President Donald Trump announced on Nov. 20 that the United States would continue to support relations with Saudi Arabia despite the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
In an official White House statement that “The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region.” Trump said “America First!” as a main reason behind his stance in continuing to support Saudi Arabia. Another reasoning behind this is the long standing relationship with Saudi Arabia and the billions of dollars in deals that he had made with them on behalf of the United States.
Saudi Arabia’s energy minister Khalid al-Falih expressed that the Saudi government has no intentions of repeating a 1973 oil embargo according to a Reuters article. The Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) imposed an oil embargo on any governments supporting Israel during the Yom Kippur War. The impact to the United States economy at the time hit every single American at the gas pump. Sure Trump standing with Saudi Arabia after the confirmation of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder by a 15 person Saudi Arabia hit squad is ethically concerning.
Some might argue that being cautious and being risk averse when it comes to imposing serious sanctions on the Saudi government is putting America first. At the beginning of the investigation into Khashoggi’s murder, Trump blindly took the Saudi’s word when they told him they had nothing to do with the murder.
Trump told CNN that he would consider severe consequences for Saudi Arabia if it came out that they were responsible for Khashoggi’s death. Instead of imposing sanctions, Trump has showed weakness and submitted to Saudi’s grip on United States’ dependence on Saudi 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.
In the White House Press Release, Trump touted about the deal he struck with Saudi Arabia by saying “Of the $450 billion, $110 billion will be spent on the purchase of military equipment from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and many other great U.S. defense contractors.” Not only did Trump not condemn Saudi Arabia’s handling of not only the Khashoggi assassination. botched excuses, and attempted cover ups, but he let Saudi Arabia take the lead over the United States with the entire world watching.
By allowing the fear of another oil embargo dictate his decision and then allowing military equipment to be sold to Saudi Arabia is an ethical loss for the United States. There may be a direct economic benefit for the United States by not imposing sanctions on Saudi Arabia. There is also a major foreign policy impact in the Middle East as well as who Saudi Arabia would turn to instead of the United States. “If we foolishly cancel these contracts, Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries – and very happy to acquire all of this newfound business.” Trump stated in the White House briefing. According to an article by Al Jazeera, Russia already has an economic relationship with Saudi Arabia. China also has a trade relationship with Saudi Arabia. Although the concern about pushing Saudi Arabia towards another world superpower, the threat would not be that concerning because as dependent as the United States is for oil, the Saudi economy is reliant on the United States economy for their paycheck.
Trump tweeted on Oct. 16 that he had no financial interests in Saudi Arabia. Trump also told an Alabama campaign rally back in 2016 that he loved Saudi Arabia and that they spend millions on Trump apartments. Whether it is handing severe consequences to Saudi Arabia for their alleged involvement in the Khashoggi assassination or Trump investments, Trump’s reserved position on Saudi Arabia is compromising the United States’ ability to lead the world. Trump is placing a value on a human life which is problematic in itself. He should be standing up for Khashoggi and the United States Constitution’s first amendment right to freedom of speech abroad. Some senators have opposed Trump’s inaction with Saudi Arabia by sending the White House a Magnitsky Letter which requires Trump to determine whether or not a person had violate someone’s rights to freedom of expression according a Vice News article. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) sent The White House a Magnitsky Letter in October. There has not been a response.