Though he noted U.S. intelligence is still probing the journalist's murder, Trump seemed resigned to never know the full story of what happened.
UNITED NATIONS – President Trump said Tuesday that the U.S. “intends to remain a steadfast partner” of Saudi Arabia, bucking calls to reconsider the relationship after the CIA pinned the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi on the kingdom’s popular crown prince.
While Trump noted U.S. intelligence is still probing the murder, he seemed resigned to never know the full story.
“It could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”
The president’s defense of the kingdom will come as welcome relief to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the subject of a recent Reuters report on mounting calls within the royal family to replace him in the line of succession to become king.
Paul Aarts is a Middle East expert and author of “Saudi Arabia: A Kingdom in Peril.”
“I’m not very confident that this is a trustworthy story.”
That’s because Bin Salman, or MBS as he’s known, is at the center of a major plan to overhaul the kingdom’s economy, and ditching the 33-year-old for the 76-year-old Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, as the Reuters piece suggested, would be a jarring change of vision.
“So much has been invested in him inside the country, that I find it very difficult to accept the story that the present Kingdom of Saudi Arabia can do without MBS.”
Ellen R. Wald, author of “Saudi Inc.” and president of Transversal Consulting, said MBS’ irreplaceability is partly his handiwork, after leading a purge of prominent royalty and business leaders last year which just so happened to knock out others vying for power.
“We’re working with a set of more limited alternatives because Mohammad bin Salman has sort of culled the ranks.”
Secure domestically and assured the U.S. relationship isn’t up for debate, MBS may once again have room to operate. Now, a pliant U.S. will have to wait and see what he does next.