Pompeo Arrives In Saudi Arabia To Discuss Khashoggi Disappearance

Irving Hamilton
October 17, 2018

"I think we have to find out what happened first". I don't like that. "We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I'm concerned".

The close USA ally is ruled entirely by the Al Saud monarchy, and all major decisions in the ultraconservative kingdom are made by the royal family.

But, according to Turkish media, Mr al-Otaibi left Turkey on a commercial flight bound for Saudi Arabia hours before his official residence was due to be searched.

Khashoggi, who had written critically about Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for The Washington Post, disappeared two weeks ago during a visit to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

Many members of the US Congress, which has long had a testy relationship with ally Saudi Arabia, have issued strong criticism of the kingdom since Khashoggi's disappearance at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

While reports from Turkish officials appear to indicate that Khashoggi was murdered, President Trump has repeatedly told the press that Saudi Arabia denies any involvement with Khashoggi's disappearance.

"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".

Turkey may interrogate officials at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul if the need arises, the foreign minister said on Tuesday.

In the meantime, there were signs at home that Trump's party was growing uncomfortable with his willingness to defend the Saudis.

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A team of investigators searched the building for nine hours on Monday and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that some "toxic materials" in the consulate had been "painted over" before investigators got inside. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, speaking on Fox television.

Members of the US Congress, including some of Trump's fellow Republicans, are among the loudest voices in the United States demanding answers and action on Khashoggi, who moved to Washington previous year fearing retribution for his criticism of the crown prince.

Trump previously warned of "severe punishment" for the kingdom if it was found to be involved in Khashoggi's disappearance, which has spooked investors. They also noted apparent Saudi attempts to scrub the scene by bringing in cleaning crews and repainting areas of the consulate. It says Qorvis has worked with the embassy since 2001 on media relations, advertising, government relations, grassroots action, and social and digital media.

"His denial to me could not have been stronger", Trump said, echoing language he has used to describe Russian President Vladimir Putin's denials of meddling in the 2016 election that sent Trump to the White House. But his complaint about "guilty until proven innocent" and comparison to the Kavanaugh situation suggested he was giving the Saudis more leeway than other allies.

A Turkish security source said the search of the consulate provided "strong evidence" but no conclusive proof that Khashoggi was killed there.

Blaming Khashoggi's case on mistakes by lower-level personnel would allow the Saudi government to say it never sanctioned his disappearance, and could help to reduce global outrage over the affair, a banker in the Gulf said.

Qorvis' website said it works with the Saudi Embassy to "affirm the importance of the Saudi/U.S. relationship".

Erdoğan has two outstanding grievances with the U.S. - its refusal to extradite the Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, whom he sees as the chief conspirator behind the failed military coup in 2016, and its continued support for Kurdish YPG fighters in northern Syria.

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