Donald Trump will always prefer Saudi money over justice

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Tallha Abdulrazaq

The scathing report from the UN and the calls for the FBI to get involved in the Jamal Khashoggi murder investigation fell on deaf ears in the US. Why? Because money trumps morals.

President Donald Trump has finally laid the issue of whether or not the United States will investigate the savage murder of Jamal Khashoggi to rest, even as the ghost of the unfortunate journalist continues to haunt Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, better known as MBS.

An independent United Nations report last week revealed more details into Khashoggi’s final moments and said there was “credible evidence” of MBS’ involvement that warranted further investigation, calling for the FBI to become involved.

There has never quite been anything like the murder of Khashoggi in terms of the sheer damage that it has caused to Saudi Arabia’s image internationally. Even as Saudi attempts to show the world that it is bringing his killers to justice, it is quite apparent that no one is buying it.

The UN report criticises these trials and has called for an independent judicial authority to investigate and adjudicate to ensure no stone is left unturned in bringing all those involved to justice.

Blood bribes keep Trumpian justice at bay

Speaking to the American media yesterday, though, Trump said the US would not investigate the question of whether or not MBS was directly involved in the murder of Khashoggi who was killed and dismembered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last year. As part of his reasoning, the American president said that Saudi Arabian investments and money was too important to him to risk on something like justice for Khashoggi.

Trump stressed the economic benefits that Saudi Arabian money and arms deals bring to the United States, saying: “Saudi Arabia is a big buyer of [American] products. That means something to me. It’s a big producer of jobs.”

Indicating the threat of a resurgent Russia and a hungry and growing China, Trump essentially argued that if he took the moral stance and decided to hold Saudi Arabia to account, he would be “like a fool” as the Kingdom would simply turn to Moscow and Beijing if Washington stopped selling them arms and other products.

In other words, Trump could not care less about who was responsible for the ghoulish and grisly slaying of Khashoggi. As far as he was concerned, it had already been “heavily investigated” and he had read “so many different reports” on the matter.

The American president sounded almost bored with the entire affair and was utterly unmoved by not only the UN’s report but also by his intelligence community. Last year, the CIA laid the blame for Khashoggi’s death at MBS’ door, not that Trump cared.

Trump framed his relationship with Saudi Arabia in the simplest terms possible and said, “take their money. Take their money.”

One can only imagine what he might have said had he perceived Riyadh to be a hostile entity with no money to give him the blood bribes he so desperately wants to feed the American economy. Somehow, I doubt he would be so flippant with the issue of getting justice for the slain journalist if Saudi was unwilling to play ball and help to buoy the US economy, but just so happened to be sat on a veritable treasure trove of natural resources, which it does.

After all, who can forget that Trump advocated simply taking Iraq’s oil away as some sort of compensation for the poor excuse of a democracy the United States imposed on Iraqis through tanks, missiles and aircraft in 2003.

US realpolitik always wins over morality

But we should not be surprised by Trump’s lack of willingness to bring the perpetrators of this murder to justice. The White House will always look at cases like this and, despite perhaps expressing distaste as Trump did when he mocked it as the “worst cover-up in history”, will always place the interests of the state before any lofty ideals such as justice. One would be naive to think otherwise.

After all, even the liberals’ poster boy, former President Barack Obama, was completely indifferent to the mass murder of civilians by the military dictatorship of Abdel Fattah el Sisi when the late President Mohammed Morsi was toppled in 2013.

At the time, it made for cringe-worthy television when reporter after reporter attempted to get the White House to simply describe what had happened as a coup which, of course, it undoubtedly was.

The Obama administration resolutely refused to do so, because calling a coup a coup would mean that they would have had to, by law, cease providing arms and other military support to the Egyptian military that had just riddled democracy with bullets and ensconced itself once more in the presidential palace.

Going back even further, Iran’s Mohammad Mossadegh was in office as prime minister for a little over a year before he was overthrown in 1953 by the CIA and Britain’s spy agency MI6 for daring to nationalise the Iranian oil industry.

Similarly, in 1980, the CIA aided the Turkish military in launching a putsch that resulted in mass human rights abuses and shattered widespread engagement in Turkish politics for another couple of decades.

Obviously, any country in the Middle East – which Trump described pejoratively as a “vicious, hostile place” – wanting to exercise self-determination and possessing strategic value will find itself plotted against by not only the US but also Russia and other powers with interest in the region.

In Saudi Arabia’s case, it is not seeking anything more than to continue to be a close ally and partner to the United States, has acquiesced to helping Trump build open relations between Arab authoritarian states and Israel, the wishes of the Palestinians be damned, and has consistently spent its wealth in the interests of the US.

At least Trump is open and transparent about his dealings with the region, and the same cannot be said for previous presidents who at least paid lip service to these ideals even as they played the game of realpolitik and acted in their own perceived national interest.

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Tallha Abdulrazaq

Tallha Abdulrazaq is an award-winning academic and writer, with a specialism in Middle Eastern strategic and security affairs.

 

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