Home/Daniel Larison/The Overdue Backlash Against Saudi Arabia Has Started

The Overdue Backlash Against Saudi Arabia Has Started

Prince Mohammed bin Salman, from 'Saudi Strike Force' video

There has already been a significant response from members of Congress to reports of the Saudi government’s murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Sen. Rand Paul is proposing to force a vote to halt all military assistance and ties to the Saudi military:

This week, I intend to introduce another measure to cut all funding, training, advising, and any other coordination to and with the military of Saudi Arabia until the journalist Jamal Khashoggi is returned alive.

Sen. Paul’s proposal is consistent with the “fundamental break” with Saudi Arabia that Sen. Chris Murphy spoke about a few days ago. It is a break that has needed to happen for many years, and the Saudis’ latest crime may prove to be the last straw for many people in Congress.

The rest of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sent a letter to the White House triggering an investigation into Khashoggi’s murder under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act:

Both of these responses are appropriate and welcome, and they show how quickly and forcefully members of Congress are capable of acting in response to outrageous behavior by U.S. clients when they are so inclined. These measures are also necessary because the Trump administration isn’t going to do anything on its own. Michael Hirsh quotes Bruce Riedel on this question:

“I’m sure the demise of a Washington Post journalist is not a priority for a ‘fake news’ president,” Riedel said. “I don’t think the Trump administration is going to do anything about Khashoggi.”

So far, Riedel’s assessment has been borne out by the feeble Trump administration response. Nahal Toosi has more:

When it comes to the mystery surrounding Khashoggi, the administration is “trying to sweep it under the rug,” said Randa Slim, an analyst with the Washington-based Middle East Institute.

The administration mustn’t be allowed to do this, and most indications are that they won’t be able to. The murder is too high-profile and outrageous, and the Saudi government’s guilt is undeniable. It won’t be possible for the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia to go back to the way it was before last week, and the crown prince’s defenders are already starting to abandon him.

There are also new reports that U.S. intelligence intercepted communications between Saudi officials about how to lure Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia where they would seize him, and that raises the question of what the administration did with that information in the period before the murder. Toosi continues:

It’s also not clear if U.S. officials warned Khashoggi of any danger, but under standard rules, they have a “duty to warn” if a threat is credible, said Ned Price, a former CIA officer and top Obama administration official. “What we do know is Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate,” Price said. “And the fact that he did that leads one to believe that he was not fearful of an imminent Saudi threat.”

Congress should investigate to determine exactly what the administration knew beforehand and what they did with any information they had.

The backlash against Saudi Arabia is long overdue, and it is likely to intensify in the weeks and months to come. The crown prince has brought this on himself and his government with his pattern of reckless, destabilizing actions, and it is about time that the U.S. starts holding him responsible for the crimes carried out on his orders.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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