Reports: US Gets $100M Saudi Payment as Pompeo Arrives in Riyadh
By Cathy Burke
The United States got a payment of $100 million from Saudi Arabia the same day Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Riyadh to discuss the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, two reports say.
The New York Times reported, although Saudi Arabia publicly pledged the payment to support U.S. stabilization efforts in northeastern Syria in August, there were questions about when and if it would come through.
The money landed in American accounts Tuesday, the same day Pompeo landed in the Saudi capital, the Times reported.
The Washington Post, citing an unnamed State Department official, confirmed the transfer Wednesday amid increasing calls from around the world for answers in the Khashoggi case.
The timing of the transfer has now raised questions about a potential payoff as Riyadh seeks to manage the blowback over allegations Saudi agents were responsible for Khashoggi’s disappearance, the Post noted.
The State Department denied any connection between the payment and Pompeo’s discussions with Saudi officials about Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributing columnist, the reports say.
“We always expected the contribution to be finalized in the fall time frame,” Brett McGurk, the State Department’s envoy to the anti-Islamic State coalition, said in a statement, the Post reported. “The specific transfer of funds has been long in process and has nothing to do with other events or the secretary’s visit.”
But Middle East experts said the timing of the transfer likely sent a clear message to the Trump administration.
“In all probability, the Saudis want Trump to know that his cooperation in covering for the Khashoggi affair is important to the Saudi monarch,” Joshua Landis, a professor at the University of Oklahoma, told the Post. “Much of its financial promises to the U.S. will be contingent on this cooperation.”