SEVERE WX : Air Stagnation Advisory View Alerts

Berman slams Trump over Saudi response

CNN's John Berman looks at President Donald Trump's relationship with Saudi Arabia after the President signaled that he will not take strong action against Saudi Arabia or its Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the death and dismemberment of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Posted: Nov 21, 2018 2:14 PM
Updated: Nov 21, 2018 2:24 PM

In a stunning statement, brutally honest even by Trumpian standards, the President made his views of Saudi Arabia -- past, present and future -- crystal clear Tuesday.

Undermining his own CIA's intelligence assessment and hyperventilating about the virtues of the Saudis (a "truly spectacular ally," he called them last weekend), Donald Trump made plain he has no intention of losing confidence in Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, let alone imposing sanctions or him or any other Saudi royal over the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Trump not only pardoned the Thanksgiving turkey, he also pardoned the crown prince, to the detriment of US interests and values.

Doubling down on Saudi Arabia

Having not bothered to listen to the audio of the horrific final minutes of Khashoggi's life or to read the CIA's report on why analysts reasoned that the prince directed the killing, Trump doubled down on his apparent conviction that the relationship with Saudi Arabia was too big to fail.

His first foreign trip as President took him to Riyadh and Jerusalem -- a remarkable and unprecedented effort to reinvest in two relationships he believed his predecessor had undermined for the sake of a nuclear agreement he deemed the worst in history. And over the past year, Trump and his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, never looked back, giving the young crown prince support and the space to pursue a series of reckless, impulsive policies -- from Qatar to Yemen to a repressive crackdown at home.

Is Saudi Arabia really an ally?

Trump went to considerable lengths Tuesday to laud the virtues of the kingdom with respect to the United States -- on arms sales, investment, containment of Iran and the fight against Islamic terror. And there's no doubt the United States has an important relationship with the Saudis stretching back decades, driven primarily by oil and the need to maintain stability in the Gulf. But it's also a fact that America's close allies -- France, Britain, Australia, Canada -- share values as well as interests. And while no two countries' interests line up across the board, the weight of relationships must reflect more than just commercial or economic interest.

It would be more accurate to describe Saudi Arabia as a security partner -- and not necessarily on all issues. Under the crown prince, Riyadh has become even more repressive, as the brutal killing of Khashoggi and the crackdown on all domestic dissent suggest. But for Trump, allies are merely transactional partners heaping material benefits on the United States -- in this case cheap oil, money for weapons sales and job creation. The President ignores the downsides of these transactions and exaggerates the upsides.

The great bamboozle

But it is no exaggeration to suggest that amid all of Prince bin Salman's failures, perhaps his most important foreign policy achievement has been the bamboozling of Trump. Look no further than Tuesday's statement. Yes, the crown prince has undertaken some ameliorating steps at home, such as an effort to diversify the economy, allowing women to drive and controlling the religious police. But he's covered that over with deep repression on any and all dissent.

Abroad, Trump has watched from the sidelines as the Saudi royal has laid economic siege to Qatar, where the United States maintains its most important military base in the region, and he's intensified a war in Yemen with much help from the rival Houthis and Iran -- in the process turning an already failing state into the world's worst humanitarian disaster.

Indeed, instead of helping to contain Iran, Saudi Arabia has helped expand the room it has to meddle. As for arms sales and investment, Trump has profoundly exaggerated what the Saudis have done for America -- $14.5 billion in weapons sales, not $110 billion, and tens of thousands of jobs, not half a million, let alone the million to which he has referred.

The US has leverage

The killing of Khashoggi and the absence of an appropriate response will only persuade Prince bin Salman and other authoritarians that when it comes to human rights, and journalists, America just doesn't give a damn. The Trump administration has already coddled strongmen -- from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Chinese President Xi Jinping, to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. And so the pass on the Saudi crown prince was predictable.

And yet looked at from another perspective, the United States now has leverage over Saudi Arabia.

It's a perverse thought that in going easy on Prince bin Salman on the Khashoggi killing, the Trump administration could well press harder to end the war in Yemen, ease tensions with Qatar and get the Saudis to support a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is fair and equitable and that goes beyond the pro-Israeli approach the administration appears to be taking.

Of course, the Trump administration would need to show a willingness to use that leverage. And while stopping US refueling of Saudi aircraft operating in Yemen is a good step, as the administration announced earlier this year, it's going to take a great deal more than that to resolve the conflict.

One can always hope. But it seems doubtful, in light of Trump's statement Tuesday, that he is willing to make the effort to restore balance and reciprocity to a US-Saudi relationship.

Right now, that relationship is much more focused on meeting Saudi interests than ours.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 70832

Reported Deaths: 885
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah15875232
Washington997499
Marion9017137
Clackamas585377
Umatilla430149
Lane420241
Jackson364428
Malheur237942
Deschutes222814
Yamhill164816
Linn138522
Polk116816
Douglas91217
Jefferson80811
Union7715
Benton7667
Klamath7604
Morrow6517
Lincoln61315
Wasco51919
Josephine5104
Columbia4783
Coos4182
Hood River3941
Clatsop3510
Baker2723
Crook2176
Grant1341
Curry1292
Tillamook1230
Lake1171
Harney961
Wallowa713
Sherman230
Gilliam220
Wheeler30
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1185576

Reported Deaths: 19089
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles3877937604
San Bernardino902221129
Riverside857741437
San Diego76359996
Orange750951577
Kern40337448
Fresno37724481
Sacramento35854566
Santa Clara32985476
Alameda28857505
San Joaquin25738502
Contra Costa23571261
Stanislaus21460424
Tulare20649308
Ventura19058175
Imperial15862356
San Francisco15156160
Monterey14750116
San Mateo13715170
Sonoma11922157
Merced11537179
Santa Barbara11277135
Kings1047587
Solano1003681
Marin7628129
Placer635468
Madera604785
San Luis Obispo596435
Shasta471847
Yolo462675
Santa Cruz426928
Butte389459
Sutter314415
Napa298817
El Dorado22174
Yuba198110
San Benito183716
Lassen17733
Tehama161225
Mendocino148522
Nevada11849
Tuolumne9088
Glenn8928
Lake89019
Humboldt8509
Colusa6946
Siskiyou6242
Mono5273
Amador52016
Calaveras47822
Del Norte3131
Inyo29016
Plumas2050
Trinity1390
Mariposa1282
Modoc1250
Alpine470
Sierra190
Unassigned00
Medford
Overcast
35° wxIcon
Hi: 48° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 35°
Brookings
Clear
53° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 53°
Crater Lake
Clear
40° wxIcon
Hi: 41° Lo: 23°
Feels Like: 34°
Grants Pass
Overcast
36° wxIcon
Hi: 41° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 36°
Klamath Falls
Clear
40° wxIcon
Hi: 41° Lo: 19°
Feels Like: 34°
Foggy Saturday morning with afternoon clouds
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events