A Trump-sanctioned golf event, a handshake in Paris and a controversial mega-city boost Saudi image

Statements by former President Donald Trump casting doubt on Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the 9/11 terrorist attacks

Four years after being accused of ordering the assassination of prominent Saudi critic and Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the crown prince has been hosted in two European capitals and this weekend hosted a Saudi-funded one at Trump’s Bedminster golf club golf tournament.

With Salman also making positive headlines this week about his outlandish plans for a futuristic mega-city, activists and pundits warned that Saudi Arabia’s efforts to improve its global standing were working despite scant evidence of a shift in its human rights approach, fueling accusations of Western hypocrisy and undermining calls for reform in the region.

On Thursday, Riyadh’s ongoing efforts to distance itself from the September 11, 2001 attacks received a welcome boost when, in response to criticism from victims’ families of his decision to host September 11, 2001, Trump said “nobody is got to the bottom of 9/11”. lavish LIV golf series event at his New Jersey club.

The kingdom’s investment fund is funding the lucrative breakaway golf tour, while a consortium backed by Saudi Arabia also bought British football club Newcastle United last year.

“Saudi Arabia has had a deliberate long-term strategy of investing in sports and celebrities to detract from their reputations — sports washing, whitewashing, reputation washing,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

“The money that the Saudis use shapes the way people downplay or distract from very serious concerns about Saudi Arabia, particularly human rights abuses,” he added.

Many Americans blame Saudi Arabia for the 9/11 attacks since 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals. Investigations have not involved Saudi leaders, but investigations have revealed links between Saudi nationals and the funding of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. The Saudi government denies any involvement.

Trump’s comments came almost two weeks after President Joe Biden bumped fists with Crown Prince Mohammed during a visit to the Saudi coastal city of Jeddah.

The move outraged rights groups who want the crown prince to be held accountable for the 2018 murder of Khashoggi, who was killed by a team of intelligence operatives with close ties to the crown prince, according to a US intelligence report at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Salman has claimed responsibility for the killing but denies any involvement and blames renegade Saudi agents for the killing.

PICTURED: People walk past a poster honoring the first anniversary of the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, Turkey, October 2, 2019.
People walk past a memorial poster honoring the first anniversary of the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, Turkey, October 2, 2019. Elif Ozturk / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The incident sparked international outrage, and in 2019 Biden, then a presidential candidate, vowed to make the kingdom an “outcast.”

“Bin Salman was isolated, he was convicted for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Now he has received the red carpet reception…he has left his cage,” said Abdel Bari Atwan, political analyst and editor of the Arabic news website Rai al-Youm.

Salman’s apparent return from the diplomatic cold underscores the West’s continued reliance on Saudi oil, especially given the impact of Russia’s war in Ukraine, analysts said. Washington and its allies are also keen to counter the influence of China, Russia and rival regional power Iran.

Earlier this week, the Crown Prince, one of the world’s most autocratic rulers, toured the birthplace of Western democracy during a visit to the Acropolis in Athens.

On Thursday, he traveled to Paris, where he enjoyed a lengthy handshake with French President Emmanuel Macron in front of the red-carpeted staircase of the Elysee presidential palace. According to a French statement, the two heads of state and government discussed the “diversification of the energy supply of European countries”.

PICTURED: Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman looks at U.S. President Joe Biden during the Security and Development Summit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, July 16, 2022.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman watches President Joe Biden during the Security and Development Summit in Jeddah earlier this month in Saudi Arabia. Royal Court of Justice of Saudi Arabia / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Salman’s rehabilitation will encourage other autocrats to ignore human rights, activists say.

“He managed, he really managed to restore ties with the West after Khashoggi,” said Ali Adubisi, the Berlin-based director of the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights. “These western leaders are not responsible for human rights. They have their own priorities. And the message to civil society? Do not trust these leaders.”

Aside from oil, Saudi Arabia is also a major arms buyer and a potential source of multi-billion dollar construction contracts to help realize Salman’s “2030 Vision” for his country’s development.

This week, social media was awash with outlandish images of a proposed 106-mile mirror building in the Saudi desert, part of the crown prince’s blueprint for a futuristic new city called “Neom.”

While some critics have hailed the plan as a groundbreaking urban innovation, most have called it a half-baked idea that will inevitably leave a giant white elephant in the desert. In addition, Amnesty International has stated that evictions and demolitions related to the project violated human rights standards.

PICTURED: Former President Donald Trump drives a golf cart with Yasir Al-Rumayyan, head of Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund, at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, NJ on July 28, 2022.
Former President Donald Trump drives a golf cart Thursday with Yasir Al-Rumayyan, head of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, NJ. Doug Mills / Redux images

Salman has posed as a modernizer, and along with the ambitious building projects, he has reined in the power of the clergy, allowed women to drive, and overseen the opening of movie theaters and other entertainment venues once unthinkable in his conservative kingdom.

But the country is even more repressive than under the crown prince’s predecessors, with human rights groups denouncing arbitrary arrests, the detention of human rights defenders and government critics, the use of the death penalty for minors and Riyadh’s ruinous war in Yemen, one of the world’s poorest countries.

Saudi Arabia’s reintegration into the world community, despite the abuses, is likely to fuel further cynicism about the West’s push for better human rights standards, according to Atwan, the analyst.

“The West is actually shooting itself in the foot. Arab public opinion doesn’t trust them when they lecture on human rights,” he said. “People say, ‘No, I’m sorry. You know we don’t believe you. We don’t trust you anymore.’”

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/trump-approved-golf-event-paris-handshake-mooted-mega-city-boost-saudi-rcna40637 A Trump-sanctioned golf event, a handshake in Paris and a controversial mega-city boost Saudi image

Fry Electronics Team

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