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In Extraordinary Statement, Trump Stands With Saudis Despite Khashoggi Killing

Category: Middle East,World

Mr. Kushner saw Prince Mohammed as critical to advancing a peace plan between Israel and the Palestinians that has been a major focus of his time in the White House. Mr. Trump’s hawkish aides, encouraged by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, saw the prince as critical in marshaling a coalition to isolate Iran.

Iran reacted scornfully to Mr. Trump’s statement. Its foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, alluded to the president’s unfounded assertion that California could have avoided its calamitous wildfires if he had adopted Finland’s practice of clearing debris from the forest floor.

“Mr. Trump bizarrely devotes the FIRST paragraph of his shameful statement on Saudi atrocities to accuse IRAN of every sort of malfeasance he can think of,” Mr. Zarif said in a tweet. “Perhaps we’re also responsible for the California fires, because we didn’t help rake the forests — just like the Finns do?”

Mr. Trump’s economic argument for the Saudi alliance is suspect on several grounds. He argued, for example, that if the United States canceled its military contracts, they would be quickly filled by Russia or China.

“It would be a wonderful gift to them directly from the United States!” he said.

But military analysts said the Saudi military was so deeply reliant on American equipment — F-15 fighter jets, armed with air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles — that it would be difficult, if not impossible, for it to switch to an alternative supplier. That is even truer right now, in the midst of its air campaign in Yemen.

Of the $110 billion in weapons sales claimed by Mr. Trump, defense analysts have calculated only $14.5 billion in booked sales, and the real number might actually be lower than that. The Saudis have not concluded a single major new arms deal since Mr. Trump took office.

The president also contended that Saudi Arabia was critical to keeping a lid on oil prices.

“If you want to see oil prices go to $150 a barrel,” he told reporters, “all you have to do is break up our relationship with Saudi Arabia.”

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