Thursday, January 10, 2019

Senate Says “No” to Trump on Khashoggi and Yemen War

President Trump and his top representatives, Secretary of State Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mattis, were told as clearly as possible that their Middle East policy related to Saudi Arabia cannot be guided by Trump’s view of foreign policy stripped of America’s historic commitment to human rights and rule of law.

The Senate also, reflecting the midterm vote and repeated polls, began to assert a more aggressive oversite of the administration’s foreign policy. They passed a resolution condemning Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi (unanimous support) and a second resolution ending U.S. military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen (passed 56 to 41). (See The Buzz: John Brennan and CIA Director Gina Haspel, 12-7-18)

Although the sense of the foreign policy establishment is that the administration is correct about the importance of the Saudi-U.S. relationship, there is a considerable disagreement whether it should be the centerpiece of a Middle East strategy and if MBS is likely to be a reliable partner. But, there is near universal disapproval of Trump’s articulation of a crass “America First” imperative and his distortion of the intelligence community’s judgement of the facts of the murder and MBS’s involvement.

The latest polls indicate that the Khashoggi affair may reflect as big a defeat for Trump’s foreign policy credibility as the Helsinki Summit with President Putin last summer.

Polling results on the Khashoggi murder:

  • 52% - disapprove the way Trump is handling the U.S. Saudi relationship (CNN poll, N1015, Dec. 6-9, 2018)
  • 60% - don’t believe the Saudi government’s story about Khashoggi’s death (YouGov, Oct. 24, 2018)
  • 66% - U.S. response hasn’t been tough enough on Saudi Arabia’s role (CNN poll, N1015, Dec. 6-9, 2018)
  • 77% - believe there should be a consequence for Saudi Arabia’s actions (Quinnipiac, N1148, Dec. 12-17, 2018)

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