More evidence concerning the close ties between the Saudi Arabian rulers and the Trump administration keeps surfacing. The killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi has led to much publicity and much criticism of these ties.
After Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2 it was widely reported that he was a political dissident in his home country and that’s why he was banned from writing there. It’s true that Khashoggi was often critical of the Saudi government in his reporting.
However it wasn’t criticism of Saudi Arabia’s government that led to a writing ban two years ago. Instead, it was his criticisms of President Trump that led the Saudi regime to prohibit him from publishing any more of his work there.
According to the US State Department he was barred from appearing in any type of media in Saudi Arabia after he criticized President Donald Trump in late 2016. Khashoggi had criticized Trump’s stance and rhetoric on the Middle East in an appearance at a Washington, DC, think tank.
“The expectation that ‘Trump as president’ will be starkly different from ‘Trump as candidate’ is a false hope at best,” Khashoggi said at the time.
Khashoggi left his native country roughly six months after the ban, in June 2017, which also prohibited him from making TV appearances and attending conferences. He became a US resident — splitting time between Virginia, Istanbul, and London — and wrote columns for The Washington Post.
From a 2017 State Department report on Saudi Arabia human rights:
“Well-known Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi said he moved to the United States in ‘self-exile’ and ‘could face arrest upon returning home’ due to his writing. He claimed his column in Saudi newspaper al-Hayat had been cancelled under political pressure. In 2016 authorities purportedly banned him from writing, appearing on television, and attending conferences as the result of remarks he made that were interpreted as criticizing the president of the United States, according to multiple media sources. Earlier, in July, authorities reportedly lifted the writing ban against him.”
In a conversation with Columbia Journalism Review in March 2018,Khashoggi talked about the ban.
“I’m a believer in free journalism, despite all the limitations we had. I always pushed the envelope, I always wanted to have more space,” he said.
Khashoggi added: “I was so insulted when the royal court called me and told me that I am not allowed to write. … In America, you take freedom for granted.”
Khashoggi’s murder has threatened the historic and strategic US-Saudi relationship.
The CIA reportedly concluded with “high confidence” that Khashoggi’s killing was ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of the kingdom. But the Saudi government has insisted Prince Mohammed was not involved.
In the United States outrage erupted in Congress over Khashoggi’s killing and the fact that one of our allies had ordered the murder of a dissident journalist.
But President Donald Trump has stood by Prince Mohammed and repeatedly touted the purported economic and strategic benefits of the US-Saudi relationship.
Trump on Tuesday said the US “intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia” despite Khashoggi’s killing. He is being accused of undermining America’s intelligence community as well as the government’s commitment to human rights.
The Trump’s strong support of the Saudi regime in this crisis has led many critics to question whether his business ties in the country are influencing his foreign policy.