Mike Pompeo and The Washington Post newspaper exchanged verbal attacks on Tuesday after comments by former US Secretary of State about slain Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
What happened: Khashoggi was a Saudi writer and dissident who wrote a column for The Washington Post. He was a well-known critic of the Saudi government.
In 2018, Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. His death sparked widespread condemnation from the Saudi government and especially from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS.
Former US President Donald Trump has not chastised Saudi Arabia for the killing, saying he believed MBS’s innocence. A 2021 US intelligence report concluded that Salman approved of the killing. However, US President Joe Biden also refused to sanction MBS.
Pompeo released a book on Tuesday about his time in the Trump administration. In the book, he called Khashoggi “an activist who had supported the losing team.” He also described “false outrage” around the columnist’s death, The Guardian reported Monday, citing the book.
Pompeo also criticized Khashoggi in the book for mourning the death of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden, NBC reported Monday, also citing the book.
Khashoggi had a complex relationship with bin Laden, whom he first met in Afghanistan in the 1980s during the war against the Soviet Union, according to Yahoo! News. However, at a meeting in Sudan in 1995, Khashoggi urged bin Laden to renounce violence, according to The The Bharat Express News.
Khashoggi mourned bin Laden in a 2011 tweet after the al-Qaeda leader was killed in a US military strike, writing, “You were beautiful, brave in those bright days in Afghanistan before you succumbed to anger and passion.”
Pompeo further described Khashoggi as “cozy with the terrorist-supporting Muslim Brotherhood”.
The Muslim Brotherhood is an Islamic movement that has support throughout the Middle East. The governments of Saudi Arabia and Egypt in particular are fiercely opposed to the group.
As a young man, Khashoggi was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, according to the TBEN.
The Washington Post condemned Pompeo in a strongly worded statement Tuesday, saying he “spread despicable untruths” about Khashoggi.
Statement from Post Publisher and CEO Fred Ryan pic.twitter.com/bgM8zTkcEZ
— Washington Post PR (@WashPostPR) January 24, 2023
Pompeo responded to The Washington Post on Twitter, saying the decision not to punish Saudi Arabia in connection with Khashoggi’s murder made Americans “safer”.
Americans are safer because we didn’t call Saudi Arabia a pariah state. I have never been bullied by the media. Just because someone is a part-time stringer for WaPo doesn’t make their life more important than our military service in dangerous places to protect us all. I never forgot that. https://t.co/jidmb6R6oU
— Mike Pompeo (@mikepompeo) January 24, 2023
Why it matters: The controversy is a further indication that Khashoggi’s murder still reverberates in Washington five years later. The controversy is a further indication that Khashoggi’s murder still reverberates in Washington five years later. Some members of Congress have called on the Biden administration to crack down on MBS and the Saudi government over the assassination, but the administration has been hesitant to do so.
Last November, the Biden administration said MBS has legal immunity from a lawsuit related to Khashoggi’s murder.
Knowing more: Khashoggi’s widow, Hanan Elatr, criticized Pompeo to NBC on Monday, saying the former secretary of state should “shut up and shut up the lies.” She said that Khashoggi was not a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and that her husband condemned the September 11 attacks, among other things.