THE DISAPPEARANCE OF Jamal Khashoggi last Tuesday is threatening to upend the terms of the decades-long alliance between the United States and Saudi Arabia. In the nine days since Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian resident of Virginia and a Washington Post columnist, was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, politicians, media figures and foreign policy elites – even those who have fawned over the authoritarian Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman — have grown increasingly critical of the U.S.-Saudi alliance.
The U.S. has long given the Saudis a blank check, politically and militarily, and there have been voices advocating for a rethinking of that decades-old relationship for nearly as long as it has lasted. But the widespread belief that the Saudis assassinated Khashoggi inside their consulate has brought those voices squarely into the center. Suddenly, the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States is being called into fundamental question.
President Donald Trump initially responded to questions about Khashoggi’s disappearance by saying “I don’t like hearing about it, and hopefully that will sort itself out.” But on Thursday, he began to sound much less confident in his defense of Saudi Arabia, the first foreign country he visited as president. He said that it was beginning to look as though Khashoggi, a critic of the crown prince, was indeed murdered, but worried that jobs would be at risk if arms sales to the country were halted.
In the Senate, the kingdom is starting to lose its traditional bipartisan support, with almost every member of the Foreign Relations Committee calling on Trump to investigate Khashoggi’s disappearance. The Washington Post, meanwhile, has devoted extraordinary resources, both on the reporting and editorial side, to the case of its columnist.
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