Trump puts Saudi relations ahead of fight for human rights

PRESIDENT Donald Trump has declared he will not punish Saudi Arabia for the murder of US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, suggesting good relations with the Kingdom are of greater importance than the possibility its Crown Prince ordered the killing.

The President condemned the brutal slaying inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul as a “horrible crime … that our country does not condone”. But he rejected calls by many in Congress, including from some in his own party, for a tougher response, and also dismissed reports from US intelligence agencies that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman must have at least known about such an audacious and intricate plot.

“It could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event,” Mr Trump said yesterday. “Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” The statement, which encapsulated a foreign policy stance grounded in economic necessity, came after weeks of debate over whether the President should come down hard on the Saudis and the Crown Prince in response to the killing of The Washington Post columnist.

The US earlier sanctioned 17 Saudi officials suspected of involvement in the killing, but members of Congress have called for tougher actions. Critics denounced Mr Trump’s statement, saying he had ignored human rights and granted Saudi Arabia a pass for economic reasons. Asked by a reporter yesterday if he was saying that human rights were too expensive to fight for, Mr Trump responded: “No, I’m not saying that at all.” But then he switched the subject to the “terrorist nation” of Iran. The US needed a “counterbalance” to Iran “and Israel needs help, too”, he said. “If we abandon Saudi Arabia, it would be a terrible mistake,” he added, underlining his world view of putting US interests above all else.