Almost two months after American resident and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was killed by Saudi agents in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey, a complete U.S. response to the death remains a question mark.
The Republican-controlled Senate voted Wednesday by a 63-37 margin to advance legislation that would end American involvement in a Saudi-led war in Yemen. The U.S. provides logistical and intelligence support for a coalition led by Saudi Arabia that intervened in Yemen’s civil war, creating a humanitarian crisis in the country.
Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., called for sanctions and a strong rebuke of Saudi Arabia for Khashoggi’s murder.
“Saudi Arabia has a terrible human rights record in their own country; now they have murdered one of their citizens in Turkey,” he said. “Just like when North Korea and Russia recently murdered their citizens overseas, the United States should respond with strong sanctions and clear public statements of rebuke. The murder of Jamal Khashoggi is wrong and must be addressed.”
The Trump administration has yet to condemn Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman for the attack, instead sanctioning 21 individuals suspected of being involved in the attack on Khashoggi.
“They have also personally met with Saudi leadership and diplomatic officials to express our expectation of basic human rights for any civilized nation,” Lankford said. “Economic and other sanctions should increase in the days ahead as we learn more and finish our own investigation.”
What those economic sanctions look like is complicated by weapon sales to the Saudis, America’s largest arms customer. Saudi Arabia purchased roughly $9 billion in arms between 2013 and 2017, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
That accounted for 18 percent of U.S. arms sales over that period, with a further $14.5 billion in sales lined up, according to CNN.
Several members of Congress have demanded a briefing from the CIA on Khashoggi’s killing.
According to multiple media reports, the intelligence agency believes the killing was ordered by Prince Mohammed, based on the individuals and organizations involved, as well as the Saudi governmental structure, although the CIA has not confirmed those reports.
The Saudi government claims the murder was carried out by rogue agents, and the Trump administration has stated there is no report connecting Prince Mohammed to Kashoggi’s death.
Prince Mohammed attended the G-20 summit in Argentina Friday and Saturday, an economic meeting of world leaders, his first appearance on the world stage following Khashoggi’s killing. French President Emmanuel Macron had a private, and reportedly heated, conversation with Prince Mohammed on Friday. President Donald Trump did not meet with the crown prince.
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., was unavailable to comment for this story.