Iranian FM Javad Zarif mocks Trump statement on MbS
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has issued a mocking response to US President Donald Trump's announcement that he would stick by Saudi Arabia despite the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Trump's statement on Saudi Arabia opened with a litany of complaints against Iran, which he used to justify his continued backing of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.
"Mr. Trump bizarrely devotes the FIRST paragraph of his shameful statement on Saudi atrocities to accuse IRAN of every sort of malfeasance he can think of," Zarif wrote on Twitter late Tuesday.
"Perhaps we're also responsible for the California fires, because we didn't help rake the forests," Zarif added.
This was a reference to recent mockery of Trump for his claim that forest fires - such as those that have hit northern California in recent days - could be prevented with "more raking and cleaning and doing things".
Trump has resisted mounting evidence of Saudi government involvement in the Khashoggi killing - including from his own intelligence services.
"It could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event - maybe he did and maybe he didn't!" he wrote.
"We may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr Jamal Khashoggi. In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia," he said. "The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner."
Public relations for MbS
Saudi Arabia, he said, provides crucial help in the US struggle to contain Iranian ambitions, as well as having committed to $450 billion in US weapons contracts and other investments.
In addition, the Saudis have helped in keeping oil prices low, Trump said.
Critics of the no-questions-asked relationship immediately attacked Trump.
"Since Mr Trump excels in dishonesty, it is now up to members of Congress to obtain & declassify the CIA findings on Jamal Khashoggi's death," tweeted John Brennan, a former CIA director and fierce Trump critic.
"No one in Saudi Arabia - most especially the Crown Prince - should escape accountability for such a heinous act."
Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen said the White House manoeuvre demonstrated "President Trump's habit of siding with murderous foreign dictators over American intelligence professionals," calling the approach a "stain on our democracy."
There was a chorus of disapproval from senior figures on his own side too, with Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate's powerful Committee on Foreign Relations accusing the White House of moonlighting "as a public relations firm" for the crown prince.
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