Saudi Arabia shows no sign of easing up on its crackdown against dissent and the Trump administration remains reluctant to punish the kingdom over its alleged abuses, including the killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, former U.S. officials, foreign diplomats and human rights groups told NBC News.
In the run-up to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Riyadh on Sunday, the Trump administration expressed praise for the kingdom’s role in the region and issued no warnings of any further sanctions over the Khashoggi case — or other reported rights abuses.
Pompeo met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the palace for about 45 minutes on Monday, though it was unclear how much was one-on-one and how much included officials.
In a speech Thursday in Cairo, Pompeo spoke of restoring U.S. leadership in the region but did not mention human rights or refer to the killing of Khashoggi. The CIA has assessed that bin Salman ordered his murder.
Experts and former officials say Pompeo’s failure to address human rights abuses broke with a decades-long American diplomatic tradition and represented a missed opportunity to deliver a tough message that Washington would not turn a blind eye to the trampling of civil liberties in Saudi Arabia or elsewhere in the Middle East. [Continue reading…]