Trump indicates he trusts Saudi crown prince’s

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF VOX NEWS)

 

Trump indicates he trusts Saudi crown prince’s Khashoggi denials over his own intelligence agency

The president puts blind faith in dictators twice in one Fox News interview.

Fox News screengrab

Time and time again, President Donald Trump seems to side with dictators over his own intelligence community. Take the case of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, with the two most recent examples occurring during a Fox News interview that aired on Sunday.

The New York Times reported on Friday that the CIA has concluded Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman directly ordered the killing of Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last month.

Although the State Department subsequently released a statement trying to tamp down on the Times’s reporting, the CIA’s reported conclusion serves as the latest, strongest evidence that the crown prince lied to Trump when he repeatedly denied involvement in Khashoggi’s death.

During an interview with Fox News that aired on Sunday, however, Trump indicated he doesn’t necessarily trust his intelligence community over the crown prince’s denials.

Asked by host Chris Wallace if he thinks the crown prince lied to him, Trump suggested nobody can really be sure about anything.

“I don’t know, you know, who can really know?” Trump said. “But I can say this — he’s got many people now that say he had no knowledge.”

Wallace interjected to press Trump, saying, “what if the crown prince, speaking to you, the president of the United States, directly lied to you?” But Trump indicated he’s not particularly bothered by that possibility.

“Well, he told me that he had nothing to do with it,” Trump continued. “He told me that I would say maybe five times at different points, as recently as a few days ago. … Will anybody really know? Will anybody really know?”

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Aaron Rupar

@atrupar

Trump says he “doesn’t want to hear the tape” of Khasoggi’s murder b/c “it’s a suffering tape. It’s a terrible tape. I’ve been fully briefed on it”

He adds he’s not sure if Mohammed bin Salman lied to him because “he told me he had nothing to do w/it…will anybody really know?”

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Trump’s comments about the crown prince weren’t the only time during the Fox News interview that he indicated he’s putting blind faith in a dictator.

The president responded to reports North Korea is expanding its missile program by telling Wallace, “Maybe they are, maybe they’re not. I don’t believe that. Could be.” Moments earlier, Trump touted his “very good relationship” with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

Embedded video

Aaron Rupar

@atrupar

TRUMP ON HIS DECISION-MAKING PROCESS: “I don’t think about it. I don’t think about how I make ’em. I make what I consider to be the right decision.”

TRUMP ON REPORTS NORTH KOREA IS EXPANDING NUCLEAR PROGRAM: “Maybe they are, maybe they’re not. I don’t believe that. Could be.”

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Trump’s deference to Kim and the crown prince is reminiscent of the deference he’s shown Russian President Vladimir Putin, who denies meddling in the 2016 American presidential election despite the US intelligence community concluding otherwise.

During his joint news conference with Putin in Helsinki in July, Trump drew an equivalence between Putin’s denials and the work of his own intelligence agencies.

“My people came to me, [Director of National Intelligence] Dan Coats came to me and some others they said they think it’s Russia,” Trump said. “I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this. I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

Trump’s antipathy to the intelligence community dates back at least to early 2017, when top intelligence officials went public with their conclusion that Russia meddled in the presidential election on Trump’s behalf. The then-president-elect responded to that development by comparing the intelligence community’s tactics to those used by “Nazi Germany.”

New York Times: China, Russia listening to Trump’s cell phone calls

New York Times: China, Russia listening to Trump’s cell phone calls

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump continues to make calls via cell phone despite intelligence that China and Russia listen in, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

The Times report, citing current and former officials, said Chinese spies have listened to Trump’s iPhone calls and that the President’s aides had told him Russian spies were listening regularly.
Trump’s cell phone use has been noted throughout his tenure, and security experts have raised concerns in the past. CNN noted in April that after John Kelly became chief of staff, Trump made more calls through the White House switchboard, but by the time of the April report, the President had begun to make more calls through his cell.
The New York Times report said the officials raising an alarm about Trump’s refusal to stop making unsecured calls were doing so out of frustration.
Those officials told the Times that China was seeking to use its findings on Trump to help the country in its trade dispute with the US and that the Chinese had noted Trump’s conversations with Stephen Schwarzman, head of The Blackstone Group, and Steve Wynn, a Las Vegas figure who established major investments in Macau, a gambling hub in China. Wynn stepped down as finance chair for the Republican National Committee last January following allegations of sexual misconduct, which he denied.
China, in turn, has begun using its own businessmen to try to influence people friendly with those Trump talks to, according to the New York Times report, hopes the information will make it to the President.
An attorney for Wynn told the Times that Wynn was retired and declined to comment, and a spokeswoman for Blackstone said Schwarzman “has been happy to serve as an intermediary on certain critical matters between the two countries at the request of both heads of state.”
Schwarzman spokeswoman Christine Anderson told CNN she had no additional comment.
As the report noted, Trump indicated to the Wall Street Journal this week that he had discretion about information transmitted through his phone.
“I actually said don’t give it to me on the phone,” Trump said of information on the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. “I don’t want it on the phone. As good as these phones are supposed to be.”

