Pompeo, Mattis warn Senate on regional impact of weakened Saudi ties

by WorldTribune Staff, November 29, 2018

Any draw-down in U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia would lead to a stronger Iran and reinvigorated Islamic State (ISIS) and Al Qaida, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told U.S. lawmakers on Nov. 28.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. / File photo / U.S. State Department

Speaking to reporters after he and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warned the Senate in a closed-door meeting against weakening U.S.-Saudi ties over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, Pompeo said he told senators that the brutal war in Yemen would worsen without U.S. involvement.

“The Saudi-led coalition would not have the benefit of our advice and training on targeting, so more civilians would die. Yemen’s terrorist groups would enjoy safer havens,” Pompeo said. “The suffering in Yemen grieves me, but if the United States of America was not involved in Yemen, it would be a hell of a lot worse.”

Some lawmakers are calling for a strong U.S. response to Khashoggi’s murder which could include blocking arms sales to Saudi Arabia and imposing sanctions beyond those that Washington slapped on 17 Saudis allegedly involved in the killing.

Pompeo also said there is no direct evidence connecting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the murder of Khashoggi in Istanbul last month.

“There is no direct reporting connecting the crown prince to the order to murder Jamal Khashoggi,” Pompeo told reporters.

The Turkish government has accused Saudi Arabia of murdering the dissident journalist, who was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

Saudi Arabia admitted that Khashoggi was killed after entering the consulate in Istanbul, after previously denying Turkish claims that he was murdered. At the same time, the Saudi leadership claimed Khashoggi was killed in a “rogue” operation and denied any connection to the murder.

While recent reports indicated that the CIA concluded the crown prince ordered the killing, the State Department has said the U.S. government is still working on determining responsibility for the death of Khashoggi.

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