The disappearance and possible murder of Jamal Khashoggi has created an international backlash against King Salman of Saudi Arabia and Mohammad Bin Salman, the Crown Prince.
Khashoggi, a journalist at the Washington Post and frequent critic of the Saudi government, entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul earlier in October and never reappeared. The Saudis first said he left the consulate, and now say that Khashoggi might have been killed “accidentally.” The circumstances are very suspicious to say the least.
Many in Congress are encouraging President Trump to respond to the alleged murder of Khashoggi, although a crime has not been substantiated. Trump has been hesitant to take any actions against Saudi Arabia until all the facts are examined, and to protect a $100 billion plus military transaction pending with the Saudis. Trump believes his relationship with Crown Prince is a huge asset and very important to U.S. national and economic security.
Most Americans believe that America should stand up and respond to all human rights violations wherever they occur. Frequently, the U.S. has wielded its influence to protest against crimes against humanity. Saudi Arabia should not be immune to U.S. sanctions in the face of these types of acts.
But the magnitude of an American response to the fate of one man, not a U.S. citizen, in a foreign country must be measured. This is not to say that we should not be empathetic and curious about Khashoggi’s current status.
An aggressive response to the incident seems hypocritical as compared to other situations in recent history. Thousands of people are killed every year throughout the world, and the U.S. response is anything but incredulous. In the case of Khashoggi, many important initiatives and good relations with Saudi Arabia could be at stake if the U.S. responds too assertively.
The president has committed to unite with Saudi Arabia to fight against Iran. The Saudis are particularly good allies in this regard because they resent Iran and its bellicose ayatollahs for both political and religious reasons. In fact, unlike the U.S., the Saudis are more concern with the latter than the former. Iran is Shiite and Saudi Arabia is Sunni.
In any regard, Saudi Arabia has pledged to work in consort with the U.S. in pushing back against Iranian support of terrorism and nefarious actions throughout the Middle East, in particular Iraq and Syria.
The aforementioned military transaction will equip the Saudi’s to accomplish its objectives against Iran. Moreover, the U.S. works closely with the Saudi military in defense of others in the Middle East. The fate of millions could be dependent upon good relations between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.
The financial relationship between the two countries and U.S. companies is also extremely important. The Saudis have worked diligently to stabilize, to some extent, the volatility of oil prices. This has been a factor in the performance of the U.S. economy during the past several years. A conflict between Saudi Arabia and the U.S. would probably have dire consequences to the global economy.
Trump has said he wants to protect the beneficiaries of the military equipment deal. Significant employment gains will occur because of it, and revenues will flow into U.S. manufacturers. The U.S. should not be willing to trade murder for commerce, but cooler heads should prevail in the Khashoggi situation to prevent actions that are in nobody’s best interests.