Thursday, January 17, 2019 | ePaper
Trump a reluctant critic of Saudi Arabia despite pressure to act
Reuters, Washington :
Six days after Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi disappeared, U.S. President Donald Trump tried to play down the crisis, saying "hopefully that will sort itself out".
It did not, and on Oct. 10, amid a growing outcry, Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and national security adviser John Bolton pressed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, in what one U.S. official described as a "stern" phone call, to identify who was responsible for Khashoggi's disappearance or death.
Trump then seemed to give Saudi Arabia the benefit of the doubt, suggesting "rogue killers" may have been to blame and criticizing a growing view that this was a case of state murder.
He changed his tone once again late this week, raising the prospect of sanctions against Riyadh.
But when Saudi Arabia finally admitted on Saturday that Khashoggi was dead, saying he was killed in a fight inside the consulate, Trump said the official explanation was "credible" even as Republican and Democratic lawmakers responded with anger and disbelief.
Over the last two weeks, Trump has at times spoken of punishing Saudi Arabia but appeared reluctant to follow through against a close economic and security ally in the Middle East, a key player in ensuring the stability of global oil markets, and a major customer of arms deals that he says are "tremendous".