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Trump’s Frankness and the Khashoggi Crisis

Trump’s Frankness and the Khashoggi Crisis

Thursday, 22 November, 2018 - 09:30
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad.

An anonymous source at the CIA said that the Saudi Crown Prince is responsible and another source, also anonymous, at the State Department was quoted as saying that there were reports that implicate Saudi Arabia in the crime. Afterwards, American President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denied this.

The leaks which seemed to be part of a campaign adopted by some American dailies were attributed to anonymous sources in the CIA, State Department and others and came after a drop in leaks by Turkish officials. All this pushed the White House to publicly announce that it was standing by the Saudi government in the controversy surrounding the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

This is why Trump chose to announce his administration’s statement in a long, written and frank statement. In order for the message to reach everyone, the president also made a public appearance and spoke to the press about his statement.

The Secretary of State also made a public appearance and confirmed the statement’s content. The White House, therefore, abandoned the game of leaks and psychological and media war.

Trump had previously clarified his legal stance that there is nothing that requires the government to intervene as neither the man killed is American nor the territory where he was killed is American. Trump also clarified that he is not convinced of the accusations and emphasized that Saudi Arabia is an important country for the US.

By doing so, he is trying to silence the parties exerting pressure, whether in the Congress, and most of them are from the rival Democratic Party, or Turkey, which he responded to by using its same approach as he leaked information to embarrass it. Turkey has been using the crime to push Trump to make concessions to release a convicted Turkish banker or hand over an opposition figure in exchange of stopping its campaign against Saudi Arabia.

The Khashoggi case is an incidental weapon in a battle that has already existed on the American arena for two years between the Republicans, the president’s party, and his rival Democrats. In this battle, personal accusations were made against the president, against his family and candidates of which the most recent was appointing a judge to the Supreme Court.

The ongoing pressure on Trump regarding Saudi Arabia preceded the Khashoggi case. It existed over support for the Yemeni war where his opponents have called on him to cease backing Saudi Arabia and the Arab coalition in the battle against the Houthis, Iran’s allies in the war-torn country. Now, pressure is being exerted to boycott Saudi Arabia, particularly to end arms sales and to stop military intelligence cooperation and inflight refueling of Saudi jets.

What are their demands? Stop the war in Yemen and withdraw Saudi troops and their allies there. Trump had a new response and said that Saudi Arabia does not want war and is willing to withdraw from Yemen now if Iran ends its support of the Houthis. It is futile to talk about deterring Saudi Arabia without making Iran - which has been behind the coup in Yemen all along - exit Yemen. Trump has made it his major foreign political project to confront Iran and he has in fact begun to impose sanctions to force Tehran to halt its nuclear military program and stop spreading chaos in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan and other countries.

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