Trump’s Troubling Amorality: You Can Kill Journalists As Long As You Give Us Money

October 13th, 2018 - by admin

The Guardian & Senator Rand Paul / The Atlantic & & Mother Jones Magazine – 2018-10-13 15:13:52

Trump Announces Jamal Khashoggi Investigation
But Says He Won’t Halt Saudi Arms Sales

Julian Borger and Martin Chulov and Patrick Wintour / The Guardian

WASHINGTON, ISTANBUL and LONDON (October 12, 2018) – Donald Trump has said US investigators are looking into how Jamal Khashoggi vanished at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, but made clear that whatever the outcome, the US would not forgo lucrative arms deals with Riyadh.

The president’s announcement raised concerns of a cover-up of evidence implicating Saudi Arabia’s powerful crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, in plans to silence the dissident journalist. Those fears were also heightened by an announcement that the Turkish and Saudi governments would conduct a joint investigation into the case.

The Saudi-owned al-Arabiya TV network described the 15 suspects as “tourists” who had traveled to Istanbul by commercial plane.

Senior Republicans in Congress, briefed on US intelligence, have meanwhile signaled they were prepared to force the US to take punitive action if Khashoggi was found to have been murdered by the Saudi regime.

“We’re being very tough. And we have investigators over there and we’re working with Turkey, and frankly we’re working with Saudi Arabia. We want to find out what happened,” Trump told Fox News on Thursday morning.

US officials could not confirm that US investigators were in Turkey, which has hitherto resisted US help. The state department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, said: “The US government has offered its support to the Turkish government to provide law enforcement assistance to the Turkish government.”

Nauert said she could not comment on whether there were US investigators “on the ground”. The state department had referred earlier questions about the case to the FBI.

Nauert revealed that the Saudi ambassador to Washington, the Crown Prince’s younger brother, Khalid bin Salman, had flown back to Riyadh on Thursday.

“We have said to him that we expect information upon his return to the United States,” she said.

Any sense that the administration might seek to impose serious consequences on Saudi Arabia was dispelled by the president. Asked at an impromptu press conference in the Oval Office whether the US would cut arms sales if the Saudi government was found to be responsible for Khashoggi’s disappearance, the president demurred, saying the US could lose its share of the huge Saudi arms market to Russia or China.

In the Oval Office Trump pointed out that the disappearance took place in Turkey and that Khashoggi was not a US citizen. On being told that the journalist was a US permanent resident, Trump said: “We don’t like it even a little bit. But whether or not we should stop $110bn [£83bn] from being spent in this country – knowing they have … two very good alternatives. That would not be acceptable to me.”

He continued: “I don’t like stopping massive amounts of money that’s being poured into our country – they are spending $110bn on military equipment and on things that create jobs for this country.”

The president’s desire to protect weapons sales and his family’s close relationship with the Saudi monarchy could lead to a clash with congressional Republicans, some of whom are already uneasy about the high civilian death toll from the Saudi aerial bombardment of Yemen, using US-made bombs.

The Republican chair of the Senate foreign relations committee, Bob Corker, one of a handful of senators briefed on US intelligence on the case, said he believed Khashoggi was murdered and that the “intel points directly” at the Saudi government. “I think they did it and unfortunately I think he is deceased. But they certainly could produce him and change the narrative,” Corker told CNN.

The senator told MSNBC he had seen intelligence in a secure room at the Senate and concluded: “It does appear that he’s been murdered, and I think over the next several days, things are going to become much clearer.”

Corker and 21 other senators sent a formal letter to the president triggering a mandatory US investigation into Khashoggi’s fate. Under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, the administration would have to report on the conclusions of the investigation and a decision on sanctions against the perpetrators.

On Thursday, a Turkish presidential aide, İbrahim Kalın, said there would be a joint Turkish-Saudi investigation into the Khashoggi case.

Turkish officials have released a relentless drip-feed of information about an alleged crime that has shattered diplomatic norms and rocked Ankara and Riyadh. A report in The Washington Post, citing US intelligence sources, said Bin Salman had earlier authorised an operation to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia and detain him.

On Thursday, the Post reported that Turkey had told the US that it has audio and video recordings that prove Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate.

“You can hear his voice and the voices of men speaking Arabic,” one person with knowledge of the recordings told the paper. “You can hear how he was interrogated, tortured and then murdered.” A second person said men could be heard beating the journalist.

