Where President Donald Trump continues to come up short, other world leaders are picking up the slack. He’s refused to closely scrutinize the Saudi government over their apparent direction of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but this week at the G20 summit of world leaders in Argentina, French President Emmanuel Macron pressed the Saudi crown prince to his face to stop hiding the facts.
In an exchange that only lasted around five minutes and was at least partially caught on camera, Macron insisted that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman allow third party investigators to take part in his government’s handling of Khashoggi’s death. The journalist went to the Saudi consulate in Turkey in early October for papers associated with an upcoming wedding, and he never came out. Reports have insisted almost unanimously that the Saudi government — and MBS in particular — pushed for the murder to the point of him getting notified that it was complete soon after.
Trump, however, has refused to condemn the Saudis. In one of a number of particularly egregious examples of his behavior, when pressed for who should be held responsible, he quipped that maybe the world should since it’s such a “vicious” place. In other words, he has left the realm of waiting for evidence to make a definitive statement about the journalist’s murder and has now taken to purely ideological positions.
The president has made the United States’ economic cooperation with the Saudis a top priority — although he’s divorced that from reality too, to be sure, vastly inflating the value to the U.S. in terms of cash and jobs of an arms deal he struck with the Saudi government during his first foreign trip as president.
That’s where leaders like Macron come in. In a video of his interactions with MBS shared by the Saudi Gazette, the dismissive crown prince insists that he should not worry, to which Macron emphatically replies:
‘I am worried!’
— Saudi Gazette (@Saudi_Gazette) November 30, 2018
It’s not immediately clear what that exchange was in precise reference too. The French president can also be heard bemoaning that the crown prince doesn’t listen to him and insisting that he’s a man of his word on the Saudi Gazette’s video.
A French official told Reuters that in addition to the Khashoggi death, Macron pressed MBS over the ongoing tumult in Yemen, which his country has a continued hand in.
As a French official put it:
‘We were not going to play hide and seek for 48 hours; it wouldn’t make any sense. If we’re here and he’s at the table, let’s be frank and not indulgent. Things that need saying will be said.’
That’s a striking contrast with Trump’s approach. The U.S. president has insisted that he won’t press the Saudis over the incident in order to maintain that aforementioned economic relationship, despite reports that insist the CIA has “high confidence” the crown prince was involved in the killing.
The issue is one of many high profile points on the table at the G2o summit this week. Others include the ongoing Russian aggression against Ukraine.
Featured Image via screenshot from the video