At first, the government of Saudi Arabia denied any involvement in the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. They stated that he left their consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, in one piece. With mounting evidence that Khashoggi was tortured and murdered by 15 men who recently traveled to the consulate from Saudi Arabia, they needed to come up with a more believable story.
President Donald Trump had already put us on notice that “rogue killers” may have been responsible for Khashoggi’s death. When Trump was making that statement, however, the Saudi government was still insisting that Khashoggi had left their consulate alive. Apparently, Trump was getting ahead of himself in helping the Saudi government come up with an acceptable story.
Late last Friday, the Saudi government decided on a new story. Khashoggi, they said, entered the consulate and started a fight with the 15 Saudi officials. As one of the officials held Khashoggi in a choke hold, he accidentally strangled and killed him. Then they asked a local person to dispose of his body, but they don’t know where.
Trump changed his tune in the days after, and on Tuesday the U.S. took its first steps to sanction the Saudis over the incident. But Trump said he was still opposed to ending arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman or “MBS” as he is known, is not a nice guy. He has arrested many people for political opposition, including women’s rights advocates and journalists. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham called him a “wrecking ball” and promised on Fox News to “sanction the hell out of Saudi Arabia.”
Trump is trying to convince his supporters that we need Saudi Arabia’s business, especially in buying $110 billion worth of American weapons. But we know from multiple sources that the true value of military sales to them is between $13 billion and $20 billion. American is no longer as dependent on Saudi oil as we once were because American shale deposits provide more and more of our domestic needs. Saudi oil represents 11 percent of our oil imports compared to Canada (40 percent), Venezuela (9 percent), and Mexico (8 percent).
Despite Trump’s desperate attempt to convince us that we need Saudi Arabia more than they need us, the opposite is true. They need our military weapons and they need us to purchase their oil. They also need us to look the other way as they violate human rights at home and in Lebanon.
When it comes to dealing with Saudi Arabia, Trump is deeply conflicted. It is well-documented that members of the Saudi royal family have been very involved in purchasing Trump properties and supporting Trump businesses. While Trump now says that he has no financial interests in Saudi Arabia, his own past statements — and the facts — tell a different story.
“I like the Saudis. I make a lot of money with them. They buy all sorts of my stuff. All kinds of toys from Trump. They pay me millions and hundreds of millions,” Trump said during a 2015 campaign rally. Indeed, Trump’s business dealings with the Saudi government and royal family goes back decades.
According to research by The New York Times, Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin-Talal purchased Trump’s yacht for $20 million as “Trump was teetering on personal bankruptcy and scrambling to raise cash.” In 1995, a Saudi prince and other investors purchased the Trump Plaza Hotel, which was losing money at the time, for $325 million. In 2001, the Saudi government purchased the entire 45th floor of the Trump World Tower in New York for $12 million.
According to The Washington Post, President-elect Trump began laying the groundwork for possible new business in the kingdom. He registered eight companies with names tied to Saudi Arabia. These were documented in Trump’s 2016 financial disclosure report to the federal government.
Moreover, the Saudi money keeps rolling in. The Washington Post reported that the Crown Prince was “a major factor in a 13 percent jump in revenue from room rentals” at Trump hotels for the first three months in 2018.
Is there any wonder why Trump wants to stay in the good graces of Saudi Arabia, even if it means selling out the values of America?