Trump’s frankness and the Khashoggi crisis

Abdulrahman al-Rashed
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An anonymous source at the CIA said that the Saudi crown prince is responsible and another source, also anonymous, at the State Department was quoted as saying that there were reports that implicate Saudi Arabia in the crime. Afterwards, American President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denied this.

The leaks which seemed to be within the context of a campaign adopted by some American dailies were attributed to anonymous sources in the CIA, State Department and others and came after the leaks of Turkish officials decreased. All this pushed the White House to publicly announce standing by the Saudi government in the controversy surrounding the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.


The stance can be read as a response to Qatar’s and Turkey’s governments and as against Trump’s rivals in the Democratic Party and the media which opposes him. The campaign aimed to embarrass the American president and force him to take a different stance.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

This is why Trump chose to announce his administration’s statement in a long, written and frank statement. In order for the message to reach everyone, the president also made a public appearance and spoke to the press about his statement.

The Secretary of State also made a public appearance and confirmed the statement’s content. Hence, the White House aborted the game of leaks and the psychological and media war.

Trump had previously clarified his legal stance that there’s nothing that requires the government to intervene as neither the man killed is American nor the territory where he was killed is American. Trump also clarified that he is not convinced in the accusations and emphasized that Saudi Arabia is an important country for the US.

By doing so, he is trying to silence the parties exerting pressure, whether in the Congress, and most of them are from the rival Democratic Party, or Turkey which he responded to by using its same approach as he leaked information to embarrass it – as Turkey was using the crime to bargain in order to push him to make concessions to release a convicted Turkish banker or hand over an opposition figure in exchange of stopping its campaign against Saudi Arabia.

The Khashoggi case is an incidental weapon in a battle that has already existed on the American arena for two years between the Republicans, the president’s party, and his rival Democrats. In this battle, personal accusations were made against the president, against his family and candidates of which the most recent was appointing a judge to the Supreme Court.

The ongoing pressure on Trump regarding Saudi Arabia preceded the Khashoggi case, i.e. the dispute over supporting the Yemeni war as the president’s opponents have called on him to end American support to Saudi Arabia and the Arab coalition in the war against the rebels, Iran’s allies in Yemen. And now pressure that call for boycotting Saudi Arabia, particularly to end arms’ sale, and to stop the military, intelligence cooperation and inflight refueling of Saudi jets has back into the picture.

What are their demands? Stop the war in Yemen and withdraw Saudi troops and their allies from there. Trump had a new response and said that Saudi Arabia does not want war and is willing to withdraw from Yemen now if Iran ends its support of the Houthis. There will be no logic in talking about preventing Saudi Arabia without getting Iran – which was behind the coup in Yemen from the beginning – out of Yemen. Trump has made it his major foreign political project to confront Iran and he has in fact begun to impose sanctions so Iran accepts to halt its nuclear military program and stop spreading chaos in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan and other countries.

This article is also available in Arabic.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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