Saudi Arabia: Killing Jamal Khashoggi Was A Saudi Warning Shot

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HUFFINGTON POST)

 

Killing Jamal Khashoggi Was A Saudi Warning Shot

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Long before Jamal Khashoggi disappeared, Saudi Arabia had a history of cracking down on dissidents. Little tolerance exists inside the kingdom for activism and dissent. Even abroad, critics have not been safe: Saudi princes critical of the regime have gone missing while living in Europe.

But Khashoggi was not an ordinary dissident. He had started an advocacy group called Democracy for the Arab World Now, which aimed to bring together reformer intellectuals and political Islamist in pursuit of building democracy in the Arab world. Khashoggi also had links to Muslim Brotherhood, a transnational Islamist movement that has had tremendous influence in the region but one that Saudi Arabia regards as a regional threat and terrorist organization.

His political engagement had become especially alarming for Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, given Khashoggi’s once very close relations to the royal family and his in-depth knowledge of issues and networks within the kingdom. Khashoggi had become a “dissident” only recently, but he did so with a level of ambition that triggered Mohammed bin Salman insecurity. The crown prince, known as MBS, tried and failed to bring Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia from the U.S. Khashoggi expressed his distrust of the Saudi authorities, and continued his activism.

Khashoggi had become a ‘dissident’ only recently, but he did so with a level of ambition that triggered Mohammed bin Salman’s insecurity.

So the crown prince, it seems, had him tortured and killed. The message was clear: Anyone who challenges the Saudi regime and tries to create alternatives to the current Saudi rule will be punished in the harshest way possible. It is a stark warning to dissident members of the Saudi diaspora and their supporters.

The Khashoggi incident is not only a matter of human rights or suppressing dissidents. It’s a sign how personally MBS took Khashoggi’s political conversion. That the incident happened at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul shows that MBS was not afraid of any major repercussions when delivering his message. The Saudi ruling elite surely has the means to have a dissident killed in an “accident” that would be difficult to officially trace. The crown prince chose a different, more frightening route.

The brazen nature of the kidnapping and murder seems to have surprised many in U.S. and international policy circles. But Saudi authorities had good reason to believe that they could get away with kidnapping and killing one of their own citizens.

Russia’s 2016 assassination of Alexander Litvinenko in London, as well as its attempted poisoning of Sergei Skripal, showed how a country can deal with its “traitors” abroad. The exiled brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was killed in Malaysia with VX nerve agent, which is classified as a weapon of mass destruction. Despite the clear Pyongyang link to this murder, President Donald Trump was shaking hands with Kim within a matter of months.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been widely criticized for his friendly demeanor in public as he met with Saudi Crown

LEAH MILLIS VIA GETTY IMAGES
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been widely criticized for his friendly demeanor in public as he met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman earlier this week to gather information about the apparent murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

Despite all the attention and the possibility of rising tensions in the next couple of months, the Khashoggi incident is not likely to change any major power dynamics or relation between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia in long-term. When the details of the incident first emerged, the Saudi disregard for international civility and norms did not seem to bother Trump, who stated that Saudis are “spending $110 billion on military equipment and on things that create jobs for this country” ― referring to a proposed arms deal that has yet to take full effect.

He also seemed to shrug off whatever happened in the Saudi consulate by saying “This took place in Turkey and to the best of our knowledge Khashoggi is not a United States citizen.”

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There is no doubt that MBS counted on Trump’s emphasis on deals and money, as well as the president’s disdain for the press and his closer relations with autocratic countries like Russia and North Korea when compared to the policies of the former administrations.

