Training of Saudi military personnel in the United States is at stake after the Florida attack

A training program for Saudi military personnel in the United States is at stake on Sunday, two days after a Saudi man received training to kill three people at an Air Force base in Florida.

What is rare at this point in the deeply politically divided United States is that Republicans and Democrats will agree on a point two days after the shooting: the military exchange programs between Washington and Riyadh must be closely scrutinized.

Hundreds of Saudi soldiers receive training every year within the American armed forces, which confirms the strong relations between the two allied countries.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who is close to President Donald Trump, said Sunday morning in an interview with Fox News, that the program "must be suspended" in order to fully disclose the circumstances of what happened in Florida.

Muhammad al-Shamrani, 21, a second lieutenant in the Saudi Air Force, opened fire Friday with a pistol in a training room at the Pensacola base, killing three people and wounding eight, before being shot back by the police.

Investigators are still trying to determine the motives of the attacker, who was posting on Twitter before the shooting, anti-American messages, and they are looking for any possible complicity.

"Saudi Arabia is an ally country, but there is something fundamentally wrong, the program must be slowed down and reassessed," Graham said.

For his part, Florida Rep. Matt Gates called on ABC to "stop the program."

In this context, he said, "We should not welcome new Saudi students until we have full confidence in our audit process," stressing the need "to monitor their activities to ensure that there is no extremism."

In turn, Defense Secretary Mark Esber said on Fox News Sunday that he had requested a "review of the monitoring procedures for foreign nationals coming (to receive training) in the United States", but he defended the viability of this type of program.

"We have something that our potential adversaries like Russia and China do not have. That is, there is a specific system of alliances and partnerships," the minister added.

He stressed that "the opportunity to bring foreign students here to train with us to understand American culture is very important for us to build these long-term relationships that contribute to our security."

For its part, the democratic opposition condemned the Trump government's policy towards Saudi Arabia, accusing it of giving its economic and military interests a priority rather than a human rights issue.

"The relationship between us is unacceptable," Cory Booker, who is contesting the Democratic race to run for the White House, told ABC television on Sunday, referring to US aircraft that "fuel their planes bombing Yemen with bombs made in the United States."

Meanwhile, California Democrat Zoe Lovgreen recalled the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the fall of 2018 at his country's consulate in Istanbul by a Saudi team.

She said, "They killed and cut this journalist," who was writing an article in the Washington Post, and "we have not heard that they have been tried for that."

Adam Schiff, the Democratic Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, in an interview with CBS, called for a "thorough investigation" of the Florida shooting.

"I would have preferred the president of the United States ask for answers rather than speaking on behalf of the Saudi government," he added.


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