Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders said Sunday that if journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed by Saudis, the US should distance itself from the Middle Eastern kingdom and cut ties to the war in Yemen.
“I think one of the strong things that we can do is not only stop military sales, not only put sanctions on Saudi Arabia, but most importantly, get out of this terrible, terrible war in Yemen led by the Saudis,” Sanders said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Sanders has criticized US support for the Saudi-led coalition’s military effort in Yemen and pushed for a vote earlier this year along with Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee and Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy to have Congress weigh in on the United States’ assistance to the Saudis and other countries.
When asked about a response to the disappearance of Khashoggi, Sanders suggested a major shift in the US relationship with Saudi Arabia and pointed to his previous call for the US to separate from the war in Yemen, which he said was “causing a horrible humanitarian disaster.”
“It’s clear, we cannot have an ally who murders in cold blood, in their own consulate, a critic, a dissident, that is unacceptable,” Sanders said.
Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake made a similar point in an interview Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” and predicted that if the accusation is found to be true, Congress would cut US involvement in Yemen.
“I do think that arm sales will be affected,” Flake said. “Certainly our involvement in Yemen with Saudi Arabia will be affected. That barely, that involvement barely survived in the last go-around with the National Defense Authorization Act. It certainly won’t survive with this kind of accusation if it is true.”
Former CIA Director John Brennan said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that denials from Saudi Arabia meant little, and he expressed confidence that the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia would have known about the operation.
“Their denials ring hollow,” Brennan said.
“It would be inconceivable that such an operation would be run by the Saudis without the knowledge of the day-to-day decision maker of Saudi Arabia, that’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman,” he added.
Brennan, a major critic of Trump on some issues, said bin Salman’s relationship with Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner had given the crown prince a sense of latitude in areas like Yemen. He went on to draw parallels between Trump’s relationship with bin Salman, commonly referred to as MBS, and “authoritarian leaders around the globe.”