MBS also has close ties to Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law. Kushner facilitated the $110 billion Saudi-U.S. military deal and foresees a key role for Saudi Arabia in the Israeli-Palestinian peace plan he envisions. The crown prince also knows that Saudi oil exports are critical to the global economy and Saudi cooperation is still a key milestone in the U.S. administration’s Middle East policy. All this makes him feel he can act with impunity.

The U.S. partnership with Saudi Arabia is not based on values, but on interests. After the outrage from U.S. business and political circles over Khashoggi’s apparent murder, especially from some within his own party, Trump transitioned from his “this is not our business” response to “not good if they really did it.”

Trump spoke to the Saudi King, and upon the King’s denial of any Saudi involvement in the Khashoggi incident, Trump said it was possible “rogue killers” might have murdered Khashoggi. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was also sent to meet with the Saudi King and MBS. According to the State Department website, the discussions covered bilateral and regional issues, and Pompeo “thanked the King for his commitment to supporting a thorough, transparent, and timely investigation of Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance.”

In short, the president and the secretary of state sound ready to accept the narrative Saudi officials will provide them.

There is no doubt that MBS counted on Trump’s emphasis on deals and money, as well as the president’s disdain for the press.

True, the Saudi ruling elite underestimated the extent of Turkish surveillance of the consulate in Istanbul, and it didn’t seem to have predicted the immediate negative reaction to the Khashoggi incident in U.S. business and policy circles. But Saudi authorities likely will continue to focus on doing just enough to appease the U.S. administration in answering questions about what happened to the journalist. The Saudis can be expected to claim that MBS had no knowledge of the apparent murder, and down the road they may even pretend to punish those they say were involved.

With the Khashoggi incident, MBS was just testing the boundaries of diplomatic impunity in a world where the standards for diplomatic civility are on a fast decline. It is no secret that he wants to control and subdue the Saudi diaspora, and any political movement that can challenge his legitimacy.

Given the backlash from the business world ― which probably will intensify as gruesome details of the violence inflicted on Khashoggi trickle to the press ― MBS will likely be more cautious, at least in short-term.

In long-term, though, businesses and policymakers will need to signal consistently ― in public and in private ― that, despite the potential damage that sanctions on Saudi Arabia might do to the global economy, there are values that the international community is not ready to sacrifice. The challenge for the international community is to decide what those values are.

Nukhet A. Sandal is the director of global studies at the Center for International Studies and associate professor of political science at Ohio University. She is the author of Religious Leaders and Conflict Transformation.

As Trump cozies up to Saudi Arabia, the rule of law collapses further

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE GUARDIAN NEWS)

 

From the moment he laid his stubby hands on that glowing orb in Riyadh, Donald Trump signaled to the world what kind of leader he aspired to be. Bathed in a spectral light, standing alongside the Saudi King Salman and the Egyptian dictator, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, the man formerly known as the leader of the free world smiled with self-satisfaction that he had arrived at his chosen destination.

Despite the object’s likeness to the orb of Saruman, this was no secret society of evil wizards. Instead, it was a brazenly open society of corrupt old men with a clear disregard for the rule of law, if not a cruel desire to brutalize their opponents.

The fact that they were standing in the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology was either an exercise in paper-thin deception or some kind of sick joke. It’s hard to express your disgust at Isis beheadings, as Trump has done, but feel nothing about the Saudi beheadings of 48 people in just four months this year.

Then again, we’re talking about Donald Trump’s feelings and his limitless capacity to lie. Of course it’s possible to condemn the “bloodthirsty killers”of Isis at the UN, and praise the “unbelievable job” of the death squads of President Duterte in the Philippines. He’s Donald Trump, a bear of very little brain who convinced himself that someone in China thinks he has a “very, very large brain”.

As a self-certified genius, Trump now finds himself in something of a Saudi pickle. The supposedly reformist crown prince Mohammed bin Salman was supposed to help him clean up the world by taking on Tehran. But Saudi Arabia can’t even clean up an Istanbul consulate after their own goons are alleged to have hacked to death a single troublesome journalist.

First Trump promised “severe punishment” for those responsible for Jamal Khashoggi’s death, albeit punishment that didn’t harm any arms contracts the Saudis were interested in. No matter that the Saudis can’t easily substitute another country’s weapons after spending gazillions of dollars on US ones. This commander-in-chief obviously knows his arms from his elbows.

