Trump nominates retired Gen. John Abizaid as U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia

Arturo Kim
November 15, 2018

Mr Trump, who quickly forged a close relationship with Saudi Arabia upon taking office, has been forced to criticise the kingdom and powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after a team from the kingdom killed a US-based critical journalist, Mr Jamal Khashoggi, inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. "We played them to all who wanted them including the Saudis, the USA, France, Canada, Germany, Britain", he said.

Saudi Arabia is a key US economic, diplomatic and strategic partner in the Middle East, though relations have been strained since the killing of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and critic of the kingdom.

Turkish and US officials, including US National Security Adviser John Bolton, have said that the audio does not conclusively link the killing to Prince Mohammed.

The high profile of Khashoggi, a USA -based Washington Post contributing columnist, and the drip-drip of sensational leaks about his demise have provoked a global outcry and tarnished the reputation of the brash young prince, whose efforts to cast himself as a bolder reformer and trusted US ally have often chafed against his policies overseas.

His brazen murder has sparked intense speculation over what, if anything, Crown Prince Salman, the kingdom's de facto ruler, might have known about the operation.

"It's not a simple matter of saying that we're going to embrace them or we're going to slap them", said Douglas Feith, a former undersecretary of defense during Abizaid's tenure in US Central Command.

Citing three unnamed people familiar with the recording, the Times report says the call was made by Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, one of the Saudi team allegedly sent to kill the Washington Post columnist. "It should be uncovered who gave the order to kill".

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These had led Ankara to conclude from an early stage that the killing was premeditated, despite Saudi Arabia's initial denials of any knowledge or involvement.

Mohammed bin Salman has rose from being a relatively little-known royal to the most powerful man in Saudi Arabia, after the elevation of his father, Salman, to king.

He also supervised the brief detention, humiliation and beating of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri a year ago.

It published photos of X-rays of bags taken as the Saudis passed through security checks at the airport when they left.

The Wall Street Journal reported Bolton told reporters Tuesday he had not heard the recording from Turkey but USA officials have drawn no conclusions on it connecting Saudi Arabia's defacto day-to-day leader to the murder of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, who was a contributor to The Washington Post.

"The head of the investigation unit at the Daily Sabah, Nazif Kerman, emphasised that Khashoggi was strangled by a bag placed on his head, according to sound recordings seized by the Turkish authorities". Turkish officials have said little about what they might contain. Within hours of the "fistfight" story, Saudi officials changed it to claiming he died in a choke-hold during an abduction attempt.

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