In one of the more surreal scenes to emerge from the Osaka G20 yet, Donald Trump had breakfast with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Saturday, just minutes after tweeting an impromptu invite to meet Kim Jong Un at the DMZ for a handshake.
“I just thought of it this morning”, Trump said, while seated across from the Saudi delegation.
He was referring to the following comically ridiculous tweet:
After some very important meetings, including my meeting with President Xi of China, I will be leaving Japan for South Korea (with President Moon). While there, if Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!
As ever, the English language isn’t a sufficient tool to communicate the sheer, blatant absurdity inherent in one of Trump’s tweets. This is a sitting US president accidentally trivializing a pivotal bilateral discussion upon which the future of global trade and commerce hinges as “a very important meeting” and then, in the same breath, asking a murderous child despot if he’d be interested in rendezvousing at a demilitarized zone to “say Hello(?)!”
“We seem to get along really well”, Trump said of Kim. “We’ll see him for two minutes”.
In a testament to just how bizarre things really are, that’s not even the most disconcerting part of the story. Bear in mind that Trump sent that tweet just minutes before having breakfast with a man (Prince Mohammed) who stands accused by the international community of dispatching 15 people to a consulate to murder a Washington Post columnist and chop his still-warm corpse up with a bone saw.
Just last week, Agnes Callamard, a special rapporteur for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, released a 101-page report on the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. Her report recommends an investigation into the Crown Prince and also calls for sanctions on Saudi officials. Prince Mohammed’s international assets, the report suggests, should be targeted “until and unless evidence has been produced that he bears no responsibility for the execution of Mr. Khashoggi”.
The report reveals some of the brutal details from the audio tape of Khashoggi’s murder. It’s not a fun read.
At breakfast on Saturday, Trump ignored multiple shouted questions about Khashoggi. Here’s a clip:
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That’s obviously a disgrace, but it comes as absolutely no surprise. Between Riyadh’s traditional alliance with Washington, the Saudis’ relationship with Trump, arms sales and the Crown Prince’s bromance with Jared Kushner, the Trump administration not only looked the other way amid the international outcry around Khashoggi’s murder, but actually went so far as the essentially claim that the CIA was lying about the prince’s culpability.
The US did sanction more than a dozen Saudis, but that announcement came in conjunction with the announcement from Riyadh of a probe into those same people, which means the whole thing was obviously coordinated. Trump insisted throughout that there was no proof that Prince Mohammed ordered the killing, despite the fact that there was proof and even if there wasn’t, common sense was all you needed in this case.
Eventually, Congress attempted to punish the Saudis by passing a bipartisan resolution to halt US support for the war in Yemen, but Trump vetoed the bill. He and Mike Pompeo also stonewalled a Magnitsky Act request.
At the meeting in Osaka, Trump called Prince Mohammed “a friend of mine”. He also called Saudi Arabia’s efforts to combat terror “top of the list”. “The world really appreciates it”, Trump said.
That is, of course, laughable. The virulent ideology espoused by ISIS and al-Qaeda is institutionalized in the Saudi monarchy. The Kingdom (along with the other Sunni powers) bankrolls Salafist militants throughout the region, contributing untold support to the spread of Sunni extremism.
Expounding further on the Kim invite, Trump said “I just put out a feeler”. “It’s good to get along”, he continued. “I don’t know where he is, he may not be in North Korea”.