Then Trump spoke to the crown prince, who pinky-promised he had nothing to do with the 15 men identified by the Turkish media as belonging to a grisly hit-squad, which reportedly included an autopsy specialist carrying his own bone saw. So the 45th president of the United States gullibly and dutifully bleated something about “rogue killers” and “very, very strong” denials. In what is surely a remarkable coincidence, Saudi sources leaked word that they were preparing to admit the killing, but insisted it was an interrogation that went wrong.

Interrogations tend to go wrong when they include someone armed with a bone saw.

To clear up this most unfortunate dismemberment, Trump sent his trusted former CIA chief, now the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, on a fact-finding mission to Riyadh and Ankara. Pompeo’s approach to the facts was hardly inspiring. “I don’t want to talk about any of the facts,” he said. “They didn’t want to either, in that they want to have the opportunity to complete this investigation in a thorough way.”

 ‘I don’t want to talk about any of the facts’: Mike Pompeo on Jamal Khashoggi case – video

That would be an investigation by the crown prince into his own security detail inside his own consulate. Naturally, these things can take time. People are busy. Consulates are hard to find. Word from the palace takes time to write down on parchment scrolls.

Oh yes, and there’s this other thing we need to remember, Pompeo explained: money.

“I do think it’s important that everyone keeps in mind that we have a lot of important relationships – financial relationships between US and Saudi companies, governmental relationships – things we work on together all across the world. The efforts to reduce the risk to the United States of America from the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, Iran.”

If you’re thinking Trump himself is compromised by Saudi money, why, that’s no more true than the notion that he’s compromised by Russian money. But don’t take my word for it, take his.

“For the record, I have no financial interests in Saudi Arabia (or Russia, for that matter),” he tweeted, dismissing anything to the contrary as so much fake news. This is a touch embarrassing for the Donald Trump who told an Alabama rally in 2015 that he loved doing business with the Saudis. “They buy apartments from me,” he said. “They spend $40m, $50m. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much!”

Of course, you’re only supposed to dislike the ones carrying the bone saws.

The Trump administration is not the first to bow and scrape to the Saudi power of oil and cash. But it is the first to surrender all pretense of upholding democracy and human rights – commonly known as American values – while making pathetic excuses for what is widely accepted to have been a barbaric murder. What is the moral difference between Iran sponsoring Hezbollah and the humanitarian disaster triggered by the Saudi attacks and blockade in Yemen?

They deserve one another, the house of Saud and the house of Trump. One is hotheaded enough to bomb Yemen into oblivion and blockade Qatar. The other is hotheaded enough to blow up historic alliances and international trade. Both have managed to look weaker by straining to look stronger.

Their incompetence is only matched their greed; their grand visions of global leadership look as genuine as Jared Kushner’s Middle East peace plan, or the official Saudi investigation into what happened to Khashoggi.

Like all pathological liars, they now find themselves caught in their own web of deceit and delusion. The crown prince was never a reformist, just as the reality TV star was never going to drain the swamp.

No number of expensive Saudi lobbying contracts will wash away the bloodstains. And no amount of Trump’s crazy-sounding tweets – about porn stars or Pocahontas – will distract from his disastrous undermining of American values. Like the catchphrases of an old standup comedian, Donald Trump’s stage act is losing its power to shock and awe.

After a couple of days of pesky questions about whether his friends decapitated a journalist, Trump had reached the limit of his very, very large brain. “Here we go again with, you know, you’re guilty until proven innocent,” he told the Associated Press. “I don’t like that. We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I’m concerned.”

If you’re still looking for an illustration of how the rule of law collapses, here’s one straight from the horses mouth. The bone-saw-wielding Saudis are as innocent as our own supreme court justice. At this point, a good lawyer might rest her case because this sucker just can’t stop talking.

Saudi Arabia transfers $100 million to US amid crisis over Khashoggi

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HUFFINGTON POST)

 

Saudi Arabia ‘Coincidentally’ Wires $100 Million To U.S. Amid Khashoggi Controversy

The payment, which the Saudis had committed to in August, reportedly arrived on the same day that Pompeo landed in Riyadh.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to discuss the disappearance and presumed murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. That same day, the U.S. government received a $100 million payment from the oil-rich kingdom, The New York Times and Washington Post reported — an amount that had earlier been promised to the Trump administration to support its stabilization efforts in Syria.

