‘Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!’

No new pun­ish­ment for crown prince in mur­der: Trump

The Peterborough Examiner - - Canada & World - DEB RIECHMANN

WASH­ING­TON — U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said Tues­day his coun­try will not pun­ish Saudi Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man at this time nor cut arms sales to Saudi Ara­bia for the killing of U.S.-based colum­nist Ja­mal Khashoggi.

Trump called the killing of Khashoggi in­side the Saudi con­sulate in Is­tan­bul a “hor­ri­ble crime” that the U.S. does not con­done, but said Saudi Ara­bia is a “great ally” and can­celling bil­lions in arms sales would only ben­e­fit China and Rus­sia, which would be glad to step in and make the sales.

Trump’s de­ci­sion, an­nounced in a state­ment re­leased just be­fore he left for the long Thanks­giv­ing week­end in Flor­ida, will dis­ap­point and anger crit­ics who have called for a much firmer re­buke to the king­dom and es­pe­cially bin Sal­man.

U.S. in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials have con­cluded that bin Sal­man, the king­dom’s de fac­tor leader, or­dered the Oct. 2 killing, ac­cord­ing to a U.S. of­fi­cial fa­mil­iar with the as­sess­ment. Oth­ers fa­mil­iar with the case cau­tion that while it’s likely that the crown prince had a role in the death there con­tinue to be ques­tions about the de­gree to which he was in­volved.

The U.S. ear­lier sanc­tioned 17 Saudi of­fi­cials sus­pected of be­ing re­spon­si­ble for or com­plicit in the killing, but mem­bers of Con­gress have called for harsher ac­tions.

Trump said Tues­day in his state­ment that the king of Saudi Ara­bia and the crown prince “vig­or­ously deny” any knowl­edge of the plan­ning or ex­e­cu­tion of the mur­der of Khashoggi.

“Our in­tel­li­gence agen­cies con­tinue to as­sess all in­for­ma­tion, but it could very well be that the crown prince had knowl­edge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Trump said. “That be­ing said, we may never know all of the facts sur­round­ing the mur­der of Mr. Ja­mal Khashoggi. In any case, our re­la­tion­ship is with the King­dom of Saudi Ara­bia. They have been a great ally in our very im­por­tant fight against Iran.”

He said the U.S. in­tends to re­main a stead­fast part­ner of Saudi Ara­bia to en­sure the in­ter­ests of the United States. “Amer­ica First!” he wrote.

Trump said he knows some mem­bers of Con­gress will dis­agree with his de­ci­sion. He said he would lis­ten to their ideas, but only if they are fo­cused on U.S. na­tional se­cu­rity.

Late last week, a bi­par­ti­san group of sen­a­tors in­tro­duced leg­is­la­tion that calls for sus­pend­ing weapons sales to Saudi Ara­bia; sanc­tions on peo­ple who block hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­cess in Ye­men or sup­port the Houthi rebels; and manda­tory sanc­tions on those re­spon­si­ble for Khashoggi’s death.

France’s top diplo­mat said Mon­day that his coun­try was mulling sanc­tions against Saudi Ara­bia. And Ger­many on Mon­day an­nounced that it has banned 18 Saudi na­tion­als from en­ter­ing Europe’s bor­der-free Schen­gen zone be­cause of their sus­pected con­nec­tions to the killing. Ger­man of­fi­cials, who ear­lier banned new weapons ex­ports to Riyadh, also said they were halt­ing pre­vi­ously ap­proved arms ex­ports.

Some for­eign pol­icy ex­perts have not only rec­om­mended tougher puni­tive mea­sures against Saudi Ara­bia, but have ad­vo­cated for a com­plete re­set on re­la­tions with Riyadh.

MARK WIL­SON GETTY IM­AGES

U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo on Tues­day in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., af­ter meet­ing with the Turk­ish for­eign min­is­ter. Ja­mal Khashoggi was mur­dered in the Saudi con­sulate in Is­tan­bul on Oct. 2.

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