Graham: ‘I Can’t Ever See Myself Doing Business with Saudi Arabia’ Unless There’s a Change in Leadership

By Melanie Arter | December 13, 2018 | 1:26 PM EST

Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Jeanne Shaneen (D-N.H.) (l-r) (Screenshot)

( – Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) pledged Wednesday that he will never do business with Saudi Arabia unless they get rid of Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman, commonly referred to as MBS, who has been implicated as ordering the murder and dismemberment of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“The individual – the crown prince – is so toxic, so tainted, so flawed that I can’t ever see myself doing business with Saudi Arabia in the future unless there’s a change there,” he told reporters during a press conference on the next steps in Saudi Arabia after Khashoggi’s death.

Graham was joined by Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeanne Shaneen (D-N.H.) and Chris Murphy (D- Conn.) in pushing for Senate passage of their bill, the Saudi Arabia Accountability in Yemen Act.

The bill (S.3652) calls for suspension of weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, prohibition on U.S. refueling of Saudi Coalition Aircraft engaged in the civil war in Yemen, sanctions for people blocking humanitarian access in Yemen, sanctions for people supporting the Houthis in Yemen, an accountability report for all actors in Yemen in violation of international war or guilty of war crimes and harm to civilians, mandatory sanctions on persons responsible for Khashoggi’s death, and a report on human rights in Saudi Arabia.

“Those are some of the elements of the legislation we believe both advocate to move towards a resolution of the Yemen conflict and at the same time sends a global message that just because you’re our ally you cannot kill with impunity and believe you can get away with it,” Menendez told reporters.

“That’s a global message that we need to send, and at the end of the day if we don’t send that message, I worry for what path we move ahead,” he said.


Graham said the current relationship with Saudi Arabia isn’t working for American.

“They have been strategic allies and could be in the future, but right now, it is more of a burden than it is an asset, and why did I say that? This country led by the de facto leaders, the crown prince, has been a wrecking ball, and the Khashoggi incident is just one of many but the most egregious, and I think most people can relate to why we’re upset,” he said.

“To be an ally of America, I think more is expected from you, not less. If you want to integrate your economy into ours, there’s certain things you have to accept like the rule of law. If you want to buy our weapons, there’s certain things you have to accept – how you use them matters,” Graham said.

“So I just want everybody in the region to know that if you’re thinking about doing what MBS did, and you want to have a relationship with the United States, good luck. It’s not gonna happen. I want let the president to know that I think you’re right about Saudi Arabia having been a strategic ally, and they could be in the future, but I think you’re wrong about what’s going on here,” the senator said, addressing President Trump.

Graham explained the reason why he supports the bill.

“The reason I am supporting this approach next year is I’m never going to let this go until things change in Saudi Arabia. This is coming from the biggest supporter of the relationship in the past,” the senator said.

“Myself and Senator McCain sometimes have had the lonely job of defending this strategic relationship in the past, but as to me, those days are over, because what’s going on in Saudi Arabia between the Khashoggi murder and MBS’s complicit in it, the dismembering of Yemen, the imprisonment of the Lebanese prime minister in the most bizarre thing I’ve seen in 20 years, the embargo of Qatar without any notice to us as a nation where we have 13,000 troops,” he said.

“Enough is enough. So to our friends in Saudi Arabia, you’re never going to have a relationship with the United States Senate unless things change, and it’s up to you to figure out what that change should be,” Graham said, adding that “the current construct is not working.”

The Senate on Wednesday voted 60 to 39 to advance the resolution. The final Senate vote is expected to take place on Thursday.

Murphy thanked his Senate colleagues for advancing the measure, saying it “sends a clear signal to this administration and to Saudi Arabia that if this administration doesn’t reorient our policy towards Saudi Arabia, then Congress is going to do it.”

“Saudi Arabia is our ally, but when your ally jumps into a pool of sharks, you aren’t obligated to follow them. There is a line that Saudi Arabia crossed. I would argue long ago. Unfortunately, it is now up to the United States Congress to try to make clear what this relationship can be and has to be going into the future,” he said.

“Yemen is one of the symptoms, and unfortunately, it is the most disastrous of them,” Murphy said, adding that “85,000 kids under the age of five have died from starvation and disease.”

“All the evidence points to the fact that many times the Saudis are using our bombs to deliberately target either civilians or civilian infrastructure, but as Senator Graham mentioned, from the blockage of Qatar to the kidnapping of the Lebanese prime minister, Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy went off the rails some time ago, and we are still the senior partner in this relationship,” he said.


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