Lindsey Graham: US-Saudi ties can’t move until MBS is dealt with

The US senator says Congress will reintroduce sanctions against those involved in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.

Senator Lindsey Graham has said the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia cannot move forward until Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is “dealt with”, without elaborating on what action he believes should be taken.

Speaking in Ankara a day after meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Graham said Congress will reintroduce sanctions against those involved in the killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi.

Last November, the CIA concluded that Prince Mohammed ordered the assassination of Khashoggi in Istanbul, a finding that contradicts Saudi government assertions that he was not involved.

Khashoggi, a longtime royal insider who had become a critic of Prince Mohammed, was killed and dismembered by a Saudi hit team in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul in October, prompting a global outcry.

The US Treasury sanctioned 17 Saudi individuals and the Senate adopted a resolution blaming Prince Mohammed. President Donald Trump, however, has so far been reluctant to directly implicate the royal or issue any punitive measures.

At least 21 Saudis have reportedly been arrested in connection with the case, with five facing the death penalty. Five officials were also fired, including senior royal adviser Saud al-Qahtani, the alleged mastermind of the operation against Khashoggi.

Saudi Arabia is yet to reveal what its agents did with the remains of Khashoggi.

The outcry over Khashoggi’s murder has strained ties with Western allies and focused attention on Saudi Arabia’s domestic crackdown on dissent and the nearly four-year-old war in Yemen.

Slow withdrawal

Senator Graham also said he hoped President Trump would slow the US withdrawal from Syria until the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) is destroyed.

Graham said he believed US Chief of Staff Joseph Dunford was working on a plan with Turkey to move Kurdish YPG elements away from the country.

By arming the YPG group in Syria, Washington “created a nightmare for Turkey,” said Graham.

Underlining that the YPG/PYD is “clearly” tied to the PKK – listed as a terrorist group by Turkey, the US, and the European Union – Graham told reporters that the US strategy in Syria has the potential to cause harm to Turkey.

The South Carolina senator stressed the importance of protecting Turkey and solving the problem the US “created” for Ankara, referring to US support for the YPG/PYD in the name of fighting ISIL.

Graham, a member of Congress since 1995 and a senator since 2003, serves on the Senate’s Armed Services Committee.

Turkey has said it will soon launch a operation against the YPG/PYD in Syria, east of the Euphrates River, near the Turkish border.

There has been friction between Ankara and Washington over the upcoming operation amid the withdrawal of US forces from Syria.