Opinion | Mike Pompeo’s disgusting embrace of MBS after Khashoggi’s assassination

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Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is coming out on fire in his new book, which is likely a prelude to the race for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024. But his commentary on the assassination of Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi reveals much more about Mr. n Pompeo than his critics. It shows that instead of acting as a principled leader of American diplomacy, Mr. Pompeo coddled the man who sent Khashoggi’s strike force.

Mr Khashoggi was strangled and dismembered with a bone saw at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018. The 15 killers included seven members of the elite personal guard of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, who, according to US intelligence community “approved an operation” to “capture or kill” Khashoggi. His body was never found.

The killing was at least in part retaliation against Khashoggi for comments in The Post in which he called for a freer Arab world and a more open and tolerant Saudi Arabia — and in which he criticized MBS’s dictatorial ways. President Donald Trump and his secretary of state responded to the assassination by defending the Saudi despot, refusing to impose serious sanctions on the kingdom, ignoring a congressional resolution calling for sanctions and trying to restore MBS’s reputation. Mr Pompeo did not hide his admiration, saying MBS was “leading the biggest cultural reform in the history of the kingdom” and was “a truly historic figure on the world stage”.

Mr Pompeo revealed that privately he and Mr Trump believed they had saved the crown prince from disrepute. He recalls that the then president asked him to go to Saudi Arabia and that he was the first Western official to see MBS after Khashoggi’s murder. “In some ways, I think the president was jealous that I was the one who gave the middle finger to the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the other bedwetters who didn’t understand reality,” Mr. Pompeo wrote. “He said, ‘Hey Mike, go have a good time.’ Tell him he owes us.

This is the language of a street tough, not a leader of a nation founded on the rule of law. Mr. Pompeo offers the lame and ignorant excuse that the Middle East is a tough neighborhood. “The episode was ugly, but not surprising—not to me, anyway,” he wrote of the killing, because “this kind of ruthlessness was too routine in this part of the world.” Mr Pompeo welcomed Mr Trump’s decision not to punish the crown prince, saying “it was not a close call”. He then went on to slander the slain Khashoggi as an “activist” rather than a journalist, claiming he “backed the losing team in a recent battle for the throne.”

Khashoggi’s journalism, including his criticism of the Saudi despot, was in the best tradition of American values ​​of free expression, illuminating the dark corners of the world. Mr. Pompeo reveals that he is alienated from these principles.

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Editorials represent the views of The Post as an institution, determined through debate among editorial board members based in the opinion section and separate from the editorial board.

Editorial Board Members and Areas of Focus: Opinion Editor David Shipley; Deputy Opinion Editor Karen Tumulty; Associate Opinion Editor Stephen Stromberg (national politics and policy, legal affairs, energy, environment, health); Lee Hockstader (European Affairs, based in Paris); David E. Hoffman (Global Public Health); James Homan (domestic and electoral politics, including the White House, Congress and the governorships); Charles Lane (Foreign Affairs, National Security, International Economics); Heather Long (Economics); Associate Editor Ruth Marcus; and Molly Roberts (Technology and Society).

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