Robert Jordan, who served as U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia under George W. Bush, has advice for President Trump as the kingdom faces allegations of being behind the alleged murder of columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
“Use the leverage that you have,” Jordan said on CBSN. “Don’t act so anxious to close some sort of arms deal. They need the weapons more than we need the money, and they are not about to turn to Russia or China for weapons and systems that are not interoperable with what they already have.”
Jordan said that Saudi Arabia’s air force would shut down “in about two days” if the U.S. refuses to provide spare parts, replacements and mid-air refueling. “We have enormous leverage over them and I think this president, if he’s a deal maker, needs to use that leverage,” Jordan said.
Mr. Trump has vowed the U.S. would inflict “severe punishment” if Saudi Arabia is behind Khashoggi’s alleged murder, but has dismissed the idea of disrupting weapons sales to the kingdom. Saudi Arabia is the United States’ No. 1 weapons customer.
“They are ordering military equipment,” Mr. Trump told 60 Minutes on Thursday. “Everybody in the world wanted that order. Russia wanted it, China wanted it, we wanted it. We got it.”
“I don’t wanna hurt jobs,” he said. “I don’t wanna lose an order like that. There are other ways of punishing.”
Jordan said U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is visiting Saudi Arabia, can get in the Saudis’ faces in the same way that he, former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and former CIA director George Tenet did following the 9/11 attacks, which were carried out predominantly by Saudi nationals.
“Say to them, ‘You have to do better. Is this really the way you want to be viewed by the world?’ Appeal to their sense of proper image in the world — No. 1,” Jordan said. “No. 2: Make it clear that they have taken advantage of our relationship by what they have done” to Khashoggi.
Saudi Arabia has denied involvement in the disappearance of Khashoggi, who went missing on October 2 after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Mr. Trump said that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “totally denied any knowledge of what took place in their Turkish Consulate” in a Tuesday call.
“He was with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo… during the call, and told me that he has already started, and will rapidly expand, a full and complete investigation into this matter,” Mr. Trump tweeted.
Pompeo was dispatched to Saudi Arabia on Monday.
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