US senators say Saudi crown prince has gone ‘full gangster’

07 Mars, 2019, 08:19 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau

Retired four-star Army General John Abizaid, President Donald Trump's nominee to be ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said on Wednesday that "there must be accountability" in the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was found murdered by the controversial Crown Prince M. bin Salman.

"Saudi Arabia has engaged in acts that are simply not acceptable", Republican Senator Jim Risch, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, said during the hearing, Reuters reported.

Lawmakers, including Trump's fellow Republicans have been strongly critical of Mohammed bin Salman, the powerful Saudi crown prince. "It is in our interests to make sure that the relationship is sound", he said.

The Saudi citizen, who contributed to The Washington Post and had fled the kingdom in 2017, was murdered and cut into pieces with a bonesaw shortly after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Last month, the House of Representatives passed a resolution that would end USA support for the Saudi-led coalition, an important rebuke of Riyadh.

If confirmed, Abizaid would be the first USA ambassador to Saudi Arabia in over two years.

The House of Representatives has passed a war powers resolution that would end all US support for the Saudi-led coalition, but Abizaid said the Trump administration believes strongly that USA support should continue.

Meanwhile, Menendez said senators were discussing whether to impose new sanctions on Saudi Arabia because of the murder of Khashoggi and the Trump administration's failure to produce a report under the Global Magnitsky Act, a U.S. law providing for action on human rights violations. In Saudi Arabia, 11 suspects have been indicted in the murder, and officials have rejected accusations that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing.

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"The Crown Prince has launched Saudi Arabia into a devastating war in Yemen, isolated Qatar, threatening Gulf cooperation and coordination against threats from Iran and regional terrorist groups, detained and tortured members of his own family and effectively hoodwinked and intimidated the Lebanese prime minister", said Senator Bob Menendez, the committee's top Democrat. Risch has held two classified briefings in the past two weeks for the panel to discuss Saudi Arabia.

"But we can not let these interests blind us to our values or to our long term interests in stability", Menendez said. But Menendez asked Abizaid if he would insist on being fully informed about all White House interactions with the Saudis. Abizaid said he would.

As the hearing continued, Rubio said MBS had gone "full gangster", an assertion that was repeated by Senator Ron Johnson.

"He is reckless, he's ruthless, he has a penchant for escalation, for taking high risks, confrontational in his foreign policy approach and I think increasingly willing to test the limits of what he can get away with with the United States", Rubio said.

Abizaid said in prepared remarks that the Islamic State has been "nearly vanquished on the ground", but remains a "potent threat" to the United States and its allies.

While contradicted by some military and intelligence officials, Trump announced in December that he would withdraw all USA forces from Syria and has declared that the militant group has been driven out of all its territory.

Since then, Trump has made a decision to leave hundreds of U.S. troops in the country over the longer run.

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