Top US Republican senator slams Saudi crown prince for going 'full gangster'

Erika Holt
March 8, 2019

As the hearing continued, Republican Senator Marco Rubio said bin Salman had gone "full gangster", an assertion repeated by another Republican, Senator Ron Johnson.

Labelling Salman "a wrecking ball", Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of SC said that the suspicions against the crown prince had gotten stronger.

Senators at Abizaid's confirmation hearing included Trump's fellow Republicans, as well as Democrats.

The retired Army General said that the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia is "all about a nation".

"He is reckless, he's ruthless, he has a penchant for escalation, for taking high risks, confrontational in his foreign policy approach and I think increasingly willing to test the limits of what he can get away with the United States", Rubio added. They condemned Saudi conduct in the war in Yemen, its use of heavy-handed diplomacy and alleged rights abuses, including Khashoggi's murder.

The Saudi crown prince and his leadership have come under heavy criticism and increasing scrutiny from Democratic and Republican lawmakers in the wake of the killing of USA resident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October. "It is in our interests to make sure that the relationship is sound".

During a nomination hearing with retired four-star general John Abizaid, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee ticked through their grievances with the Saudi government: the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, allegations of torture, detentions of activists and the mounting humanitarian crisis in Yemen, where the kingdom is waging a protracted war against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.

In December 2018, a group of senior senators in the United States attended a closed-door meeting with the Central Intelligence Agency after which they said that the briefing by director Gina Haspel had solidified their belief that the murder was ordered by the crown prince.

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Abizaid said the Trump administration believes strongly that United States support should continue.

It was also the confirmation hearing for Matthew Tueller, the current USA ambassador to Yemen and Trump's nominee to be ambassador to Iraq. All 28 members of the European Union and eight other states - Australia, Canada, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Montenegro, New Zealand and Norway - "expressed significant concerns about reports of continuing arrests" of human rights defenders, including women's rights activists. The conflict, which has claimed thousands of civilian lives, caused a massive cholera outbreak and brought millions of people to the brink of starvation is apparently not enough of a human rights violation.

It reflects worldwide concern at the detention of a number of activists in the past year and also at the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Lawmakers have been sharply critical of Mohammed bin Salman, the powerful Saudi crown prince.

The Daily Beast's Erin Banco reports that Kushner, who has been on friendly terms with MBS, has visited Saudi Arabia several other times in recent years-and he often visits that part of the world with Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt.

Risch has held two classified briefings in the past two weeks for the panel to discuss Saudi Arabia, he said.

Senator Bob Menendez, the committee's ranking Democrat, acknowledged the strategic importance of Saudi ties, amid threats from Iran.

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