Trump holds call with Saudi crown prince to discuss human rights issues, Iran

President TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 committee chair says panel will issue a 'good number' of additional subpoenas Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Pentagon officials prepare for grilling Biden nominates head of Africa CDC to lead global AIDS response MORE on Tuesday held a call with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, where the two leaders discussed Iran and "the importance of human rights issues."

The White House provided few specifics of the call in its official readout. 

"They discussed Saudi Arabia’s critical role in ensuring Middle East stability, maintaining maximum pressure against Iran, and the importance of human rights issues," the White House said.

Saudi Arabia's track record on human rights issues and the U.S.-Saudi relationship has been under scrutiny in the wake of the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.


The crown prince has faced sharp criticism in recent months following Khashoggi's death. The journalist, an American resident and a critic of Saudi leadership, was last seen entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in early October. His remains have not been found.

The Saudi government initially denied knowledge of Khashoggi's whereabouts and changed its story multiple times before announcing charges against more than a dozen people in the incident.

U.S. and international intelligence officials have indicated that the crown prince likely played a role in Khashoggi's death, but the White House has made no such official determination.

The Trump administration has faced criticism at times from U.S. lawmakers for its response to Khashoggi's death. 

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoTrump administration mulled kidnapping, assassinating Julian Assange: report Republican lawmakers raise security, privacy concerns over Huawei cloud services WashPost fact-checker gives Pompeo four 'Pinocchios' for 'zombie' claim about Obama Iran deal MORE announced Monday that 16 Saudis, including one top aide to the crown prince, had been barred from entering the U.S. in response to journalist's killing.

Members of Congress have urged the administration to take stronger action, but the president has indicated that additional punishment was not forthcoming, citing the diplomatic and economic importance of the U.S.-Saudi relationship.

Saudi Arabia is a key U.S. ally in pressuring Iran. The Trump administration announced Monday it is labeling Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a “foreign terrorist organization,” ramping up pressure on Tehran.