Saudi Arabia has “a handful of days” to explain the fate of missing dissident Jamal Khashoggi, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said while returning from meetings in the region.
“It’s reasonable to give them a handful of days more to complete it so they get it right, so that it’s thorough and complete,” Pompeo told reporters while traveling in Brussels. “I had a chance to speak to Jamal’s fiancee. Sooner is better than later for everyone.”
Pompeo flew to Saudi Arabia and Turkey this week, amid a clamor of outrage over the disappearance and reportedly gruesome murder of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and U.S. resident. He was last seen entering a Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, and reports from Turkish press saying he was tortured and murdered while collecting marriage documents sparked an international crisis.
“I’m convinced that the Saudis understand that America is taking this seriously and I am hopeful that the Saudis take this as seriously as they indicated to me yesterday that they would,” Pompeo said. “Time will certainly tell; we’ll get to see the investigation, and we’ll see the results of it.”
[Recordings: Jamal Khashoggi's fingers cut off, then beheaded, dismembered]
Khashoggi’s disappearance already has provoked senior Senate lawmakers in both parties to initiate an investigation into sanctioning top Saudi officials for human rights abuses. That alone would be among the most serious punishments imposed in the history of the U.S.-Saudi alliance, but the extent of President Trump’s cooperation with Saudi Arabia to counter Iran means American policymakers have more leverage but also more dependence on the oil-rich monarchy.
“I could go on about places where the Saudis and the Americans are working together,” Pompeo emphasized on Wednesday. “Those are important elements of the U.S. national policy that ... are in Americans’ best interests. We just need to make sure that we are mindful of that as we approach decisions that the United States Government will take when we learn all of the facts associated with whatever may have taken place.”
But the nature of the crime alleged in the Khashoggi case, including the use of a bone saw to cut off his fingers and then behead him in a diplomatic office, even has Republican lawmakers comparing his case to some of the most provocative Iranian threats.
“There are many things that we know about the Saudi regime that we have not approved of, and the president's of both parties, on the whole, have tried to maintain a good relationship,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters Wednesday, according to CNN. “This particular incident, is going to really challenge that."