Top US defense and military officials on Saturday reaffirmed America's continued commitment to and relationship with Saudi Arabia after a Saudi Air Force student's deadly attack at a Navy base in Florida, the AP reports. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and others attending a security conference in California played down any initial impact on US-Saudi ties. President Donald Trump described a conciliatory conversation with the Saudi king. But the shooting also is testing the allies' ties just months after the Trump administration delivered substantial military aid to Saudi Arabia to counter threats from Iran. "I spoke with the king of Saudi Arabia. They are devastated in Saudi Arabia," Trump told reporters Saturday as he left the White House on a trip to Florida.
He said the king "will be involved in taking care of families and loved ones. He feels very strongly.'' Asked about any potential effect on military relations, Esper said Friday that "we have strong military-to-military ties" that are unlikely to change. When Gen. David Berger, commandant of the Marine Corps, was asked whether the shooting gave him reservations about sending Marines to Saudi Arabia, he said no. Saudi leaders were quick to make calls to American officials, expressing condolences and outrage over the killings. The shooting raised uneasy parallels to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when many of the al-Qaeda-linked hijackers who flew planes into the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and Pennsylvania countryside were Saudi citizens who had flight training in the US.
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