Schmoozing in Riyadh
On Tuesday, Mike Pompeo met with Saudi king Salman and crown prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) in Riyadh.
His trip is all about assuring them of no change in bilateral relations, accountability for eliminating Jamal Khashoggi off the table. Longstanding ties between both nations remain strong.
The kingdom’s horrendous civil and human rights abuses are non-issues. According to State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, “Pompeo met today with Saudi king Salman in Riyadh.”
“The secretary thanked the king for Saudi Arabia’s strong partnership with the United States. The secretary and the king discussed a number of regional and bilateral issues.”
“The secretary also thanked the king for his commitment to supporting a thorough, transparent, and timely investigation of Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance.”
The above readout made no mention of MBS, Saudi ruler in waiting, in charge of kingdom policymaking, its king yet to be crowned – barring the reported ill, weak and frail king Salman and other royal family members close to him having second thoughts about a figure, creating a worldwide furor over Khashoggi’s disappearance and murder.
Pompeo’s schmoozing with Saudi human rights abusers on a colossal scale made it seem like the tail wags the dog in US/kingdom relations.
Khashoggi was a Washington Post columnist. On Tuesday, the broadsheet said “(o)ver the past few days, Saudi officials have discussed issuing a statement that, in part, would mention a botched operation and call for the punishment of culpable officials, according to (a) person with knowledge of the discussions.”
“The statement would be issued only after Saudi Arabia reached an agreement with Turkey on how to proceed with the investigation, the person said.”
On Tuesday, Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News reported that police found evidence in the Saudi’s Istanbul consulate about Khashoogi’s disappearance, proving he was killed there – no further details provided.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the Saudis so far admitted no culpability for what happened. Erdogan said Turkish forensic investigators found toxic materials in the consulate, adding “materials” in the facility were “paint(ed) over.”
Pompeo and MBS reportedly “agreed on the importance of a thorough, transparent, and timely investigation that provides answers,” a meaningless statement.
Senator Lindsey Graham told Fox News he’ll not travel to the kingdom “as long as (MBS is) in charge,” adding:
“This guy is a wrecking ball. He had (Khashoggi) murdered in a consulate in Turkey, and to expect me to ignore it.”
“This MBS figure is to me toxic. He can never be a world leader on the world stage.”
Graham called for “sanction(ing) the hell out of Saudi Arabia. (MBS) has got to go.”
Turkish forensic investigators said they’ll release their findings in two or three days. The kingdom likely offered to throw money at Ankara to soften them.
A same-day article said the kingdom appears set to admit responsibility for Khashoggi’s killing – calling it a botched interrogation and plan to abduct him.
Despite his elimination, no change in Saudi relations with the West is likely. The current furor will fade in the days and weeks ahead – dirty business with the kingdom to continue.
Pompeo’s visit to Riyadh said it all. Bilateral US/Saudi ties are rock solid.
My newest book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”