Lindsey Graham Says He Reserves ‘Right To Change Course’ With Respect To Saudi Arabia


US Senator Lindsey Graham said he “reserved the right to change course” on his opinion of Saudi Arabia following a visit to the Kingdom.

The Republican South Carolina senator arrived in Saudi Arabia last week for his trip, during which he met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and “thanked” the Kingdom for its $37 billion purchase of Boeing 787 aircraft.

He told ABC’s “This Week” program on Sunday that he had altered his views on the Kingdom and the reforms happening in the country after his visit, having been a vocal critic after the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

Speaking to Al Arabiya’s Fatma Fahad, Graham said: “The world has changed, Saudi Arabia has taken a new path, 2018 still looms large, I’ll just be honest with you.”

He continued: “But, I see things happening here, that I didn’t think were possible, I thought it was all talk, so, I’m here to see it for myself. 

“I’m going to go back home and tell my colleagues: ‘You need to go to Saudi Arabia and see what’s going on.’

“You bought $37 billion (worth) of aircraft made in my state and my country, I think more is coming, so as a United States senator, I reserve the right to change course. Saudi Arabia has changed course.”

Lauding the Vision 2030 reform program in the Kingdom, Graham urged Washington to take the opportunity to build stronger links with Saudi Arabia.

“If you can achieve Vision 2030, it will make Saudi Arabia a tourist destination, it will make it a better business partner, and if we can seize this moment to make a strategic alliance with Saudi Arabia militarily and economically, I think it is worth my time to come back and be part of that,” he said.

Graham said US interest in Saudi Arabia was about “caution and opportunity,” adding that American firms can help develop the Kingdom’s plans for a nuclear energy program which, unlike Iran’s, would be for peaceful purposes.

“We are here for opportunity, this is the best chance I’ve seen in decades to upgrade the (US-Saudi) relationship,” he said.

“If you believe climate change is real, which I do, nuclear power is clean, it’s not emitting CO2. I want to try to be helpful there and have American companies involved in the nuclear business come over to help Saudi Arabia have a nuclear program,” he added.

The senator said he also wanted an “upgrade in the relationship militarily” to help defend against common enemies, to continue selling weapons to the Kingdom and to keep training Saudi officers in American schools.

“I would like to have some agreement with Saudi Arabia, I would be supportive of a mutual defense agreement,” he said. “I don’t know if we have the votes for it, but some agreement that would make Saudi Arabia more like a NATO ally and less like an adversary,” he added.

Graham also told Fahad that he told the Saudi leadership any deal with Assad would “jeopardize American presence in northeastern Syria” and would be “met with resistance.”

He continued: “We have 2,500 soldiers in Baghdad, the Iranians are trying to drive us out of the region, they don’t want us here, we stand in the way of their long-term objectives.”

Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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