WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday that U.S. weapons deals with Saudi Arabia will be completed shortly after President Donald Trump’s statement that he is not convinced that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was involved in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, contradicting a CIA finding.
Pompeo confirmed that the weapons deals “will be completed in a timely fashion” and that the administration hoped “the number will end up being even greater.”
“It’s a mean, nasty world out there,” Pompeo said, echoing language in the president’s statement. “It is the president’s obligation, and indeed the State Department’s duty as well, to ensure that we adopt policies to further American national security.”
Trump has justified his support for Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman by pointing to more than $100 billion in weapons sales between U.S. arms manufacturers and the oil-rich Middle East dictatorship. The arms deals “create hundreds of thousands of jobs, tremendous economic development, and much additional wealth for the United States,” Trump said in the written statement.
Trump pushed back against findings by the CIA that bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s murder at the Saudi embassy in Turkey.
“Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” the president said. “That being said, we may never know all the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi.”
Khashoggi, who was a regular contributor to The Washington Post, went into the Saudi embassy in Istanbul on Oct. 2 to get marriage documents. He was killed there by a group of more than a dozen Saudi men.
At first the Saudi government said he had left the building alive, but has since acknowledged he was murdered, saying the perpetrators killed Khashoggi after a failed attempt to kidnap and return him to Saudi Arabia.
Last week, the U.S. sanctioned 17 Saudis, including top henchman of bin Salman, for reported involvement in Khashoggi’s death.
“We have been unambiguous in the way we have treated the data set we were able to get,” Pompeo said.
Earlier in the day, Pompeo met with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavu?o?lu. The Turkish government has been closely involved with incriminating bin Salman in Khashoggi’s murder, a sign of a growing split between two key Middle Eastern U.S. allies.