The U.S.-Saudi relationship is out of control

The administration’s identification with the 33-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as a modernizer determined to open up the kingdom and tame its religious extremism has now been undermined by a crueler reality—that of a ruthless, reckless, and impulsive leader willing to repress and silence his critics at home and abroad.

Whatever happened to Khashoggi is first and foremost on the Saudis. But in kowtowing to Riyadh in a fanciful effort to make it the centerpiece of U.S.strategy in the Middle East, the Trump administration has emboldened MbS, as the crown prince is known, created a sense of invincibility and encouraged him to believe there are no consequences for his reckless actions. And it is likely, unless confronted with incontrovertible evidence of Saudi responsibility for Khashoggi’s death or serious pressure from Congress, the president would be reluctant to impose them even now.