LIVE WEBCAST – What’s next in U.S.-Saudi relations
Kings and presidents: Whither the special relationship with Saudi Arabia?
Middle East crises and conflicts – the way ahead
The U.S.-Saudi relationship had its finest hour under Bush. It’s no surprise that the Saudis want to remember the good old days. Given the acute crisis in U.S.-Saudi relations, Riyadh urgently needs a capable ambassador in Washington, but not one so tainted with the Khashoggi murder and coverup.
Somebody wanted this information [CIA evidence that MBS communicated with the top aide overseeing the Khashoggi hit team 11 times before and after the assassination] to come out, obviously. I think there is, inside the American national security bureaucracy, a fair number of people who have been warning for some time that Mohammed bin Salman is a dangerous, reckless, impulsive person and they weren’t getting any attention. And now they have proof positive of how dangerous and reckless he is. In Washington, the way you say, ‘I told you so,’ is to leak something... You don’t really need to know the content of these [CIA] reports, it is self-evident. Fifteen people don’t get on an airplane and fly to Istanbul for a day trip and fly back having murdered someone and then made phone calls from the scene of the crime back to the crown prince’s office. You are not talking about the weather.
This [evidence that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman communicated repeatedly with a key aide around the time that Jamal Khashoggi was assassinated] is the smoking gun, or at least the smoking phone call. There is only one thing they could possibly be talking about. This shows that the crown prince was witting of premeditated murder... Will the White House give up the cover-up of the cover-up? I don’t see any sign they are willing to change their tune. But this will certainly increase the pressure to get Gina Haspel to testify on the Hill.
There’s no White House green light to take any sanctions against the [Saudi] crown prince himself. So Pompeo is stuck. They’re all stuck. We’re now engaged in a coverup of a coverup.
[On Russia, Saudi Arabia and oil prices] This is testing out what prices everyone can live with, and it sounds like the Russians can live with prices slightly lower than what the Saudis want to live with. How durable is this Russia-Saudi agreement? They made it under some serious duress after the price drops from 2014-16, and they didn't have much choice. Do their interests align over the long term? We may begin to see the answer as they begin to chat at the G20.