Well that didn’t take long.
It’s been less than two days since US President Donald Trump threatened ‘severe punishment’ for whoever was responsible for the presumed murder of Jamal Khashoggi. The journalist, a well-known critic of the Saudi royal family, was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul two weeks ago.
Now it looks like the Saudi rulers may be ready to offer up some scapegoats.
While that may not be good news for seeing real justice served, it could avert a potentially painful fallout between oil rich Saudi Arabia and the US.
Over the weekend the Saudi Press Agency released an aggressive statement saying:
‘The Kingdom also affirms that if it receives any action, it will respond with greater action, that the Kingdom’s economy has an influential and vital role in the global economy.’
That statement looks to have been little more than bluster.
The world needs Saudi Arabia’s oil, and the billions of dollars it invests in technology and other industries. But without US diplomatic and military support, the Saudi royal family would likely find themselves relegated to the history books.
Trump suggests ‘rogue killers’ could be to blame
In a comment that appears intended to give Saudi officials a way to back down from their outright denials, Trump suggested ‘rogue killers’ could be responsible for Khashoggi’s disappearance and presumed murder.
According to AP, Trump was quoted as saying, ‘I mean, who knows? We’re going to try getting to the bottom of it very soon, but his was a flat denial.’
Trump is walking a tightrope here because in May of last year, he sealed a 10-year $350 billion dollar arms deal with the Saudis.
Trump wants to keep this deal moving forward to secure US jobs, but believes, as reported by The Hill, ‘There are other things that we can do that would be very severe.’
But pressure could mount with Germany, Britain and France issuing a joint statement over the weekend expressing ‘grave concern’ and demanding that those responsible ‘are held to account.’
Looking ahead, reports out of CNN and The New York Times indicate that the Saudis may try to play this down by claiming it was a botched interrogation.
Trump responded by saying, ‘I heard that report, but nobody knows if it’s an official report.’
The hope from both Trump and the Saudis is that this angle could give them the leeway necessary to forge ahead with the arms deal.
As a result, it seems that everyone knows what happened here, but no one has found the best way to play this in the press.
The Australian Tribune will be on top of this story as it develops.
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