Trump officials have insisted the timing of the hefty transfer was pure coincidence. But some Middle Eastern experts say they aren’t so sure.

“In all probability, the Saudis want Trump to know that his cooperation in covering for the Khashoggi affair is important to the Saudi monarch,” Joshua Landis, director of the University of Oklahoma’s Center of Middle East Studies, told the Post. “Much of its financial promises to the U.S. will be contingent on this cooperation.”

One U.S. official involved in Syria policy was blunter. “The timing of this is no coincidence,” the official told the Times.

Brett McGurk, the U.S. envoy to the coalition fighting the Islamic State, has maintained, however, that the Saudi payment had no connection whatsoever to Pompeo’s meeting with the Crown Prince or Khashoggi’s alleged murder.

Saudi Arabia had publicly committed the money in August, he said, adding that “the specific transfer of funds has been long in process and has nothing to do with other events or the secretary’s visit.”

Saudi Arabia transfers $100 million to US amid crisis over Khashoggi

Reports have connected the alleged murder and dismemberment of the journalist with people from the Crown Prince’s inner circle. Yet both the president and Pompeo said this week that the Saudis should be given more time to investigate the situation and should be assumed innocent until proven guilty.

Trump and Pompeo also stressed America’s close ties to the Saudis ― and the massive amounts of money that the U.S. receives from the kingdom.

Pompeo told reporters on Wednesday that “we need to make sure we are mindful” of the important business and government ties with Saudi Arabia as the U.S. considers next steps regarding the Khashoggi case.

“I do think it’s important that everyone keep in their mind that we have lots of important relationships ― financial relationships between U.S. and Saudi companies, governmental relationships, things we work on together all across the world, the efforts to [counter Iran],” Pompeo said, according to CNN.

When asked about Khashoggi’s disappearance last Thursday, Trump said that while “we don’t like it even a little bit,” it wouldn’t be “acceptable” to him to stop selling billions of dollars worth of weapons to Riyadh.

“We don’t like it even a little bit. 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,” the president said, referring to an arms deal that experts have called hugely exaggerated.

Saudi affair exposes Trumpism’s moral apathy: Simply, Trump Has No Morals At All

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Saudi affair exposes Trumpism’s moral apathy

AP: Trump compares Saudi, Kavanaugh accusations

Washington (CNN) Donald Trump has dug a moral hole through the middle of America’s foreign policy — and he’s not sorry at all.

The President’s reaction to the apparent murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul offers the clearest evidence yet of his turn away from a foreign policy rooted in universal human values.
The crisis is instead showcasing Trump’s radical form of “America First” realpolitik, his promise not to infringe other nations’ sovereignty with lectures on human rights and his trust in the word of autocrats.
In his unrepentant conduct of American foreign policy, Trump is lurching from a path taken by every president since World War II, who all believed to various degrees that American leadership was needed to create a world safe for democracy, open commerce and freedom.
And it will be seen around the world as an unmistakable sign that there is no cost for heinous behavior — after all it happened days after a US-based journalist for a top American newspaper was apparently killed before his body was reportedly chopped up in an official Saudi government building.
Washington often failed to honor its values — in the carpet bombing of Cambodia, for instance, or its support for Arab dictators. And many in the Middle East saw post-9/11 foreign policy as deeply hypocritical.
But for 70 years, the United States has been a beacon for dissidents in totalitarian nations, acting as a guarantor of democracy and peace in Europe and Northeast Asia. It waged a Cold War to defeat Communism, enhancing its claims of benevolent foreign policy leadership.
It is that legacy of moral clarity that the Trump administration is burning in the mystery over what happened to Khashoggi.
Three days ago, Trump was promising “severe” punishments for Saudi Arabia after the journalist vanished, in an episode that flouts every conventional American principle on how governments should treat their people.
But now, the President has shifted his tone and is abetting the kingdom’s evolving narrative on Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Jarring footage meanwhile of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo beaming in photo-ops Tuesday alongside King Salman and ruthless son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, or MBS, encapsulated a closing of ranks with Riyadh.
The President told The Associated Press that blaming Saudi Arabia for Khashoggi’s disappearance was another case of “guilty until proven innocent” an echo of his rhetoric concerning the sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
It all looked like an administration more concerned with insulating its relationship with the Saudi royals, key players in its effort to squeeze Iran, than seeking answers about what happened to Khashoggi.

