Trump de­fends Saudi arms deal

Weekend Herald - - World - Photo / AP

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has de­fended con­tin­u­ing huge sales of US weapons to Saudi Ara­bia de­spite ris­ing pres­sure from law­mak­ers to pun­ish the king­dom over the dis­ap­pear­ance of a Saudi journalist who lived in the United States and is now feared dead.

As sen­a­tors pushed for sanc­tions un­der a hu­man rights law and also ques­tioned Amer­i­can sup­port for the Saudi-led bomb­ing cam­paign in Ye­men, Trump ap­peared re­luc­tant to rock the boat in a re­la­tion­ship that has been key to his strat­egy in the Mid­dle East and which he de­scribed as “ex­cel­lent”. He said with­hold­ing sales would hurt the US econ­omy.

“I don’t like stop­ping mas­sive amounts of money that’s been pour­ing into our coun­try. They are spend­ing US$110 bil­lion ($168.7b) on mil­i­tary equip­ment,” Trump said, re­fer­ring to pro­posed sales an­nounced in May 2017 when he went to Saudi Ara­bia in the first over­seas trip of his pres­i­dency. He warned that the Saudis could in­stead buy from Rus­sia or China.

Trump main­tained that the US is be­ing “very tough” as it looks into the case of Ja­mal Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi lead­er­ship and a con­trib­u­tor to the who has been miss­ing since Oc­to­ber 2. He had en­tered a Saudi con­sulate in the Turk­ish city of Is­tan­bul to get mar­riage pa­per­work as his fi­ancee waited out­side and hasn’t been seen since.

Turk­ish of­fi­cials say they fear Saudi Ara­bia killed and dis­mem­bered Khashoggi but have of­fered no ev­i­dence be­yond video footage of the journalist en­ter­ing the con­sulate and the ar­rival in the coun­try of what they de­scribe as a 15-mem­ber Saudi team that al­legedly tar­geted him.

Saudi Ara­bia has de­nied the al­le­ga­tion as “base­less”.

In Is­tan­bul, Turk­ish me­dia said that Saudi royal guards, in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cers, sol­diers and an au­topsy ex­pert had been part of the team flown in and tar­get­ing Khashoggi. Those re­ported de­tails, along with com­ments from Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan, ap­peared aimed at grad­u­ally pres­sur­ing Saudi Ara­bia to re­veal what hap­pened while also bal­anc­ing a need to main­tain Saudi in­vest­ments in Turkey and re­la­tions on other is­sues.

The Wash­ing­ton Post, cit­ing anony­mous Amer­i­can of­fi­cials, said Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man had pre­vi­ously or­dered an op­er­a­tion to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Ara­bia and de­tain him.

Mean­while, a spokesman for Er­do­gan told the Anadolu news agency that Turkey and Saudi Ara­bia would form a “joint work­ing group” to look into the dis­ap­pear­ance.

Ja­mal Khashoggi has been miss­ing since Oc­to­ber 2.

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