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Pompeo: 'Faux outrage' drove anger over Jamal Khashoggi killing

Former Trump secretary of state says Middle East Eye journalist's murder a 'routine' event exploited to strain US relations with Saudi Arabia
Saudi journalist and US resident Jamal Khashoggi was murdered by Saudi government agents in Istanbul in 2018 (Reuters/File photo)

Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said "faux outrage" drove the global backlash against Saudi Arabia over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whose death he said was an "all too routine" event in the Middle East.

In an explosive new memoir set for release on Tuesday, the former official in Donald Trump's administration blamed the "progressive left" for trying to damage the United States' relationship with Saudi Arabia following Khashoggi's murder in Istanbul, an act the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and others have blamed on Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

Pompeo, himself a former director of the CIA, also wrote in his new book Never Give an Inch that Khashoggi wasn't really a journalist and was instead just on the losing side of a power struggle in the kingdom.

"The media made Khashoggi out to be a Saudi Arabian Bob Woodward who was martyred for bravely criticising the Saudi royal family through his opinion articles in the Washington Post," Pompeo said. 

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'The progressive Left hates MBS, in spite of the fact that he is leading the greatest cultural reform in the kingdom's history'

- Mike Pompeo

The Middle East Eye and Washington Post columnist was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October 2018. A former government insider in Saudi Arabia, he relocated to the US in 2017 after becoming increasingly critical of what he saw as an authoritarian rule by the crown prince.

"In truth, Khashoggi was an activist who had supported the losing team in a recent fight for the throne in Saudi Arabia, and he was unhappy with having been exiled," said Pompeo. 

According to Pompeo, while the "grotesque butchery was outrageous, unacceptable, horrific, sad, despicable, evil, brutish, and, of course, unlawful", the world shouldn't have been surprised that such an act could be possible in the region. 

The world, Pompeo suggested, had failed to understand that in the Middle East such acts of "ruthlessness" were "all too routine".

'The progressive left hates MBS'

Reactions following Khashoggi's murder were wildly "disproportionate", according to Pompeo. He also cast doubt on whether the Saudi crown prince was culpable for the killing.

"There is nearly zero intelligence that directly links MBS to ordering the murder," said Pompeo.

And even if the crown prince had ordered the killing, it would have just meant "one more ruthless leader in a pretty damn ruthless part of the world".

"He didn't deserve to die, but we need to be clear about who he was - and too many people in the media were not," said Pompeo, referring to Khashoggi's past association with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Even while accepting the killing of Khashoggi, Pompeo lauded the reforms carried out by the crown prince.

"The progressive Left hates MBS, in spite of the fact that he is leading the greatest cultural reform in the kingdom's history", said Pompeo adding that the crown prince would prove to be one the most "important leaders of his time, a truly historic figure on the world stage".

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Pompeo accused the American media of leading the charge in an effort to sever American-Saudi ties.

He also accused "the left" of holding Saudi Arabia to a higher standard of inquiry than Iran, which according to Pompeo, was also running hit squads in Turkey. 

"The left also shamed Republicans into decrying Khashoggi's murder as a singularly horrible event," said Pompeo.

During the fallout following the Khashoggi murder, Pompeo remembers sharing a "chuckle" with Trump over how Turkish authorities leaked details of what happened inside the consulate to "masterful effect".

Despite growing calls to punish the crown prince and the Saudi state, Pompeo says he convinced Trump to do the "right thing" and put America first.

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