Alwaght- US will punish Saudi Arabia for the “heinous” murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, contradicting his boss's remarks that doing so would hurt American interests.
While Trump had suggested in the aftermath of the murder that there was too much at stake for Washington to go after Riyadh, Pompeo made it clear that Khashoggi’s murderers were not getting away with their deeds.
"We've taken a very clear message to the world with respect to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi," the top US diplomat told CNBC on Monday. "This was a heinous act. It's unacceptable. It's inconsistent with the way nations ought to behave around the world."
Weeks after Khashoggi, a US resident, went missing after entering the Saudi consulate in Turkey’s Istanbul on October 2, Riyadh admitted that he had been killed by security agents in a brawl.
Mounting evidence released by Turkish officials, coupled with a controversial CIA assessment, left little doubt that the hit job had been ordered by Saudi leaders, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in particular.
Defying his own intelligence agents, however, Trump said back then that punishing the Saudi would jeopardize billions of dollars in weapons deals with the kingdom and cause oil prices to skyrocket.
At the time, Trump even warned that punishing Saudis puts Israel in the harm's way.
Asked whether oil prices had anything to do with Washington’s response, Pompeo said: "They're disconnected."
"We've told the Saudis that we've held Saudi citizens accountable for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. We will continue to do so as new facts arise," Pompeo said, referring to a series of sanctions that Washington slapped on 17 Saudi officials in the aftermath of the killing.
"At the same time, we're going to continue to do the things that protect the American people, and that includes a deep and lasting relationship with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia" he continued.
Pompeo made the remarks a day before setting off on a Middle East tour that would include stops in Jordan, Egypt and several countries in the Persian Gulf region.
It was not yet clear how serious Pompeo's pledge was because several outlets reported later on that he was planning to applaud Riyadh's handling of Khashoggi's murder in a speech in the Egyptian capital on Tuesday.
The Trump administration’s reluctance to punish bin Salman over Khashoggi’s murder as well as the kingdom’s deadly war on Yemen has prompted bipartisan fury in Congress.
Last month, the Senate voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution that called MbS an “accomplice” in the murder.
American senators also voted to end Washington’s continued support for Riyadh’s deadly war on Yemen, which has killed thousands of Yemeni civilians and put millions other on the verge of famine since its onset in March 2015.