business

Trump backer Tom Barrack defends Saudi Arabia

Real estate developer said that kingdom was misunderstood by the West

Dubai: America is in no moral position to criticise Saudi Arabia, according to financier and key Trump backer Tom Barrack.

Speaking on stage at the Milken Institute MENA Summit in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, Barrack was asked by CNN’s Becky Anderson about the reputational damage to Saudi Arabia over the Jamal Khashoggi killing.

In response, he joked: “As long as you don’t make me a guest at the Ritz.”

With regards to the murder of journalist Khashoggi, Barrack said that “whatever happened in Saudi Arabia, the atrocities in America are equal, or worse ...”

“The atrocities in any ... country are dictated by the rule of law,” he continued. “So for us to dictate what we think is the moral code there, when we have a young man and regime that is trying to push themselves into 2030, I think is a mistake.”

Barrack went on to launch a lengthy defence of Saudi Arabia, accusing Western countries of failing to understand the kingdom.

“The problem that has happened with the Khashoggi incident,” he said, “is the same problem with the West misunderstanding the east that has existed since Sykes-Picot.”

“So, the West is confused, it doesn’t understand the rule of law in the kingdom, it doesn’t understand what succession in the kingdom is, it doesn’t understand how there can be a dilemma with a population that has 60 per cent of people under the age of 20.”

He later added that the West had always been confused about the Middle East.

“The corrupt hand of the West has been the primary instigator in the kingdom, and in the resource curse across the region forever.”

Barrack then praised the strong leadership across the Arabian Gulf in the face of this perceived Western ineffectiveness, especially in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

“The leadership in the UAE is brilliant,” he said, adding: “The English manipulated the region for decades.”

The private equity investor also defended Saudi Arabia’s transformation, saying that “in a transition, bold action is required for bold places.”

Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Riyadh represented some of the “most organised leadership regimes” in the world, he added.