23:43 GMT +314 October 2019
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    Tawakkol Karman, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate for 2011 holds a picture of missing Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi as she speaks to journalists near the Saudi Arabia consulate, in Istanbul, Turkey.

    Trump Likely to Block Any Attempts to Sanction Saudis Over Missing Journalist

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    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - US President Donald Trump is likely to block any sanctions that US Congress may try to impose on Saudi Arabia over missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi, although the administration may be forced to take at least symbolic action amid ever burgeoning outrage, analysts told Sputnik.

    Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post, has been missing since October 2 when he visited the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to obtain documents needed for his upcoming marriage.

    The Washington Post reported on Thursday that the Turkish government has audio and video recordings that prove Khashoggi was tortured and then murdered inside the Saudi consulate.

    'Lockstep' With Saudis

    Trump has faced increasing domestic pressure to take action against the Saudis in recent days. US Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker on Thursday requested a Global Magnitsky Act investigation and said Washington should impose sanctions on Saudi officials at the highest levels if they are responsible for the journalist’s disappearance.

    Many other lawmakers, meanwhile, have called on Trump to freeze arms sales and end all support for the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen because of the incident.

    Trump, for his part, told reporters on Friday that he would call the Saudis about the matter because it is "potentially" a really terrible situation. Trump on Thursday, however, said he would not support any move to halt arms sales to the Saudis which generate $110 billion annually for US businesses.

    California State University Chico Professor Emeritus of Political Science Beau Grosscup told Sputnik on Friday that Trump would offer no sympathy or support for any efforts to sanction the Kingdom.

    "They [Congress] could [pass sanctions] but Donald Trump will not do so," Grosscup said. "If they do anything, it will be nullified by Trump. A public condemnation yes, but that is all. Trump isn't about to defend a Washington Post journalist."

    The current US president has a consistent track record of strongly supporting the Saudi government and had shown no sympathy or support whatsoever for any of its critics on human rights or other issues, Grosscup recalled. Trump has been particularly fond of the new Saudi leader Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, often referred to as MBS.

    "Trump is in and has always been in lockstep with the Saudis, especially the new leader. In fact like other despots he is 'in love' with the way the Saudis do business, deal with dissident voices (beheadings), and run their government," Grosscup said.

    Trump has made no secret for his sympathy even with Saudi forms of political repression, Grosscup emphasized.

    "Several times he [Trump] has made clear that he wishes he could do what they [the Saudis] do and the way they do it," he said.

    However, Trump’s policy to ignore Saudi abuses is consistent with previous US presidents, Grosscup pointed out. Protected by the United States, in fact, for a long time and through various administrations, Saudi human rights abuses have been white washed or made invisible, he added.

    In an article last year, Khashoggi accused the Crown Prince for being even more repressive than previous regimes, which naturally drew the ire of the leaders in Riyadh. Despite being involved with the Western media, Grosscup explained why Riyadh had no qualms about targeting the journalist.

    "They don't care if he is US media: He is a traitor who needed to be silenced to make a point," Grosscup said. "That he is US media makes their point even stronger."

    Political Risks

    The possibility of Saudi involvement in the journalist’s disappearance has drawn harsh international opprobrium and has even led to the suspension of major economic development initiatives.

    Virgin Galactic Founder Richard Branson in a statement on Thursday said discussions with Saudi Arabia about investments in two of his space companies have been put on hold until a probe into the missing journalist is completed. Several media outlets, including CNBC, CNN, the New York Times and the Financial Times, said they would pull out of an investment forum scheduled to take place in Saudi Arabia on October 23-25.

    Khashoggi’s disappearance and widely believed murder had impaled Trump on the horns of a public relations nightmare, political commentator and author Dan Lazare told Sputnik.

    "This places Trump in a serious quandary," Lazare said. "He can't disturb the status quo since he's counting on Riyadh to help roll back Iran."

    Since 1945, Lazare added, the United States has given the Saudis an absolute security guarantee, a protection that has essentially enabled it to wage war on whomever it likes. Conceivably, Trump could sanction Saudi leaders under the Magnitsky act, but that would be problematic, he suggested.

    "But since Bin Salman IS Saudi Arabia for all intents and purposes, it would lead to precisely the sort of rupture he [Trump] is trying to avoid," Lazare said.

    Trump could also lean on the crown prince’s father to issue some sort of apology or even fire the crown prince as part of the bargain but that would trigger a dangerous succession crisis, something Trump also wants to avoid, the analyst said.

    However, Trump could not get away with taking no actions at all to punish or pressure Riyadh, Lazare warned. Trump may have to "rock the boat" in some way due to the uproar on Capitol Hill.

    US-Saudi relations are now at a turning point thanks to the Khashoggi murder, Lazare said.

    "The Khashoggi murder is so brazen, so reckless, so over the top that I don't see how this can go on," Lazare said. "Saudi Arabia has truly achieved pariah status."

    Saudi Arabia has denied all allegations of involvement in the journalist’s disappearance. On Friday, the Bahraini and UAE foreign ministries announced their support for Riyadh, claiming that the accusations are an attempt to defame Saudi Arabia.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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    sanctions, journalist, missing, US Congress, Washington Post, Dan Lazare, Beau Grosscup, Donald Trump, Saudi Arabia, United States
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