Trump readies limited punishment for Saudis
WASHINGTON – The Trump administration is preparing to end air refueling flights for the Saudi Arabian military campaign in Yemen and impose sanctions against Saudis linked to the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, current and former U.S. officials said Friday, moves that impose a limited punishment on the kingdom.
The steps appear calibrated to respond to international outrage over Khashoggi’s death and to thousands of civilian deaths in the Yemen war but avoid directly punishing the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, and could head off tougher congressional action.
Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi government who wrote for te Washington Post and lived in Virginia, was killed last month in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul by what the Turkish government has described as a kill team dispatched from Riyadh, the Saudi capital. President Trump has called Khashoggi’s killing a “very sad thing, very terrible thing,” but his administration has signaled it intends to continue working with Crown Prince Mohammed.
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-inlaw and senior adviser on the Middle East, is the prince’s biggest supporter in the White House.
Saudi Arabia is expected to announce next week that it will no longer use U.S. aerial refueling planes, a move the Pentagon will reinforce. A Pentagon spokeswoman declined to comment.
The Trump administration is also expected to soon announce economic sanctions against Saudi officials linked to Khashoggi’s murder, according to current and former officials.
They said senior officials at the White House and State and Treasury departments had discussed imposing the sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act, which gives the executive branch the power to punish foreign officials involved in human rights abuses.
The announcement could come in days.