How they see us: Arms sales trump human rights
Trump: Will he inflict ‘severe punishment’ on Riyadh?
Pity poor Donald Trump, said Yevgeny Shestakov in Rossiyskaya Gazeta (Russia). The last thing the U.S. president wants to do is alienate the rich Saudi princes whose purchases of Trump properties help prop up his personal finances. But evidence is mounting that Saudi Arabia assassinated dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi—a U.S. resident with American children—inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. That’s why, in a CBS interview this week, Trump “was forced to announce” that “severe punishment” would follow if Saudi responsibility for Khashoggi’s death is proved. But what punishment? Trump has ruled out canceling arms sales, saying that would hurt American jobs, and he likely doesn’t want to anger Riyadh by imposing personal financial sanctions on Saudi princes. The future of U.S.-Saudi relations is now in Ankara’s hands. He has to hope that Turkey will simply “close the case.”
The Khashoggi affair “has forced Washington into a dilemma between its two most important and most difficult allies in the Middle East,” Turkey and Saudi Arabia, said Daniel-Dylan Böhmer in Die Welt (Germany). A Saudi political murder in Istanbul “would not only be a diplomatic affront but also an implicit attack on Turkey’s internal security.” But look! Ten days after Khashoggi disappeared, Turkey suddenly agreed to release U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson, who had been imprisoned for two years on espionage charges the U.S. insisted were bogus. Why the sudden breakthrough? Trump claimed the timing was “pure coincidence” and “added almost imploringly, ‘Really!’” Yet it’s likely that Turkey freed Brunson as part of a deal that would see Trump pressure Saudi Arabia to admit its culpability in Khashoggi’s murder.
It’s quite clear that Trump doesn’t care whether other countries murder their citizens, said the Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka) in an editorial. No longer do we see the U.S. “as a bastion of democracy, a defender of freedom, democratic values, and a promoter of human rights the world over.” Trump has flat-out admitted that business deals—specifically, arms sales to a country that drops bombs on Yemeni children—are more important than human rights.
This abdication of U.S. leadership encourages the dictators and oppressors of the world, said Nirmal Ghosh in The Straits Times (Singapore). Under Trump, Washington has withdrawn from the U.N. Human Rights Council, rejected the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, and “threatened those who work for it.” It has complained about human rights violations in Iran and Venezuela but ignored those in North Korea and Saudi Arabia. “Nobody takes the U.S. seriously,” says Sam Zarifi of the Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists. “It’s so blatant now that discussion of human rights by the U.S. becomes almost pointless.” Who will fill that void? “Unless a line is drawn somewhere, the tactic of disappearing or murdering anyone deemed a dissident will only proliferate.” ■