US President Donald Trump’s pardoning of Mohammed bin Salman’s role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi could spark a ripple effect.
Earlier in the week, the US President Trump released a 633-word statement saying the US would remain a “steadfast partner” of Saudi Arabia — despite admitting that the Saudi Crown Prince “could very well” have known in advance about the plan to kill The Washington Post columnist.
“Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t,” Mr 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.”
In a New York Times analysis, reporters Mark Mazzetti and Ben Hubbard said this could serve as a dangerous message to authoritarian leaders about how far they can go without losing US support.
“Mr Trump made clear that he sees alliances as transactional, based on which foreign partners buy the most weapons. American jobs outweigh American values,” they write.
“Tuesday’s message could become something of a blueprint for foreign leaders — a guide to how they might increase their standing in the eyes of the American president as well as how far they can go in crushing domestic critics without raising American ire.”
WHAT EXACTLY DID DONALD TRUMP SAY?
In his latest statement on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, Mr Trump said the “world is a very dangerous place”.
But he pinned the focus on Iran, painting the Saudis as the victims in the brutal war that’s broken out in Yemen.
“The country of Iran … is responsible for a bloody proxy war against Saudi Arabia in Yemen, trying to destabilise Iraq’s fragile attempt at democracy, supporting the terror group Hezbollah in Lebanon, propping up dictator Bashar Assad in Syria (who has killed millions of his own citizens), and much more,” Mr Trump said.
“Likewise, the Iranians have killed many Americans and other innocent people throughout the Middle East. Iran states openly, and with great force, ‘Death to America!’ and ‘Death to Israel!’ Iran is considered ‘the world’s leading sponsor of terror’.
“On the other hand, Saudi Arabia would gladly withdraw from Yemen if the Iranians would agree to leave. They would immediately provide desperately needed humanitarian assistance.
“Additionally, Saudi Arabia has agreed to spend billions of dollars in leading the fight against Radical Islamic Terrorism.”
After spruiking the economic impact the US relationship has had on Saudi Arabia (“After my heavily negotiated trip to Saudi Arabia last year, the Kingdom agreed to spend and invest $450 billion in the United States”), Mr Trump acknowledged — almost halfway through the statement — that Khashoggi’s murder was “terrible”.
“The crime against Jamal Khashoggi was a terrible one, and one that our country does not condone. Indeed, we have taken strong action against those already known to have participated in the murder,” Mr Trump said.
“After great independent research, we now know many details of this horrible crime. We have already sanctioned 17 Saudis known to have been involved in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi, and the disposal of his body.”