Joe Biden, rather dubiously, seems to think so:
The Biden administration on Friday released a long-secret intelligence report concluding that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the operation that led to the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
But the White House chose not to penalize the crown prince directly, with one senior administration official noting that to do so would put the U.S. in an extremely “hostile” position in relation to Saudi Arabia, a key security partner in the region.
The Treasury Department on Friday unveiled sanctions on Saudi operatives alleged to have been involved in the murder, including members of the crown prince’s personal protective detail known as the Rapid Intervention Force. And the State Department announced a new policy called the Khashoggi Ban, which will allow the U.S. to restrict visas for those who target and harass journalists and dissidents. A second senior administration official described the policy as “another means to promote a measure of accountability” among bad actors.
Those moves were deemed insufficient, however, by many lawmakers and human rights activists, underscoring the difficulty President Joe Biden and his aides face in trying to hold accountable the de facto leader of an important U.S. partner in the Middle East. It was a challenge that also faced former President Donald Trump, who chose to embrace the Crown Prince (who is often referred to by his initials, MBS) and refused to release the ODNI report despite a law mandating its disclosure.
I have to say, I’m not seeing the lie here:
The theory that the concrete benefits to Americans of the alliance with Saudi Arabia outweighs the moral scandalousness of the Saudi regime founders on the reality that there are no such benefits.— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) February 26, 2021
The entire US posture in the Middle East is a closed loop of “we must fight Iran for the sake of our allies” and “we need our allies to help fight Iran.”
In fact, we don’t need to do either of those things.— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) February 26, 2021
I’m open to being persuaded otherwise, but basically the idea that it’s hugely important to maintain a positive relationship with the brutal Saudi dictatorship seems based on muscle memory from the 70s when access to Middle Eastern oil was much more important. In 2021, the policy carries very obvious and tangible drawbacks in exchange for benefits that are very difficult to identify.