Khashoggi murder: Trump ignores US leverage over Riyadh

Khashoggi murder: Trump ignores US leverage over Riyadh

Riyadh: US President Donald Trump has doubled down on his partnership with Saudi Arabia, calling it an indispensable ally after a journalist's grisly murder, but critics say his position ignores Washington's enormous leverage over Riyadh.

Trump on Tuesday gave Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman a pass on Jamal Khashoggi's murder, glossing over the Central Intelligence Agency's reported conclusion that the kingdom's de facto ruler had authorised the killing.

"Maybe he did and maybe he didn't!" Trump said, implying Prince Mohammed's culpability in Khashoggi's killing in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 hardly matters.
What does, he asserted, was the Gulf kingdom's role as a bulwark against rival Iran, its multi-billion dollar investments in the US -- including several arms deals -- and its perceived stranglehold on global oil prices.

Trump was widely pilloried for what critics called his mercantile priorities that made him appear more like a lobbyist for the oil-rich kingdom, raising the prospect of strong congressional action against Saudi Arabia.
But Trump's firm backing of the kingdom in the face of global outrage reinforced what officials in Riyadh often say: the US-Saudi relationship is too big to fail.

"Structural ties -- intelligence, counterterrorism cooperation and energy -- really are too big not only to fail but to place at risk," said Hussein Ibish, a scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.
"But transactional aspects of the relationship -- weapons sales, investments that are valued by Trump -- shouldn't become an excuse to make a Faustian pact and turn a blind eye to justice."