Buying the Saudi story

Pompeo’s spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the secretary of state had thanked the King for ordering “a thorough, transparent and timely investigation” into Khashoggi’s disappearance. While body language and official statements do not convey everything that goes on behind the scenes, Pompeo’s demeanor hardly suggested a rebuke was delivered.
His trip only compounded impressions created by Trump, who gave credence to shifting Saudi denials of involvement and acted as a PR agent for the king, on Monday, relaying his comment that “rogue killers” were to blame.
On Tuesday, Trump, who sources told CNN was frustrated with news coverage about the Khashoggi episode, bought into an explanation offered by the crown prince, who many experts believe knew what was in store for Khashoggi if he did not order his elimination himself.
“Just spoke with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia who totally denied any knowledge of what took place in their Turkish Consulate,” Trump tweeted. “Answers will be forthcoming shortly.”
Three sources familiar with the case say the Saudi mission to interrogate and possibly abduct Khashoggi was organized by a high-ranking officer with the main Saudi intelligence service. It’s unclear whether the crown prince authorized either contingency but CNN previously reported that the operation could not have happened without his direct knowledge.

Saudi response fits Trump’s view of sovereignty

The President’s handling of the Khashoggi case epitomizes the doctrine of individual national sovereignty he laid out at the UN General Assembly.
“Whatever those values may be and they have been in the past in terms of foreign policy, they are no longer important and he has made that very clear,” said Ivo Daalder, president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, co-author of a study of Trump’s foreign policy, “The Empty Throne,” published on Tuesday.
“His basic view is what you do is your problem as long as you leave us alone,” Daalder said, maintaining Trump was closer to China’s worldview in this context than a traditional American one.
Trump has left little doubt that in his deal-driven ideology is designed to leverage financial wealth and will not be deflected by human rights concerns.
“We are not here to lecture — we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship,” Trump said during his first foreign trip — to Saudi Arabia — last year.
Then, in a revealing interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” on Sunday the President frankly said that he didn’t want to sanction Saudi Arabia because it could cost firms like Boeing and Raytheon billions in arms deals and cost jobs.
In the same interview, he indicated that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s repression would not disrupt their relationship — that he had previously compared to a love affair.
“Let it be an embrace. Let it be whatever it is to get the job done,” Trump said.
And he hinted that as long as Russian President Vladimir Putin did not kill his opponents on US soil, he would look the other way.
“I rely on them, it’s not in our country,” he said.
While Trump cozies up to autocrats and strongmen like Putin, China’s Xi Jinping, Kim, Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines and MBS, he has insulted leaders of American allies. He has called journalists “the enemy of the people.”
Critics believe such rhetoric has offered license to repressive leaders in places like Turkey, Russia and the Philippines — not to mention MBS, whose recklessness has turned into a political embarrassment for the US.
Mona Charen, a conservative commentator, said on CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper” that Trump had taken realism to extremes and that Khashoggi’s case was so “flagrant” it cried out for US moral leadership.
“The world is full of bad actors and sometimes you have to deal with them and that is the world we live in. But what isn’t acceptable is an attempt to whitewash what they are, an attempt to let them off the hook,” she said.

Broken trust

Cooper dissects Trump's 'rogue' theory

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Cooper dissects Trump’s ‘rogue’ theory 05:07
Trump views criticism of his approach as the naive complaints of a political establishment that led America into nearly two decades of foreign wars and disdained the voters that put him in office in 2016.
He thinks the United States has been a soft touch, letting its values get in the way of maximizing its power while savvier nations have taken advantage while getting fat on its generosity — see NATO.
Even in his own party, there are those who believe his abandonment of American core principles and global leadership is catastrophic.
“There isn’t enough money in the world to purchase back our credibility on human rights and the way nations should conduct themselves,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, said in an interview on CNN’s “New Day” on Tuesday.
What Trump does next will decide whether Washington is able to credibly criticize strongmen like Putin and Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, he said.
“We can’t say anything about that if we allow Saudi Arabia to do it and all we do is a diplomatic slap on the wrist,” Rubio said.
A senior administration official told CNN’s Barbara Starr that the decision on what to do with the Saudis may be the “the most consequential” of Trump’s presidency, since it will dictate whether US military leaders and diplomats can maintain a moral high ground on human rights.
That’s unlikely to change Trump’s mind, since any rupture with the Saudis would endanger his effort to destabilize and pressure Iran.
He is relying on Saudi Arabia to release more oil onto the market to meet demand after pressuring allies to stop imports from Iran.
Riyadh of course has considerable influence on the state of the global economy and therefore Trump’s own prospects of re-election with its power to engineer spikes in global oil prices.
In the longer term, foreign policy traditionalists worry about what Trump’s ideological turn means for the American-led world order.
“The order in essence was based in trust. People had to trust the United States to ultimately do the right thing. You were willing to give it room to fail and to make mistakes but then to come back,” Daalder, a former US ambassador to NATO, said.
“He has fundamentally broken that trust.”

