After Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s return from Riyahd after meeting with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, he met with President Trump on Thursday regarding missing, and presumed dead, Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. NBC reports that he advised President Trump to give Saudi Arabia a “few more days” to investigate before deciding on a response.
Speaking with reporters after that meeting, Pompeo stated that the United States and Saudi Arabia are in agreement of the seriousness of the situation regarding Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance from the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
“There are lots of stories out there about what has happened. We are going to allow the process to move forward,” Pompeo said at the White House after a morning meeting with the president.
“I told President Trump this morning we ought to give them a few more days to complete that so that we too have a complete understanding surrounding the facts that so at which point, we can make a decision how or if the United States should respond to the incident surrounding Mr. Khashoggi,” he said.NBC
The New York Times reports that Turkish officials state that they have audio evidence that Khashoggi was beaten, tortured, killed and dismembered in the consulate. They allege that Khashoggi’s body was flown out of Turkey by a team of 15 Saudi Arabians who flew in to Istanbul immediately prior to Khashoggi’s appointment at the consulate and flew out of Turkey before Khashoggi’s disappearance became known.
Earlier this week, President Trump speculated that perhaps a group of “rogue killers” murdered the journalist and pointed out that Khashoggi wasn’t a US citizen.
Experts believe the “rogue killers” explanation is inconceivable, given MBS’s hands-on style and the way the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is run, according to the Washington Post. Indeed, the Post reports that MSB had been working to grab Khashoggi long before he entered the consulate to obtain paperwork for his impending marriage. Khashoggi had been sharply critical of the policies of the ruling family and had escaped to the US after his criticism put him in danger. Khashoggi was a legal US resident, residing in Virginia on an O-visa, per CNBC.
An O-visa is granted to applicants “who possesses extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or who has a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and has been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements” according to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
President Trump has been critized for “covering” for the Saudi’s after reports surfaced that US intelligence agencies knew about the threat to Khashoggi but did not warn him and in light of Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner’s close relationship with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Intelligence agencies have a “duty to warn” people who might be kidnapped, seriously injured or killed, according to a directive signed in 2015. The obligation applies regardless of whether the person is a U.S. citizen. Khashoggi was a U.S. resident.Washington Post
US officials declined to comment on the Saudi plan to detain Khashoggi or whether he was warned but say the US had no knowledge of Khashoggi’s disappearance.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the warning process, declined to comment on whether Khashoggi had been contacted.
Administration officials have not commented on the intelligence reports that showed a Saudi plan to lure Khashoggi.
“Though I cannot comment on intelligence matters, I can say definitively the United States had no advance knowledge of [Khashoggi’s] disappearance,” deputy State Department spokesman Robert Palladino told reporters Wednesday. Asked whether the U.S. government would have had a duty to warn Khashoggi if it possessed information that he was in jeopardy, Palladino declined to answer what he called a “hypothetical question.”Washington Post
In response to criticism of the White House response, Trump has stated, “I’m not giving cover at all. They are an ally. We have other good allies in the Middle East.” He has also expressed “hope” that the Crown Prince and King didn’t know about the disappearance of Jamal Kashoggi and called the global outrage a “rush to judgement”, a case of “guilty until proven innocent”.
US officials admit privately there is no reason to doubt the evidence the Turkish government claims to have regarding the disappearance of Khashoggi or to doubt that MSB was aware of the operation to kill the dissident, per the Washington Post.
Why It Matters
Both the Secretary of State and the president have emphasized the importance of the strategic relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia. But that long standing relationship will be tested by the facts that are revealed surrounding Khashoggi’s disappearance and the response of the King and Crown Prince. Both Saudi Arabia’s and the US’s place on the global stage are at risk.
If the US does not react swiftly and strongly, our place as a defender of freedom will be diminished. Oppressors will be strengthened and the oppressed will be more vulnerable than ever.