The Saudi government confirmed on Oct. 20, three weeks after the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist, that he was murdered. Khashoggi went missing on Oct. 2 after visiting the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey to obtain marriage documents for his wife. The Saudi government claimed for nearly three weeks they had no idea what happened to Khashoggi, but confirmed there was a physical altercation that ultimately ended in Khashoggi’s death. Eighteen people have been detained, and the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia stated it was a rogue operation as the group exceeded the level of their authority, according to a CNN article.
The Turkish government stated there was audio evidence suggesting that Khashoggi’s death happened during an interrogation in the consulate. It is widely believed that Khashoggi was murdered for writing unfavorably about the Saudi Royal family, particularly about Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.
U.S. President Donald Trump should impose sanctions on Saudi Arabia and condemn the actions of the Saudi government. The murder of Khashoggi is a human rights violation. The United States Constitution guarantees the unalienable right to free speech, religion, protest and the press. Khashoggi was a journalist and Trump needs to stand up for these rights on the international stage. Khashoggi was standing up to government corruption by reporting on issues in his home country. This is the kind of person a United States president should be supporting; not Mohammed bin Salman.
Khashoggi’s disappearance led to a drop in Saudi stock markets and retraction of several potential investors from the Future Investment Initiative held by the Kingdom’s Sovereign Wealth Fund. Viacom CEO Bob Bakish, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim were a few of the individuals who pulled out of the conference, along with many other high profile companies.
Trump should be taking a hard stance on Saudi Arabia. If multiple businesses made a coordinated and decisive effort not to support Saudi Arabia, then why did Trump not impose any sanctions?
Trump tweeted on Oct. 15 that Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud denied knowing anything about the disappearance of Khashoggi. This is apparently all it takes to convince Trump there was no wrongdoing. Or maybe it could be Trump’s business ties to Saudi Arabia that influenced his lack of a response. Trump told a 2016 rally crowd in Alabama that Saudi Arabia spends $40-50 million on Trump apartments.
This should have been the first sign that Trump will not take a stance by imposing any type of sanction as the United States is heavily reliant on Saudi Arabian oil. The United States consumed 955 thousand barrels per day of Saudi Arabian crude oil in 2017, according to a report from the United States Energy Information Administration.
Saudi Arabia is the United States’ number one customer for arms, according to a weapons list of about $110 billion worth of weapons from companies like Lockheed Martin. United States imports from Saudi Arabia exceeded our exports to the country, creating a trade deficit between the nations. This deficit is approximately $5.36 billion, according to the United States Census.
This would not be the first time Trump undermines the importance of journalists. He called journalists the “enemy of the people” and championed a culture of “fake news” in an attempt to invalidate journalism. During a rally in Montana on Oct. 18, Trump applauded a congressman for body slamming a journalist. The crowd cheered Trump on. This is a dangerous message that diminishes our First Amendment right to free press.
Khashoggi’s life matters and Trump should take a harder stance against Saudi Arabia despite the economic ramifications that may arise from imposing sanctions. Trump has a duty to uphold the Constitution of the United States. Sure, Khashoggi was in the Middle East, but practicing the First Amendment right to free press should be universal. This should be an opportunity to extend journalist protections to Saudi Arabia and Turkey through economic sanctions until the Saudi government is willing to include journalist protections under the Saudi Arabian Constitution.
If Trump treats this as a slap on the wrist, it will speak volumes about his ties to Saudi Arabia, specifically Mohammad bin Salman, as well as the value he places on journalists’ lives. According to an Associated Press interview with Trump on Oct. 17, he compared the alleged murder of Khashoggi to the accusations against Brett Kavanaugh.
There is a pattern emerging with the way Trump deals with accusations and it comes at the expense of credible sources and the lives of journalists like Khashoggi.Trump stated that consequences could be severe if the Saudi’s were found responsible for Khashoggi’s death. There is more than enough evidence proving that the Saudis are responsible.
The Saudis denied having any knowledge of Khashoggi’s disappearance. They lied to the world and they lied to Trump.
It is time for Trump to act by imposing sanctions and standing up for the First Amendment abroad as well as the basic human rights Saudi Arabia should have shown to Khashoggi.