Home/Daniel Larison/Another Feeble Trump Administration Response to Saudi Crimes

Another Feeble Trump Administration Response to Saudi Crimes

The official Trump administration responses on the Khashoggi case are about as tepid and toothless as can be:

It took the Trump administration six days since Khashoggi first disappeared before they provided any official response beyond generic expressions of concern. The vice president’s statement alludes to Khashoggi’s likely murder, but neglects to mention that the Saudi government is the one being held responsible for the violence done to him. Secretary Pompeo calls on Saudi Arabia to support a thorough investigation, as if they are not the prime suspects of any credible investigation that would take place. The messages coming from the Trump administration are scarcely better than boilerplate statements, and it shows that the administration has no interest in criticizing the Saudi government or in holding them accountable for their crime. The president’s remarks earlier in the day were even more feeble:

“I am concerned about it. I don’t like hearing about it,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “Hopefully that will sort itself out. Right now nobody knows anything about it.”

This isn’t something that is going to “sort itself out.” The Saudi government is denying everything and hoping that other governments’ inattention or indifference will let them off the hook for the crime. The Trump administration doesn’t want to challenge the Saudis on anything, and so it appears they are going to pay just enough lip service so they can say that they didn’t completely ignore it.

I have referred on occasion to Trump’s “Saudi first” foreign policy in the region, and I fear that we are seeing more of it on display this week. That “Saudi first” policy has wrought enormous damage on Yemen and the wider region, and it has closely bound the U.S. to a regional menace that believes it can act without suffering any consequences in its relationship with Washington. The Saudi government has had no reason to think that the U.S. would disapprove of anything it does because the Trump administration has given them carte blanche for the better part of the last two years. It is past time that Congress changed that and showed the reckless leadership in Riyadh that they have exhausted our government’s patience.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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