Saudi crown prince’s carefully managed rise hides dark side

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF YAHOO NEWS)

 

Saudi crown prince’s carefully managed rise hides dark side

Jon Gambrell, Associated Press
Associated Press 
Saudi crown prince's carefully managed rise hides dark side
FILE – In this March 22, 2018, file photo, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets with U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis at the Pentagon in Washington. In a kingdom once ruled by an-ever aging rotation of elderly monarchs, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman stands out as a youthful face of a youthful nation. But behind a carefully coiffed public-relations operation highlighting images of him smiling in meetings with the world’s top business executives and leaders like President Donald Trump, a darker side lurks as well.(AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)
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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — In a kingdom once ruled by an ever-aging rotation of elderly monarchs, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman stands out as the youthful face of a youthful nation. But behind the carefully calibrated public-relations campaign pushing images of the smiling prince meeting with the world’s top leaders and business executives lurks a darker side.

Last year, at age 31, Mohammed became the kingdom’s crown prince, next in line to the throne now held by his octogenarian father, King Salman. While pushing for women to drive, he has overseen the arrest of women’s rights activists. While calling for foreign investment, he has imprisoned businessmen, royals and others in a crackdown on corruption that soon resembled a shakedown of the kingdom’s most powerful people.

As Saudi defense minister from the age of 29, he pursued a war in Yemen against Shiite rebels that began a month after he took the helm and wears on today.

What the crown prince chooses next likely will affect the world’s largest oil producer for decades to come. And as the disappearance and feared death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul may show, the young prince will brook no dissent in reshaping the kingdom in his image.

“I don’t want to waste my time,” he told Time Magazine in a cover story this year. “I am young.”

Khashoggi, a U.S. resident who wrote several columns for The Washington Post critical of Prince Mohammed, disappeared Oct. 2 on a visit to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Turkish officials have offered no evidence, but say they fear the writer was killed and dismembered by a Saudi team of 15 men — an operation that, if carried out, would have to have been authorized by the top of the Al Saud monarchy. The kingdom describes the allegation as “baseless,” but has provided no proof that Khashoggi ever left the consulate.

For decades in Saudi Arabia, succession passed down among the dozens of sons of the kingdom’s founder, King Abdul-Aziz. And, over time, the sons have grown older and older upon reaching the throne.

When King Salman took power in January of 2015 and quickly appointed Prince Mohammed as defense minister, it took the kingdom by surprise, especially given the importance of the position and the prince’s age.

He was little-known among the many grandchildren of Saudi Arabia’s patriarch, a young man educated only in the kingdom who stuck close to his father, who previously served as the governor of Riyadh, the Saudi capital.

As defense minister, he entered office facing a crisis in Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, which lies south of the kingdom. Shiite rebels known as Houthis had overrun the country’s capital, Sanaa, unseating the deeply unpopular government of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

When Hadi fled and it appeared the country’s port city of Aden would fall to the rebels, Saudi Arabia launched a coalition war against the Houthis — a conflict that soon became a stalemate.

The United Nations estimates 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen’s conflict, and activists say that number is likely far higher. It has exacerbated what the U.N. calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with hunger and cholera stalking civilians, worsened by the kingdom’s blockade of ports.

Meanwhile, the Saudi-led coalition has faced widespread criticism for its airstrikes hitting clinics and marketplaces, which have killed civilians. The Houthis, as well, have indiscriminately used landmines and arrested political opponents.

The coalition says Iran has funneled weapons to the Houthis ranging from small arms to the ballistic missiles now regularly fired into the kingdom, which Iran denies.

For Prince Mohammed, the conflict remains part of what he sees as an existential struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran for the future of the Middle East. Asked about Western concerns over civilian casualties, he offers this: “Mistakes happen in all wars.”

