Lindsey Graham’s plan for regime change — in Saudi Arabia

This approach to regime change has not been tried before. The U.S. has dabbled in covert and overt regime change — with adversaries. The U.S. has also supported military coups for its clients, such as South Vietnam. But pressuring an ally to pick a new monarch through suspension of arms sales and congressional censure is new territory.

That task is more difficult because of the opacity of the Saudi royal family. It’s highly implausible that the U.S. has much influence over it, says Patrick Clawson, the director of research for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. For now, he says, the task should be to get the Saudis to change their behavior in the future instead of dwelling on the past. Also, the time to exert such influence would have been in 2015, when MBS was positioning himself to be the heir.

There is an additional problem with Graham’s approach. If he forces the State Department to apply what are known as Magnitsky sanctions on MBS, why stop there? Khashoggi’s murder was brutal, yet there are other heads of state more deserving of this dishonor than MBS: The leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran come to mind. And if the U.S. starts applying sanctions to heads of state, what is to stop other countries from sanctioning the U.S. president?