Paul Pillar: Khashoggi case will force Trump to do something
Professor Paul Pillar, who was CIA intelligence analyst for 28 years, says that Khashoggi case will force Trump to do something, but his administration will resist doing more than a necessary minimum, because it does not want to upset its overall relationship with Saudi Arabia.
Pillar also says, “Most likely there will be some sort of sanctions placed on the individual Saudi officials whom Turkey has identified as being directly involved, but Trump will resist placing blame all the way up to the level of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.”
Following is the text of the interview:
Q: Due to the relations between the West and the United States in particular with Saudi Arabia, the subject of Jamal Khashoggi has become widespread. Usually, in the case of human rights violations, Western countries condoned Saudi Arabia because of Saudi arms purchases and guarantying oil sales by Saudis. But in this case it is different. What are the reasons?
A: There does indeed seem to be a difference between how the Khashoggi case is being viewed and how previous human rights violations involving Saudi Arabia have been treated. One reason is Jamal Khashoggi's relative prominence in the United States, where he resided and was a regular contributor to a major newspaper in Washington. Another reason is the shock factor involving the nature of the alleged crime, with a possible murder and dismemberment inside a diplomatic mission.
Q: Some believe that as Saudi Arabia did not lower the price of oil at request of Trump, the United States is putting pressure on Saudi Arabia through Khashoggi subject. What is your opinion?
A: It is very unlikely that the Trump administration is thinking along any such lines. A close relationship with Saudi Arabia is a centerpiece of that administration's policies in the Middle East. The Khashoggi affair, far from being a tool of the administration, is a very unwelcome development for it.
Q: Some Western countries, including the United States, have threatened Saudi Arabia with sanctions. In contrast, Saudi Arabia has spoken of an appropriate response in the event of a sanction. How far do you think the opposition with Saudi Arabia will go?
A: Other Western governments will feel less inhibited that the Trump administration in responding with some sort of sanctions. But the United States is the key player, especially given Khashoggi's U.S. connection. The uproar over this event will force Trump to do something, but his administration will resist doing more than a necessary minimum, because it does not want to upset its overall relationship with Saudi Arabia. Most likely there will be some sort of sanctions placed on the individual Saudi officials whom Turkey has identified as being directly involved, but Trump will resist placing blame all the way up to the level of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Q: What effects will have the subject of Jamal Khashoggi, on the future power of Mohammad bin Salman?
A: He will be subject to additional internal criticism within the royal family, on grounds that he foolishly failed to anticipate the sharp reaction in the West to such an outrageous act. But he already has solidified his power to such an extent that even this event is unlikely to result in his downfall or a failure to succeed his father as king.
Source: Tehran Times