“We don’t need to have a new Hezbollah in the Arabian Peninsula. This is a red line not only for Saudi Arabia but for the whole world,” the prince recently told Bloomberg, referring to the Iran-allied Shiite militant group and political party dominant in Lebanon.

The prince also found himself involved in the bizarre resignation-by-television address of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who announced he would step down during a visit to the kingdom in November 2017, fueling suspicion he was coerced into doing so.

Story Continues

Washington Post columnist goes missing at Turkey consulate

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CBS News)

 

Washington Post columnist goes missing at Turkey consulate as fiancee waits outside

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – A Saudi journalist who has written Washington Post columns critical of the kingdom’s assertive crown prince has gone missing after visiting the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, the newspaper said Wednesday. Jamal Khashoggi’s personal website bore a banner saying “Jamal has been arrested at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul!” without elaborating.

The Post said the journalist’s friends were worried “after losing contact with him” Tuesday following his visit to the consulate.

Saudi officials in both Washington and Riyadh did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press. However, 33-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s rise to power has seen a slew of businessmen, politicians and activists detained.

“We have been unable to reach Jamal today and are very concerned about where he may be,” The Post’s international opinions editor, Eli Lopez, said in a statement. “It would be unfair and outrageous if he has been detained for his work as a journalist and commentator … We hope that he is safe and that we can hear from him soon.”

Saudi Arabia Missing Writer

In this Jan. 29, 2011, file photo, Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi speaks on his cellphone at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

 VIRGINIA MAYO / AP

Khashoggi, 59, is a longtime Saudi journalist, foreign correspondent, editor and columnist whose work has been controversial in the past in the ultraconservative Sunni kingdom. He went into a self-imposed exile in the United States following the ascension of Prince Mohammed, now next in line to the throne to his father, the 82-year-old King Salman.

As a contributor to the Post, Khashoggi has written extensively about Saudi Arabia, including criticizing its war in Yemen, its recent diplomatic spat with Canada and its arrest of women’s rights activists after the lifting of a ban on women driving.

“The arrests illuminate the predicament confronting all Saudis. We are being asked to abandon any hope of political freedom, and to keep quiet about arrests and travel bans that impact not only the critics but also their families,” Khashoggi wrote in a May 21 column for the Post. “We are expected to vigorously applaud social reforms and heap praise on the crown prince while avoiding any reference to the pioneering Saudis who dared to address these issues decades ago.”

On Tuesday, Khashoggi entered the consulate to get paperwork he needed in order to be married to his Turkish fiancee next week, leaving her outside with his mobile phone, a friend of the writer told The Associated Press. Embassies throughout the Middle East routinely require phones to be left outside as a security precaution.

BBC News reports his fiancee said she waited outside the consulate until it closed, and Khashoggi had not returned. “I don’t know what’s happening. I don’t know if he’s inside or if they took him somewhere else,” she told Reuters.

Turkish police later came to the consulate and reviewed footage from two surveillance cameras outside that they said showed Khashoggi entered the building, but never left, the friend said. A Turkish security official said Wednesday that authorities were in discussions with Saudi consular officials about Khashoggi’s situation.

“Our efforts are continuing,” the official said, without elaborating. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations that bar officials from speaking to journalists without prior authorization.

Khashoggi was known for his interviews and travels with Osama bin Laden between 1987 and 1995, including in Afghanistan, where he wrote about the battle against the Soviet occupation. In the early 1990s, he tried to persuade bin Laden to reconcile with the Saudi royal family and return home from his base in Sudan, but the al Qaeda leader refused.

Khashoggi maintained ties with Saudi elite and launched a satellite news channel, Al-Arab, from Bahrain in 2015 with the backing of Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal. The channel stayed on the air for less than 11 hours before being shut down. Its billionaire backer was detained in the Ritz Carlton roundup overseen by Prince Mohammed in 2017.

“Presently, Saudi citizens no longer understand the rationale behind the relentless wave of arrests,” Khashoggi wrote in an Aug. 7 column. “These arbitrary arrests are forcing many into silence, and a few others have even quietly left the country.”

He offered this advice to the kingdom: “There is a better way for the kingdom to avoid Western criticism: Simply free human rights activists, and stop the unnecessary arrests that have diminished the Saudi image.”