However, President Donald Trump appeared to fall under MbS’s influence after visiting Riyadh last year, where the president received a royal welcome—even awkwardly joining the “sword dance” and peering into the orb, called the “eye of Sauron” by some wits, at the “anti-terrorism” center. The crown prince recently said of Trump: “I love working with him. I really like working with him and we have achieved a lot in the Middle East.”
What is there for the crown prince not to like? The United States has armed him and given him a blank check to run amok in the Mideast. Moreover, the administration’s proposed “Arab NATO” would cement Saudi domination, forcing the three independent Gulf States, Qatar, Oman, and Kuwait, into Riyadh’s orbit. And the administration, so vocal about Iran’s human-rights violations, has said nothing about the far more tyrannical regime in Saudi Arabia.
President Trump, who recently expressed his “love” for MbS, cynically sold U.S. policy to Riyadh. The president recently urged Riyadh to purchase even more weapons and push down oil prices, in recompense for America’s campaign against Tehran, the KSA’s only serious regional rival. In this way the administration sold its soul to the Saudi royals.
But now the crown prince looks like a common murderer. Khashoggi’s apparent killing should be a step too far even for Washington. If Iran committed such an act, then the administration would lead an angry global chorus against the Islamist regime. The United States should do the same against Riyadh.
Jamal Khashoggi was both good and brave, committed to a freer Saudi Arabia. That MbS and his confederates would kill such a man tells Americans all they need to know about their nominal ally. The Trump administration should loosen its embrace of a regime so antithetical to America’s most basic values and interests.
Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. A former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan, he is the author of Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire.