U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is back from Riyadh after President Donald Trump had dispatched him to talk to the country’s Middle East ally. Pompeo was sent to Riyadh ‘on a fact-finding mission’ after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is increasingly seen as the hand behind journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance.
But, after his meet in Riyadh, Mike Pompeo had this to say: "I don't want to talk about any of the facts" at the King Salman Air Base, Riyadh. A strange turn of phrase when his mission when he departed Washington was to deal in facts. Pompeo while flying back stopped in Turkey but he reportedly did not listen to the audio recordings that Turkish officials have that prove the Saudis first tortured and then killed Khashoggi in their consulate in Istanbul.
Even as Pompeo did not want to deal in facts, his boss back in Washington was making clear that he cared more about Saudi money than their actions around the globe.
U.S. President Donald Trump, speaking in the White House said, “Everybody wanted the $110 military deal…Russia wanted it, China wanted it…But we got it.” He has also stated that Saudi Arabia might divert its oil supply, leaving the U.S. high and dry. These statements make amply clear where Trump’s priorities lie and they do not seem to be with finding out what happened to Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
The Washington Post reported that the Trump Administration had ‘clamped down’ on sharing intelligence on the Khashoggi case with the Senate committee. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker said, “I can only surmise that probably the intel is not painting a pretty picture as it relates to Saudi Arabia.” Based on the earlier intelligence he had reviewed, he added, “This could not have happened without his (MBS) approval.”
The ties that bind the U.S. and Saudi extend to the House of Saud and the House of Trump. Trump had repeatedly claimed in the past how the Saudis have invested money in his properties around the globe. This time around, his son-in-law Jared Kushner and MBS are supposedly very close. Kushner has stayed away from the limelight since the story gained the attention of the world media but the Trump Administration’s measured response seems to indicate that he is working behind the scenes to the benefit of the Saudi Crown Prince.
Only the days ahead will show whether the U.S. is standing on the side of transactional relationships or for human rights.