By Emily Tillett CBS News October 14, 2018, 10:45 AM Rubio: U.S.-Saudi relationship should be "completely revised" if Saudis killed missing journalist
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida says that the U.S.-Saudi relationship should be "completely revised" if the Saudi government killed Jamal Khashoggi, the prominent Saudi journalist who has been missing since entering a Saudi consulate in Istanbul several weeks ago.
On "Face the Nation" Sunday, Rubio said the U.S. should consider suspending arms sales to the Saudi kingdom should the allegations prove to be accurate. The U.S. supplies Saudi Arabia with tens of billions of dollars worth of arms, and the kingdom is a key U.S. ally in the volatile region. Earlier in the week, President Trump appeared hesitant about the possibility of ending arms sales, even if Saudi Arabia is found to be culpable in the journalist's disappearance.
"When you sell arms to Saudi Arabia, it gives you leverage over them, because they need replacement parts, they need the training," Rubio said. "You can't sanction a country by cutting them off of something if you never provided it in the first place. So it is true that arms sales gives us leverage. The question here is specifically whether our relationship with Saudi Arabia needs to be completely revised, including arms sales if in fact they carried out something like what they are accused of at this moment."
Turkish officials have said that a team of Saudi operatives killed and dismembered Khashoggi inside the consulate, which he had entered to obtain documents needed for his upcoming wedding. In an interview with "60 Minutes" airing Sunday, President Trump warned of "severe punishment" for the Saudi kingdom if it was behind the disappearance. Saudi officials have denied any involvement and rejected "threats" against their country in response to the president's comments.
Rubio said the relationship with Saudi Arabia extends far beyond arms sales, calling the kingdom an important part of the U.S. strategy in the Middle East. But that relationship, he said, "cannot supercede our commitment to human rights."
"It's not about the money. There are plenty of other countries that would want to buy arms from us," Rubio said.
Rubio called the reports surrounding Khashoggi's disappearance "unacceptable," adding that the U.S. should "never accept that from anyone in the world." He said failure to punish the Saudis would harm U.S. credibility and moral authority when acting against regimes with poor human rights records like Russia, Venezuela and China.
"We can never be a voice for human rights anywhere in the world if we allow a situation like this to go forward and us do nothing about it," said Rubio.