By Umar Farooq
WASHINGTON (AA) - While the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi goes against American values, Saudi Arabia is a force of stability in the Middle East, according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
In an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal, Pompeo defended the U.S.-Saudi relationship by stressing how important the kingdom is to American interests in the region even though efforts to rebuild ties have been met with criticism in Washington.
Many Democratic and Republican politicians have tried to demote the relationship because of Saudi Arabia's human rights record, which reached a boiling point after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
"The U.S. doesn’t condone the Khashoggi killing, which is fundamentally inconsistent with American values—something I have told the Saudi leadership privately as well as publicly," Pompeo wrote Tuesday.
Pompeo noted, however, the "kingdom is a powerful force for stability in the Middle East," and its close ties with Egypt and Israel, and oil production is key for "regional prosperity and global energy security."
He went on to say criticism toward Saudi Arabia for killing Khashoggi was a double standard, noting critics also supported former President Barack Obama's rapprochement with Iran, who the secretary called the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism and he blamed for the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
"The Trump administration has taken many steps to mitigate Yemen’s suffering from war, disease and famine. We have exerted effort to improve Saudi targeting to minimize civilian casualties, and we have galvanized humanitarian assistance through our own generous example," Pompeo wrote. "Without U.S. efforts, the death toll in Yemen would be far higher."
He failed to address reports that a U.S. rocket was used to bomb a school bus in Yemen that left dozens of children dead, an incident that triggered major criticism of the U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.
"Abandoning or downgrading the U.S.-Saudi alliance would also do nothing to push Riyadh in a better direction at home. Much work remains to be done to guarantee the freedoms for which America and President Trump always stand," he wrote.
Pompeo, however, did note that if new information came to light regarding Khashoggi, the U.S. would take further action.
"The Trump administration will consider further punitive measures if more facts about Khashoggi’s murder come to light," he added.