Turkish police think Saudi journalist was killed in Istanbul consulate

By Vivian Nereim, Donna Abu-Nasr, Alaa Shahine and Riad Hamade

Bloomberg News

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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Authorities in Turkey believe that a Saudi journalist who went missing after entering the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul this week was killed there, a Turkish government source said.

The assessment came three days after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman said Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist critical of his rule, had left the building shortly after entering it and that he was ready to allow Turkey to search the consulate.

“The premises are sovereign territory, but we will allow them to enter and search and do whatever they want to do,” Mohammed said in an interview Wednesday at a royal palace in Riyadh. “We have nothing to hide.”

Khashoggi’s murder is believed to have been premeditated, Reuters and the Washington Post reported.

Khashoggi, who’s been living in self-imposed exile for the past year, has been missing since Tuesday. His fiancee and friends said they fear he was detained or kidnapped for his criticism of the government.

Speculation that Khashoggi was detained focused new attention on what critics say is a broad crackdown on dissent under Mohammed that has coincided with his attempts to loosen social restrictions and create a more dynamic economy less reliant on oil. It also risks worsening relations between the kingdom and Turkey, already strained over Ankara’s support of political Islam. Turkey summoned the Saudi ambassador to explain the journalist’s disappearance.

Mohammed, the 33-year-old heir to the Saudi throne, used the interview to defend actions that have tarnished his reputation abroad as a man trying to overhaul one of the world’s last remaining absolute monarchies. He said the arrests of clerics, women activists and some businessmen over the past year were a small price to pay for peacefully eradicating extremism in the world’s top oil exporter.

The prince said authorities have detained about 1,500 people over the past three years on national security grounds rather than as part of a clampdown on dissent. The number, he said, pales in comparison with Turkey, where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has locked up tens of thousands since a failed coup against him in 2016.

“I didn’t call myself a reformer of Saudi Arabia,” Prince Mohammed said when questioned about criticism of the arrests. “I am the crown prince of Saudi Arabia and I am trying to do the best that I can do through my position.”

Khashoggi said last year that he moved to the United States because of concerns that he would be arrested in Saudi Arabia or prevented from traveling abroad.

“I have left my home, my family and my job, and I am raising my voice,” he wrote in the Washington Post, for which he was a regular contributor. “To do otherwise would betray those who languish in prison. I can speak when so many cannot.”

On Wednesday, Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesman for Erdogan, said Turkey believed Khashoggi was still inside the consulate. “We will continue following the matter closely. There is an international law, Turkish law and humanitarian aspect in this issue,” he said.

(Abu-Nasr reported from Beirut. Taylan Bilgic and Nayla Razzouk contributed to this report.)

UN Ambassador Nikki Haley resigns, to leave at year’s end

By Noah Bierman and Tracy Wilkinson

Los Angeles Times

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WASHINGTON — Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, announced her resignation Tuesday in a move that President Donald Trump said had been in the works for months, but which caught many White House officials by surprise.

Trump, making the announcement at the White House, told reporters that Haley had informed him about six months ago that at the end of a two-year period on the job, she’d want to take a break. The resignation will take effect at the end of the year, Trump and Haley said.

“She’s done a fantastic job, and we’ve done a fantastic job together,” Trump said, adding that he’d be happy to have her back in another position.

Haley’s departure marked one of the rare examples of a senior Trump administration official making a graceful exit. The president heaped praise on her, saying she brought glamour and importance to the position. He allowed her to address reporters from the Oval Office, a departure from the abrupt tweets Trump often uses to announce high-level staff changes. Trump said he would name a successor within the next two or three weeks.

Haley, in turn, thanked Trump and praised members of his family before mentioning her own family. She also moved quickly to squelch speculation about her political ambitions.

“No, I am not running in 2020,” she said, adding she would campaign for Trump’s re-election.

Haley, who called herself a “lucky girl,” said she was leaving because she needed to take time out after an intense six years as governor of South Carolina which included a hurricane, a major flood and mass shootings directly followed by two years at the United Nations.

She said her departure matched her belief that those in government should have term limits. She has served at the U.N. since the start of Trump’s presidency.

Haley also praised the effectiveness of Trump’s foreign policy efforts, which have drawn widespread criticism.

“Now, the United States is respected,” she said. “Countries may not like what we do, but they respect what we do.” A recent survey by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center showed public opinion toward the United States has plummeted in many countries since Trump took office.

Haley cited Trump’s tough trade policy, his decision to leave the Iran nuclear deal and the move of the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, which infuriated many allies and regional partners.

Trump, she said, is “showing the rest of the world we will put our embassy where we want to put our embassy.”

She also took credit for cutting the U.S. contribution to the U.N. budget, characterizing the move as moving the organization toward more efficiency.

Haley achieved a rare feat in the Trump administration: maintaining her personal popularity despite the president’s polarizing politics. An April Quinnipiac University poll found 63 percent of voters approved of her job performance, compared with 17 percent who disapproved. That included a majority, 55 percent, of Democrats.