The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip ErdoÄŸan, has challenged Saudi Arabia to provide CCTV images to back up its claims that Khashoggi had left the consulate safely, indicating he did not find the current Saudi explanations sufficient.

Turkish officials have told reporters that Khashoggi was killed soon after he entered the consulate last Tuesday by a hit squad of 15 assassins who had flown in from Riyadh that day. Accounts of his apparent death have been widely circulated by officials, who have released the names of the Saudi citizens who arrived on two private jets; all were connected to state security agencies.

The Middle East Eye website cited Turkish officials as saying that Khashoggi was ushered to the consul general’s office when he entered the consulate, then quickly seized by two men. “We know when Jamal was killed, in which room he was killed and where the body was taken to be dismembered,” the official said. “If the forensic team are allowed in, they know exactly where to go.”

Riyadh had previously pledged to allow Turkish officials into the consulate, which is considered sovereign Saudi territory under international convention. However, access was rescinded after the names of the alleged assassins were revealed. Among the group, according to a passenger manifest supplied by Turkish authorities, was the head of forensics for the Saudi General Intelligence Presidency.

While investigators believe Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate, suspicion about where his body may have been disposed of continues to focus on the Saudi consul general’s home, about 500 metres away. The building has an underground garage, and cars that were seen leaving the nearby building are believed to have spent several hours in the garage before leaving for Atatürk airport in Istanbul.

Officials also told Reuters they were examining data from an Apple Watch that Khashoggi was wearing when he entered the building. Central to the investigation is whether data from the smartwatch could have been transmitted to a cloud, or his personal phone, which was with his fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, who was waiting outside.

Saudi officials had refused to engage with their Turkish counterparts until Tuesday, a source told the Guardian. Riyadh had used Washington as a conduit. “They have been behaving very strangely,” said an official. “It’s like they don’t care about the consequences. Is this incompetence, or arrogance? We really don’t know.”

On his first international trip as president, Trump visited Saudi Arabia and announced $110bn in proposed arms sales.

The US treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, is due to represent the administration at a trade and investment conference in Saudi Arabia next week, known as “Davos in the Desert”. His attendance would be a powerful gesture of support for Riyadh in the face of allegations of the premeditated murder of a US resident and journalist.

The US has no ambassador in either Turkey or Saudi Arabia.

Stop Military Aid to Saudi Arabia
The regime must be held accountable for Jamal Khashoggi

Senator Rand Paul / The Atlantic

WASHINGTON (October 10, 2018) — By now you’ve seen the headlines: An American resident, a Saudi Arabian journalist who wrote for The Washington Post, has gone missing abroad and is presumed dead. Jamal Khashoggi was last seen walking into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and Turkish security officials believe he was killed “on the orders of the Saudi royal court,” according to The New York Times. He was a vocal critic of the lack of free speech in Saudi Arabia, which makes his sudden disappearance all the more suspicious given the Saudis’ aversion to public dissent.

These are the types of headlines that make my blood boil — because an American is missing and likely dead at the hands of Saudi Arabia, and everyone is feigning shock and bewilderment, as if we’ve never before had cause to doubt that the Saudis share America’s values.

For years, I have decried our country’s involvement in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis are a state sponsor of radical Islam, and their war on Yemen, a poor Arab country, has led to many thousands of civilian deaths.

The Saudis have provided at least 2,500 fighters to the Islamic State in Syria, making them the second-largest source of foreign fighters for the group on a per capita basis, after Tunisia.

News reports from 2013 stated that the Saudis offered more than 1,200 death-row inmates a pardon and a monthly stipend for their families to go fight the Syrian government.

In 2009, US officials said Saudi Arabia was the “most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.” And in 2014, those same officials wrote that Qatar and Saudi Arabia were “providing clandestine financial and logistic support to [the Islamic State] and other radical Sunni groups.”

So why is America selling arms to a country that has supported terror, has a poor human-rights record, and has waged a reckless war in Yemen?

As they say, follow the money. But no amount of oil business or arms deals justifies our collusion with a regime that sponsors jihadism around the world.

Furthermore, if America is not at war with Yemen — which, technically, we are not — why are we enabling Saudi Arabia to prosecute a war that has killed tens of thousands and left 8 million more “on the brink of famine,” according to The Washington Post? I’m not just talking about bombs being dropped on innocent civilians that bear the words “Made in the USA.” Without American intelligence, logistics, training, and equipment, the Saudi war effort would have fallen apart long ago.

