Pompeo Insists The Trump Administration Is Not Going Easy On Saudi Arabia

Oct 17, 2018
Originally published on October 17, 2018 7:50 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The U.S., Turkey and Saudi Arabia are each maneuvering as more information comes out about the disappearance of a Saudi journalist. Here's what happened today. Turkey's foreign minister said he wants more cooperation from Saudi Arabia. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Turkey's president and said the Saudis are committed to a full, transparent investigation. Pompeo was in Saudi Arabia yesterday. Almost daily leaks from the Turkish government strongly indicate that Jamal Khashoggi was murdered.

NPR's Peter Kenyon joins us now from Istanbul. Hi, Peter.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Tell us what's been happening today with Pompeo's visit to Turkey just a day after he was in Saudi Arabia.

KENYON: Right. Well, this was billed as a fact-finding mission. And the Turks seemed pleased that Washington is showing not just an involvement here but support for Turkey's investigation. There was a delay in searching the Saudi consul general's residence, and that's what caused the foreign minister to say we need some more cooperation here. But that search then did begin today. Pompeo told reporters that the administration is not going to get ahead of the investigations and draw conclusions. But he denied the U.S. would downplay or gloss over the killing of a journalist, if that's what happened. Here's what he said.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MIKE POMPEO: I'm not going to speculate. Obviously, if someone - if a country engages in activity that is unlawful, it's unacceptable. No one is going to defend activity of that nature.

KENYON: But Pompeo, at the same time, made clear that the Turks should be mindful of the many important partnerships that bind the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. And Donald Trump has said much the same thing.

SHAPIRO: Now, there have been some new details coming out today about what happened in that consulate. And we should warn listeners that some of these details are graphic. Tell us what this investigation has revealed.

KENYON: Turkish and Saudi investigators did enter the consul general's residence today with Saudi permission, continuing their search of Saudi diplomatic buildings and property. The consulate building was searched Monday. And apparently, evidence was found pointing to a killing there, at least according to The Associated Press. Turkish authorities have also said they intend to search Saudi diplomatic vehicles.

But to get to your point, a pro-government newspaper has published very graphic details of the torture and killing, allegedly, of Mr. Khashoggi, including him having his fingers cut off before he was killed and a forensics expert putting on music to drown out the sound of the dismemberment of the body. Now, it's not clear how long the Turkish investigation or the Saudi internal investigation, for that matter, will go on. Secretary of State Pompeo, today, said we should give them a handful of days to get this over with. Sooner is better than later, he said.

SHAPIRO: So on the one hand, the Turks say they have audio recordings of what happened in the consulate. On the other hand, the Saudis are claiming to have had nothing to do with it. Can those two narratives really get resolved and these investigations wrapped up in just a few days?

KENYON: That is not at all clear. I mean, there are some suggestions that this would have to be quite a long investigation to resolve a dispute like that. And there's been no timetable given on this end. President Trump, today, did say we should know what happened to Khashoggi by the end of the week. Whether that will actually happen, we'll just have to wait and see.

SHAPIRO: And what about the international response - is there any kind of an organized punishment or condemnation of Saudi Arabia for the growing evidence that it was involved in this killing of a U.S. resident journalist?

KENYON: Internationally, that's not at all clear. Relations between Ankara and Riyadh aren't good. And the Turkish investigators have been robust. But how other world powers will respond is still an open question.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Peter Kenyon in Istanbul. Thank you.

KENYON: Thanks, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.