The 46-year-old child of Indian immigrants has been viewed as a rising star within the Republican Party and is widely believed to harbor ambitions for higher office. Before Trump took over the party with his nationalist politics aimed at the GOP’s white male base, Haley endorsed his primary opponent, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who wanted to push the party toward a more multicultural future.

Conservatives, even those who are suspicious of Trump’s “America First” policy, have tended to give Haley the benefit of the doubt, even as she carries out his agenda.

She has been more outspoken in calling out Russian aggression than Trump, for example. She also often sides even more strongly with Israel than Trump, who has pushed U.S. policy away from its officially neutral stance on the conflict with the Palestinians. She once threatened to “take names” of countries that have opposed American policy in Israel.

“Nikki Haley has been a clear, consistent and powerful voice for America’s interests and democratic principles on the world stage,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said in a tweet. “She challenged friend and foe to be better. I am saddened that she is leaving the administration, but so grateful for her service.”

Trump’s boasts at the UN prompt laughter — and then a long silence

By Eli Stokols and Tracy Wilkinson

Los Angeles Times

UNITED NATIONS President Donald Trump had barely begun his address to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday when he claimed his tenure had “accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country,” the kind of over-the-top boast he usually reserves for his campaign rallies.

Around the cavernous hall, diplomats and world leaders broke into what even the official White House transcript described as laughter.

“Didn’t expect that reaction, but that’s OK,” Trump said, momentarily startled. That prompted more guffaws and applause.

A year after Trump delivered a fiery speech here that left diplomats slack-jawed, many appeared to view him Tuesday as more theater than threat. They sat silent as he cited what he claimed as major achievements, including the U.S. pullout from the Iran nuclear accord, his refusal to sign the Global Compact on migration, the withdrawal from the U.N. Human Rights Council, and his decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

As expected, Trump aimed his sharpest ire at Iran, blaming the Islamic Republic for sowing “havoc and slaughter” in Syria and Yemen, and spreading “mayhem across the Middle East” and beyond.

“Iran’s leaders sow chaos, death and destruction,” Trump said. “They do not respect their neighbors, their borders or the sovereign rights of nations.”

He urged other countries to join an economic pressure campaign against Iran, a direct challenge to other members of the Security Council that remain committed to the Iran nuclear deal that Trump abandoned.

“We ask all nations to isolate Iran’s regime as long as its aggression continues,” Trump said.

But Trump devoted much of a somber, and often isolationist, 35-minute address to promoting his America First agenda, and its emphasis on sovereignty in trade, security and international affairs. “We reject the ideology of globalism, and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism,” he said.

He also outlined the argument for his disruptive approach to foreign affairs, from the Middle East to North Korea, where he has upended traditional diplomacy by discarding former U.S. policies.

“America’s policy of principled realism means we will not be held hostage to old dogmas, discredited ideologies, and so-called experts who have been proven wrong over the years, time and time again,” he said.

Citing the dangers of illegal immigration and “uncontrolled migration,” Trump argued that each country should set its own policies in accordance with its national interest. The U.N. estimated about 65 million people, mostly from impoverished nations, have been dislocated due to war, persecution, environmental disasters and economic needs.

“Migration should not be governed by an international body unaccountable to our own citizens,” Trump said. “Ultimately, the only long-term solution to the migration crisis is to help people build more hopeful futures in their home countries. Make their countries great again.”

Trump bore down on his persistent pledge to curb and re-prioritize America’s foreign aid budget, complaining that helping poverty-stricken countries offered little benefit to U.S. interests.

“The United States is the world’s largest giver in the world, by far, of foreign aid. But few give anything to us,” he told the world body.

Trump said Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo would take a “hard look” at the State Department budget and ensure that countries receiving aid or military protection “also have our interests at heart.”

“Moving forward, we’re only going to give foreign aid to those who respect us and, frankly, are our friends,” he said.

His suggestion to make foreign aid more transactional challenges, at least in part, the traditional U.S. role of trying to use so-called soft power to promote human rights and democracy, especially in fragile societies or those where U.S. interests are prominent. The countries that receive the most U.S. economic aid are Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel and Egypt.

Despite his emphasis on sovereignty, Trump did not criticize, or even mention, Russia. The U.N. has criticized Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine, and its seizure of Crimea, as well as its actions in Georgia and the Balkans, and the U.S. intelligence community and a Virginia grand jury have documented the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Trump attacked the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, known as OPEC, for what he described as “ripping off the rest of the world,” but then praised Saudi Arabia’s leadership for what he called bold reforms. Saudi Arabia is one of the main powers in OPEC and is partly responsible for higher oil prices as U.S. sanctions bite into Iran’s oil production.

Trump praised his decision last December to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a hotly disputed action favored by few in the audience, calling it “very historic change.” Trump’s critics believe he has openly sided with Israel and jeopardized any chance to revive the long-stalled Mideast peace process.

“The tone of this speech won’t be effective outside Trump’s base at home _ boastful, bitter and resentful of countries that ‘take advantage of us,’” Nicholas Burns, a former senior diplomat in Republican and Democratic administrations, said via Twitter. “He is not leading the world, but campaigning against it.