"Sanctioning the deputy head of state of a foreign country, let alone an ally, is a major step and something [the U.S.] wouldn’t pursue without strong evidence and a willingness to see through the political consequences."
You know, from the moment Mohammed bin Salman was appointed defense minister at his tender age, I have heard voices from around the gulf expressing a desire to see more experienced foreign policy hands advising him. At the end of the day, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. He can have all the good advice he needs, but he's got to take it.
It’s policy change Washington is looking for. These changes in personnel and process are only significant if they produce results, and that’s up to the crown prince. No matter how experienced his advisers, no matter how consultative his process, he is still the decider.
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.