Politics

Bob Corker Wants Trump Administration to Rein In ‘Out of Control’ Mohammad bin Salman

Foreign Relations chairman unsure of vote to proceed to Yemen resolution next week

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., speaks with Roll Call in his office in the Dirksen building on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker says Saudi Crown Prince  Mohammad bin Salman is “out of control” and hopes he can be brought back in control before the Senate votes to rebuke the Kingdom. 

With President Donald Trump and the prince both in Argentina for the G20 summit this weekend, Corker said in an interview with Roll Call on Thursday that he hopes the Trump administration can get the U.S. relationship with the kingdom into “balance” before the Senate is back voting, and before he has to contemplate voting to proceed to a floor debate on a joint resolution designed to stop American support for Saudi Arabia’s campaign in Yemen.

The Tennessee Republican said in an interview that a message needed to be sent, with American values not having played enough of a role in dealings with the Saudis recently.

“To me, we’ve got a relationship with a country that’s a semi-important country and a semi-important ally. I wouldn’t elevate them beyond that,” Corker said. “We’ve got to figure out a way to hit the right note here so we don’t have a 33-year-old crown prince who may be in power for 40 years continuing to conduct himself in the manner that he’s demonstrated.”

“I believe he’s out of control, personally. The blockade in Qatar was to me ham-handed and ill-thought out,” Corker said. “The arrest of a prime minister in Lebanon, a friend of mine — or an acquaintance I would say, to me was again a rookie mistake.”

“And then this most recent killing of a journalist to me bumps up against all international norms and certainly American values,” Corker said.

The assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi seemed to be a bridge too far for the Senate, with 63 senators voting Wednesday to discharge the Foreign Relations Committee and start a potentially open and wide-ranging floor debate on Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

“Obviously the resolution as it sits is a resolution relative to Yemen, but as you know, once it gets on the floor, it can be amended with 51 votes,” Corker said.

“It was a vote to say we need to address this imbalance that exists,” Corker said. “This is really just forcing a debate on our relationship with Saudi Arabia.”

Corker said he would much prefer that Trump and his diplomatic and  national security teams make sufficient adjustments on their own with respect to U.S.-Saudi policy. And that includes holding the crown prince responsible for his actions.

“I do believe the crown prince ordered the dismemberment and killing of a journalist,” Corker said. “There may be no smoking gun — and there may be, by the way — but there may be no smoking gun, but I absolutely believe that he owns it. He directs the agency that carried out the killing.”

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