Trump says he wants answers, yet acts differently

It looks as though Saudi Arabia has got away with allegedly killing a journalist- an outspoken critic of the Saudi regime- with little to no damage to its relations with the West. It is hardly surprising that it has happened.

This is what Saudi Arabia was banking on. When I was in the Middle East, as a journalist (and yes I have met Jamal Khashoggi) there was heavy censorship of editorial in all Gulf Co-Operation Council Countries (GCC). We often thought it was perhaps easier in Saudi Arabia, because what one could or could not write was so prescribed. In the United Arab Emirates, there is a great deal of self-censorship, and this can be hefty, because one does not know what "criticism" would constitute too much.

To go back to Khashoggi and the West. President Trump is clear that he is putting money- and American jobs- before human rights. This is what the Wall St Journal said.

By

David Gauthier-Villars in Istanbul and

Rebecca Ballhaus in Washington

Updated Oct. 17, 2018 11:41 p.m. ET

President Trump said he wanted answers in the disappearance and suspected murder of a dissident Saudi journalist but stressed the importance of protecting business and security ties with Saudi Arabia, as Washington tried to navigate a dispute pitting the kingdom against another regional power, Turkey.

Mr. Trump said he would receive a "full report" over Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo once he returned Wednesday night from his trip to Riyadh and Ankara, where he heard conflicting reports from Saudi and Turkish leaders.

"I want to find out what happened, where is the fault," Mr. Trump said. He pushed back on suggestions his administration was seeking to give cover to Saudi Arabia, while praising the country as an "important ally" and "tremendous purchaser" of military equipment from the U.S.

Mr. Trump also resisted the suggestion that he order the FBI to investigate Mr. Khashoggi's disappearance, telling reporters of the missing journalist: "He wasn't a citizen of this country."

Washington has emerged as a mediator between Saudi Arabia and Turkey, which are conducting separate probes into Mr. Khashoggi's disappearance. Turkish officials haven't disclosed the results of a search on Wednesday of the Saudi consulate general's residence in Istanbul and have said little about their nine-hour inspection of the consulate earlier this week. Mr. Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

After visiting Turkey and Saudi Arabia, Mr. Pompeo emphasized there are "lots of important relationships" among the U.S. and Saudi governments and businesses, particularly on countering Iran's influence in the Middle East. The Trump administration plans to impose a new round of sanctions on Iran next month, a stance that has put it at odds with its European allies and Turkey.

"We just need to make sure that we are mindful of that as we approach decisions that the United States government will take when we learn all of the facts associated with whatever may have taken place," he said.

Mr. Trump also questioned the existence of what Turkish officials said is an audio recording showing that Mr. Khashoggi was beaten, drugged and killed by Saudi agents. He said the U.S. had asked for the recording "if it exists." He added: "I am not sure yet that it exists—probably does, possibly does."

Turkish officials said they have shared audio recording evidence with U.S. authorities. A State Department spokeswoman said Mr. Pompeo hadn't heard any audio recording. Turkey hasn't said how it obtained the evidence. In their meetings with Mr. Pompeo, Saudi authorities continued to deny any involvement in Mr. Khashoggi's disappearance.

The journalist's disappearance has strained Saudi ties with the U.S. and other nations. A number of high-profile Western executives, as well as International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde, have pulled out of Saudi Arabia's premier investment conference, set for next week. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists plan to make a joint public appeal at the United Nations on Thursday for an independent probe into his disappearance.

Two Countries That Stand to Benefit From the Khashoggi Tragedy

The Journal's Gerald F. Seib discusses how Iran and Turkey might benefit from the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Mr. Trump initially warned that the kingdom would face reprisals if proof emerged of Riyadh's involvement in Mr. Khashoggi's disappearance

But Tuesday, Mr. Trump resisted calls to cut back U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia, saying the $100 billion in U.S.-Saudi arms deals are important to U.S. companies and workers. Mr. Pompeo echoed Mr. Trump's remarks on Wednesday, saying the trip to Saudi Arabia had covered a range of topics relating to U.S.- Saudi interests.

Mr. Pompeo declined to predict the outcome of the Saudi and Turkish investigations, or to telegraph the U.S. response.

"We're going to give them the space to complete their investigations of this incident, and when they issue their reports, we'll form our judgment about the thoroughness, depth and the decisions they make about accountability connected to that," he said. A day earlier, Mr. Pompeo said it was reasonable to believe Saudi authorities.

Turkish officials have said the audio recording shows that Saudi operatives beat, drugged, killed and dismembered Mr. Khashoggi minutes after walking into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, said people familiar with the matter. It wasn't clear whether Turkey gave the U.S. the actual recording or provided a description of it. The Wall Street Journal hasn't heard a recording.

Turkish demands to search the consul general's residence were a fresh point of conflict between the Saudis and the Turks after Riyadh canceled a planned inspection on Tuesday. Hours after Mr. Pompeo met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, however, Saudi authorities opened the residence's doors to Turkish investigators. The Saudi consul general, Mohammad al-Otaibi, left Turkey for the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on Tuesday afternoon.

Since Mr. Khashoggi's disappearance, Turkish authorities have moved cautiously. Mr. Erdogan has refrained from leveling public accusations against Saudi Arabia to avoid a direct confrontation with an oil-rich nation that wields monumental influence on energy and financial markets.

Turkish officials speaking on conditions of anonymity have leaked scores of pieces from the investigation to both Turkish and foreign media to ensure that what several officials have called a "barbaric crime" doesn't go unpunished.

"It's clear that Turkey feels vulnerable," said Asli Aydintasbas, a senior fellow with the European Council on Foreign Relations. "They don't want to be out there all alone screaming about this while everyone else is rushing to investment conferences in Riyadh. [The leaks] are forcing Washington to not whitewash the story."

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Wednesday, 12 December 2018