US should keep ties with Saudi, hold MbS responsible: Top Democratic senator

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US Senator Ben Cardin arrives at a weekly Senate Democratic policy luncheon September 25, 2018 at the Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo by AFP)

The United States should maintain its strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia while holding Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a top Democratic senator says.

Speaking to Fox News on Sunday, Senator Ben Cardin said he had no doubt that bin Salman, also known as MBS, was involved in the murder of Khashoggi, who was killed after entering the Saudi consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul on October 2.

"There’s no doubt in my mind that the crown prince knew what was going on in Turkey and was very much involved in that," Cardin said.

"We cannot allow that type of conduct to go unchallenged," the Maryland lawmaker added. "The United States needs to have a pretty strong position on it and we have to demand that there be accountability."

US President Donald Trump has so far resisted growing calls from both sides of the isle in Congress for a strong response to Khashoggi’s murder, arguing that doing so would endanger deep financial and political ties between the two sides and push Riyadh towards Russia.

Trump’s reluctance to go after MbS became clearer after he undermined a CIA assessment that the prince was indeed aware of the murder, despite Riyadh’s denials.

But the biggest reason is the risk that losing Saudi Arabia’s services would pose to Israel, Trump has admitted

“Israel would be in big trouble without Saudi Arabia,” Trump said after a Thanksgiving Day telephone call with military personnel from his Mar-a-Lago resort home in Florida.

“If you look at Israel, Israel would be in big trouble without Saudi Arabia,” he added. “So what does that mean, Israel is going to leave? You want Israel to leave? We have a very strong ally in Saudi Arabia.”

The President said the Saudis were “tremendously helpful” in the region as they also helped keep oil prices down.

Pressed to say who should be held accountable for Khashoggi’s death, Trump made a strange statement.

“Maybe the world should be held accountable, because the world’s a very very vicious place,” Trump said during the Thanksgiving call.

Cardin said in his interview that he believed the US had the upper hand over Riyadh and could use this to its advantage without worrying about the possible consequences.

"That does not mean that we can’t continue to have a strategic relationship with Saudi Arabia," he said. "They need America."

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