President Donald Trump on Saturday stated that the U.S. would be “punishing” itself if it stops with the military sales to Saudi Arabia even if an investigation proves the unlikely event that Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside the kingdom’s embassy in Istanbul.
According to Turkey’s government, Khashoggi, a U.S. resident, disappeared on October 2 after visiting the Saudi consulate.
Turkey without any evidence accused Saudi Arabia that the journalist was deliberately killed inside the building and his body removed.
Meanwhile, Trump, who has a close relationship with Saudi Arabia, is under international and domestic pressure to help determine what happened to Khashoggi and punish Saudi Arabia if investigations show its government had him killed.
Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike have demanded firm action.
But Trump is firmly opposed.
“I actually think we’d be punishing ourselves if we did that,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
“There are other things we can do that are very, very powerful, very strong and we’ll do them,” he added, without saying what those measures might be.
According to Reuters, under U.S. law, major foreign military sales can be blocked by Congress. An informal review process lets key lawmakers use a practice known as a “hold” to stall deals if they have concerns such as whether the weapons being supplied would be used to kill civilians.
Major U.S. defense contractors, including Lockheed Martin Corp and Raytheon Co, are among the beneficiaries of Washington’s close ties to Riyadh and would be hurt by the halting of major arms deals.
Trump on Saturday also stated that his administration won a $110 billion military order from Saudi Arabia and that the deal, combined with Saudi commitments to invest heavily in the United States, was worth hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs.
“If they don’t buy it from us, they’re going to buy it from Russia or they’re going to buy it from China,” he said. “Think of that, $110 billion. All they’re going to do is give it to other countries, and I think that would be very foolish.”
Saudi Arabia, which is the world’s largest oil exporter and one of U.S. top allies, is at the moment undergoing a significant cultural change.
Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman has already suspended many laws that undermined the rights of women. The country is also in the process of building the largest solar power plant in the world as an attempt to limit its dependence on oil and reduce green gas emissions.