The same day U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Saudi Arabia the U.S. government received a $100 million payment from the Saudi kingdom, both the The New York Times and Washington Post reported.
Pompeo went arrived on Tuesday to discuss the disappearance and presumed murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Trump administration officials have insisted the timing of the transfer of fund was a “coincidence.” But many people do not believe that is true.
Joshua Landis, director of the University of Oklahoma’s Center of Middle East Studies, said he believes the two events are connected.
“In all probability, the Saudis want Trump to know that his cooperation in covering for the Khashoggi affair is important to the Saudi monarch. Much of its financial promises to the U.S. will be contingent on this cooperation,” Landis said.
One unnamed U.S. official, who is involved in Middle East policy, told the Times, “The timing of this is no coincidence.”
Saudi Arabia publicly pledged the payment to support U.S. stabilization efforts in northeastern Syria in August, but there were many questions concerning when and if Saudi Arabia would actually pay the money.
Brett McGurk, a U.S. envoy, said the Saudi payment had no connection whatsoever to Pompeo’s meeting with the Crown Prince or Khashoggi’s alleged murder.
“The specific transfer of funds has been long in process and has nothing to do with other events or the secretary’s visit,” McGurk said.
Many people believe the murder and dismemberment of Khashoggi was the work of people from the Crown Prince’s inner circle. But both and Pompeo and President Trump said this week that the Saudis should be given more time to investigate the situation and should be assumed innocent until proven guilty.
Trump and Pompeo have continually stressed close ties between the Saudis and the United States, and have also mentioned several times the massive amounts of money that the U.S. receives from the kingdom.
Pompeo told reporters on Wednesday that “we need to make sure we are mindful” of the important business and government ties with Saudi Arabia as the U.S. considers next steps regarding the Khashoggi case.
“I do think it’s important that everyone keep in their mind that we have lots of important relationships ― financial relationships between U.S. and Saudi companies, governmental relationships, things we work on together all across the world, the efforts to [counter Iran],” Pompeo said, according to CNN.
When asked about Khashoggi’s disappearance last Thursday, Trump said that while “we don’t like it even a little bit,” it wouldn’t be “acceptable” to him to stop selling billions of dollars worth of weapons to Riyadh.
One thing that Trump did not mention is that he and his family have also have many business ties to Saudi Arabia, and this may color his judgment when it comes to what policy the U.S. should adopt. On Tuesday Rachel Maddow on her MSNBC show offered evidence that Trump is in fact “compromised” due to his financial connections to the Saudi kingdom.