Six months ago, I wrote about the increasingly repressive “new” Saudi Arabia under crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. In that post, I cited an earlier column by Jamal Khashoggi in which he criticized the government’s arbitrary detention of its domestic critics. That same day, Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where he was murdered by a team of government agents acting on the orders of the crown prince. By the end of that week, the murder was confirmed by the first leaks from Turkish authorities. Six months after the gruesome murder of a prominent critic of the Saudi government, the crown prince has not yet faced any practical consequences for the crime, but it has permanently marked him in the eyes of the world as nothing more than a reckless and brutal despot.
Many observers assumed that the initial public outcry over the Khashoggi murder would amount to nothing, and that it would have no effect on the noxious U.S.-Saudi relationship. Fortunately, that understandable cynicism was wrong this time. The murder has roiled and weakened the relationship, which was already coming under serious strain because of the war on Yemen, and there is much more vocal criticism of the Saudi government and the crown prince in Congress and in the media than there was before it happened. It has also exposed and discredited many of the defenders of the relationship and the crown prince, chief among them the president and the Secretary of State.
The determined effort by Trump and Pompeo to run interference for the Saudis on this and their other crimes in Yemen has been met with appropriate disgust and hostility in Congress, and both houses of Congress have voted to cut off all U.S. assistance to the Saudi coalition in the last six months. The House is expected to take up the Senate’s antiwar resolution this week, and the resolution is likely to pass this time without any irrelevant add-ons. A few weeks before he was murdered, Khashoggi had called for an end to the war, and so it would be a fitting tribute to him and all of the other victims of the Saudi government if the House voted to end U.S. involvement in this atrocious war.