President Donald Trump has said that punishing Saudi Arabia for viciously murdering journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a place primarily meant to serve and protect Saudi citizens would jeopardize $110 billion in military sales to Boeing and Lockheed Martin as well as $340 billion in other investments, which the Saudis have agreed to make since Trump became president.
In an Oct. 18 interview with The New York Times, Trump spoke about the likelihood of a high-level Saudi role in the killing, and said he would call for a “very severe” response. One can’t but wonder why Trump still doubts the role of the Saudi leadership in Khashoggi’s murder and is intentionally failing to carry out the severe response which he promised, especially following an official CIA report confirming the role of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in the murder and his knowledge about the assassination which had been planned in Riyadh to take place in Istanbul.
How does Trump still doubt the crown prince’s role, especially following confirmation by Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a prominent Republican figure, that the crown prince actually ordered and observed the murder of the Saudi journalist. Following the CIA director’s report, Corker added: “Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman would be convicted of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in 30 minutes if there were a jury trial.” [https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/04/jamal-khashoggi-saudi-crown-prince-senators-cia-briefing] Sen. Dick Durbin, who was also present during the briefing, said that it is imperative that the full Senate exert pressure on the White House to take a more humane position than it is currently taking, and added that after listening to CIA Director Gina Haspel, he is more convinced that the crown prince is directly responsible for, or at least involved in, the assassination of Khashoggi. Durbin added that Haspel should brief the full Senate on the killing rather than merely provide a classified briefing to a small group of senators.
It seems clear to us today that Trump was interested in this murder case, followed up on it and issued fiery statements to terrorize the crown prince and exert pressure on the entire Saudi regime in an effort at blackmail, so that the Saudis would promise to buy and invest billions of dollars in legal contracts. But the cowboy mentality in which enemies are killed is not shocking, especially if the murderer is a friend or ally. We are not guessing or trying to dig into the president’s psyche, we are simply basing our assumptions on Trump’s statements that Khashoggi was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood or a state enemy, as if Trump were trying to justify Khashoggi’s murder.
We ought to remember what President Trump said right before Khashoggi was murdered, that the Saudi king would not be able to last more than two weeks without American support, and that the Saudis should have to pay for it. We should also remember that after Khashoggi disappeared, Trump said that the existence of the Saudi regime is in Israel’s interest. Hence, the main goal of American support to Riyadh is to obtain the most money possible from the Saudis, followed by the goal of protecting the Hebrew state, America’s strongest ally in the Middle East. This is why the Saudis reduced the price of oil at Trump’s direction despite the need to fund its war against Yemen and reach peace with society, resolving the suffocating internal crisis it is witnessing.
Trump is certain that any democratic ruler in the region will use the money earned from oil sales to serve the people who elect him and not those who protect him. This explains why, since his election, Trump has considered Arabs who oppose the rulers in the region to be Trump’s opponents as well.
The Trump administration is also aware that any truly elected Arab government supports the Palestinians in opposition to the occupation. Hence, Trump’s special envoy to the Middle East, Jason Greenblatt, who asked a number of Arab countries to support the American policy condemning the Palestinian opposition as a terrorist organization when he appeared in front of the United Nations, did not ask Tunisia or Lebanon, the only two democratic Arab countries. Why? Because the American administration simply knows that despite their modest size, they would not be able to join him and vote against the will of their people. Everyone in the Arab region should know that the only protection that countries in the region have against foreign blackmail is democracy and the approval of the people who elect the government. This is the language of the social democratic contract, if it exists.