Image credit: Getty Images
October 24, 2018
Jamal Khashoggi’s Murder Hurt American Interests, Not Just American Values
Most observers have seen the murder of Jamal Khashoggi as the latest example of an age-old tension in U.S. foreign policy: the pursuit of national interests versus the defense of American values. Our leaders, this reading goes, abhor the brutal killing of a U.S. resident and Washington Post columnist, but security and economic considerations must temper their reactions. The government of Mohammad bin Salman is, after all, a friendly autocracy whose dollars buy our weapons and whose oil exports supply global markets. The United States needs Saudi help in opposing Iran, its support for a Middle East peace deal, its intelligence and operations to fight terrorism, and its commitment to ensure regional stability. Better, then, to signal displeasure at this latest horror but leave the broader relationship relatively undamaged—or even unchanged.
A balance between interests and values is implicit in statements by President Trump and Secretary of State Pompeo about the strategic partnership between Washington and Riyadh. Calling Saudi Arabia a “very strong ally,” the White House advisor Jared Kushner explained that “we have to be able to pursue our strategic objectives,” while “deal[ing] with what is obviously a terrible situation.” Others, like foreign policy scholar Walter Russell Mead, have urged Washington not to “ditch Riyadh in a fit of righteousness.”
But this frame represents a misreading of both the incident and the last several years of Saudi foreign policy. It’s also likely to encourage the wrong policy response. The hard reality is that the Khashoggi murder is one in a series of recent Saudi actions that have set back U.S. objectives in the Middle East—and Saudi ones as well. Continued partnership with Riyadh is possible and even desirable, but only if Saudi Arabia changes its approach.
Read the full article in The Atlantic.
More from CNAS
Why U.S.-Iran Tensions Are On The Rise In The Persian Gulf
Over the last decade, Iran has been causing more and more headaches for oil tanker operators in the Strait of Hormuz, a central artery of global trade. In the last two years a...
By Arona Baigal
From shock and awe to stability and flaws: Iraq’s post-invasion journey
Twenty years after the US-led invasion of Iraq, the country is now run by its eighth government, which took power in October 2022. Despite continuous fears of implosion, the p...
By Hamzeh Hadad
Are U.S. Sanctions Alone Enough to Limit the Effects of the Russian-Iranian Military Partnership?
Jonathan Lord joins Alhurra to discuss the effects of U.S. sanctions on Iran and the growing security ties between Russia, Iran, and the effects on the Middle East. Watch th...
By Jonathan Lord
Congress’ Vital Role in Developing a Lasting, Sustainable, and Bipartisan, U.S. Strategy for Syria
Introductory Remarks Chairman Wilson, Ranking Member Phillips, distinguished members of the subcommittee: Thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today. If I may t...
By Jonathan Lord