U.S. Senator Marco Rubio ripped Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Wednesday, saying he has gone “full gangster” and is making the U.S.-Saudi relationship “increasingly untenable”.
“He has a pension for escalation, for taking high risks, confrontational on his foreign policy approach, and I think increasingly willing to test the limits on what he can get away with,” Rubio said.
He further called bin Salman “reckless” and “ruthless”, with his actions over the past two years being reminiscent of a James Bond film.
Rubio was speaking during a Senate confirmation hearing for President Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, retired Army Gen. John Abizaid.
The hearing was used by senators to air grievances they had towards the Trump administration’s approach to the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia, and more specifically with the crown prince.
“I have been disappointed with the administration’s public posture towards Saudi Arabia,” said Senator Bob Menendez. “Our leaders cannot credibly call on the world stage and demand accountability for human rights abuses while giving a wink and a nod to the crown prince.”
Saudi Arabia is “also our most difficult partner right now, because it almost asks us to agree to stay silent on grotesque violations of human rights, both domestically and abroad,” Rubio added. “And their crown prince is not making things easier. He is increasingly making it untenable.”
The position of U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia has remained vacant since Trump took office. In November, the president had announced that he would be nominating Abizaid for the position after the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Khashoggi was brutally murdered inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last October shortly after he entered the diplomatic facility. Riyadh initially denied any role in the killing but has since sought to blame his death on a botched rendition operation carried out by rogue agents.
In November, the CIA concluded with high confidence that bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s killing, according to The Washington Post.
Trump and his administration, however, have shied away from placing any blame on the crown prince.
Abizaid stressed that the U.S.-Saudi relationship is much bigger than Washington’s relationship with bin Salman and said he wants to help the Kingdom move forward.
After graduating from the United States Military Academy, Abizaid went on to serve as a four-star general who oversaw U.S. Central Command, which conducted military operations in the Middle East.