As expected, relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia will weather the storm unleashed by the Khashoggi affair, because they respond to imperatives and considerations that go beyond the individuals in charge of various responsibilities within the two countries. This is the very clear message sent by Donald Trump to all interested parties in the form of a solemn statement, published on the White House website on November 20, 2018. On the previous day, King Salman of Saudi Arabia had inaugurated the new session of his country’s Advisory “Shura” Council without any mention of the Khashoggi case. Immediately afterwards, the monarch began a visit of two more of the kingdom’s provinces: Tabuk and Al-Jawf. As in the other three provinces he has visited so far (Qassim, Hail and Medina), Salman pledged to invest billions of dollars in various projects to create jobs and improve the lot of the people (PETROSTRATEGIES of November 19, 2018). He was accompanied everywhere by his youngest son, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS), who is at the center of the controversy triggered by the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Significantly, although Donald Trump's statement is devoted to Saudi Arabia, it begins with a rant against Iran, which is blamed for the “bloody proxy war against Saudi Arabia in Yemen”. It is then accused of attempting to “destabilize Iraq’s fragile attempt at democracy” and to support the Hezbollah “terror group” in Lebanon, as well as “dictator Bashar Assad” of Syria, “who has killed millions of his own citizens”. For its part, “Saudi Arabia would gladly withdraw from Yemen if the Iranians would agree to leave”, said the US President. The Saudis would then “immediately provide” the Yemenis with “desperately needed” humanitarian assistance, says Trump.
The US President then starts to discuss relations between his country and the Saudi kingdom. At this stage of his declaration, these are presented from a particular angle: that of finance and arms sales. Trump refers to his visit to Saudi Arabia in May 2017 (his first overseas trip as US President) as “heavily negotiated”. “The Kingdom agreed to spend and invest $450 billion in the United States”, he says. He then quotes the notorious $110 billion that the Saudis are to spend to buy US weapons. “If we foolishly cancel these contracts, Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries”, he says.
Donald Trump then mentions the Khashoggi case, calling the journalist a victim of “an unacceptable and horrible crime”. “Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an ‘enemy of the state’ and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but my decision is in no way based on that”, says Trump. “King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” says the US President. According to the US press, the CIA has concluded that MBS sponsored Khashoggi's murder.
The US President then concludes his statement on his country's relations with Saudi Arabia. “In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”, he says. In other words, it does not depend on individuals. The Saudis “have been a great ally in our very important fight against Iran. The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region”, says Trump. He then finishes by talking about oil. “After the United States, Saudi Arabia is the largest oil-producing nation in the world. They have worked closely with us and have been very responsive to my requests to keeping oil prices at reasonable levels”, he concluded, referring to Saudi Arabia's increased production in recent months.