   The bill requires... Read More

World Watches, Worries and Wags a Finger as US Election Count Drags On
Foreign Affairs
World Watches, Worries and Wags a Finger as US Election Count Drags On

SINGAPORE — Transfixed by a U.S. presidential vote that failed to swiftly yield a clear winner, a watching world responded Wednesday with a mixture of worry, disbelief and, in some quarters, scorn. Many foreign allies weighed in with precisely the kind of counsel that U.S. diplomats and officials for generations have... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top