I have spoken out loudly on this for some time, and I’ve also introduced legislation to halt US arms sales to Saudi Arabia. I have been deeply disappointed with those of my colleagues in Congress who don’t seem to care that Yemenis are being massacred by US-backed-and-armed Saudis.

But I’m giving them another chance. A chance to stand up to Saudi Arabia and say, “America will not tolerate these heinous acts.”

This week, I intend to introduce another measure to cut all funding, training, advising, and any other coordination to and with the military of Saudi Arabia until the journalist Jamal Khashoggi is returned alive.

This oppressive regime must be held accountable for its actions. The United States has no business supporting it, either directly or indirectly.

Rand Paul is a United States senator from Kentucky .

Senators Warn Trump
US-Saudi Relationship Is On the Line

Sen. Corker: Journalist’s death would merit
sanctions at ‘highest levels’

Jason Ditz /

(October 11, 2018) — While President Trump has made clear that he is reluctant to do anything to the Saudis that might imperil the arms trade, senators are warning him that the fate of journalist Jamal Khashoggi really is putting the US-Saudi relationship on the line.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) warned that the burden of proof needs to be on the Saudis to prove that they were not participants in any harm that Khasoggi, a permanent resident of the US, has befallen.

Foreign Relations Committee chairman Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) concurred, saying that sanctions should be “at the highest levels” if Khashoggi’s death was found to be the result of the Saudi government.

There are already pushes, led by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to suspend arms sales to the Saudis over Khashoggi’s disappearance. As it becomes increasingly likely that he was killed outright by the Saudis, the push in Congress to punish them will only grow.

Trump Unwilling to Let
Saudi Journalist’s Fate Risk Huge Arms Deal

Jason Ditz /

(October 11, 2018) — A top priority for President Trump as with many recent presidents, is the selling of massive amounts of US arms internationally. That’s meant his promises to get to the bottom of the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi have clear limitations.

In comments today, after insisting how determined he is to tackle this matter at the “highest levels,” Trump is walking back the issue, insisting that it isn’t worth it for the US to imperil $110 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia over a single journalist.

Trump says it wouldn’t be acceptable to lose the $110 billion deal, adding that the journalist’s disappearance took place in Turkey, and he’s not a United States citizen. He did suggest there are “other things” the US could do.

This is exactly why Trump weighing in on the issue at all was something of a surprise. The arms deal is simply too important to politically well-connected US arms companies, and any serious attempt to punish the Saudis for the likely killing of Khashoggi is going to boil down to a fight over the arms deal.

TODAY NEWS, October 11, 2018)

Don’t Let One Missing Journalist
Get In the Way of $110 Billion in
Saudi Arms Sales, Trump Says

Inae Oh / Mother Jones Magazine

(October 11, 2018) — President Donald Trump on Thursday rejected calls to halt $110 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia despite mounting reports indicating the kingdom played a direct role in the disappearance of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi critic, went missing after entering the country’s consulate in Istanbul last week. A Turkish inquiry has reportedly concluded he was murdered inside the building.

“What good does that do us?” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office, in reference to calls to cancel the arms deal. “There are other things we can do.”

“We don’t like it even a little bit,” he continued, speaking of Khashoggi’s disappearance. “But as to whether or not we should stop $110 billion from being spent in this country knowing they have four or five alternatives, two very good alternatives, that would not be acceptable to me.”

While the president claimed to “not like” the unfolding diplomatic crisis, he also appeared startlingly unfamiliar with key details surrounding Khashoggi’s disappearance. In the middle of his remarks, the president asked for some help: “This took place in Turkey and to the best of our knowledge, Khashoggi is not a United States citizen, is that right, or is that right?”

“Permanent resident,” a reporter clarified. Trump seemed to register the fact as if he were learning it for the first time.

Trump’s refusal to stop the arms sales comes amid increasing demands from bipartisan lawmakers for Trump to hold the Saudi Arabian government accountable for Khashoggi’s alleged assassination. During his exchange with reporters on Thursday, Trump again failed to outline key steps the administration was taking to get to the bottom of Khashoggi’s disappearance along with what potential measures he would take to punish the Saudis.

Inae Oh is the news and engagement editor at Mother Jones. Follow her on Twitter.

Daily Express 24h, October 12, 2018

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