November 30, 2018

The United States Should Give Saudi Arabia a Choice

By Ilan Goldenberg and Derek Chollet

You know the Trump administration’s efforts to salvage its approach toward Saudi Arabia are in trouble when Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the president’s closest allies, threatens to shut down all Senate business over what he deems as a “not acceptable” response that has him “pissed.” And it might get worse this weekend if President Donald Trump, as is his wont, ignores his advisors’ warnings and warmly embraces Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the man who most likely gave the order to murder journalist Jamal Khashoggi, at the G-20 summit in Argentina.

The Trump administration seems determined to stick with the erratic crown prince no matter what, arguing that oil and money are more important than protecting U.S. values. But despite Trump’s wishes, it’s clear that it will be much harder, if not impossible, for Saudi Arabia to gain support for arms sales or any other kind of assistance that requires approval from the U.S. Congress. Finally, the crown prince will remain politically radioactive—there is little chance he could make a high-profile trip to the United States to be feted by the likes of Oprah and Mark Zuckerberg anytime soon.

Yet in the long term, perhaps the only silver lining of this crisis is it is forcing the United States to reassess the fundamental rationale of the relationship with Saudi Arabia in a way it hasn’t since the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, or, before that, the 1973 oil shock. A common refrain in Congress has been that there should be no more “business as usual.” So what should the new business look like?

Read the full article in Foreign Policy.

  • Commentary
    • October 22, 2020
    Sharper: U.S. Strategy in the Middle East

    CNAS experts are sharpening the conversation surrounding the future of U.S. strategy in the Middle East....

    By Kaleigh Thomas, Chris Estep & Cole Stevens

  • Commentary
    • Foreign Affairs
    • October 1, 2020
    On Iran, the Next Administration Must Break With the Past

    The United States can address its discord with Iran and calibrate a smart and clear-eyed policy for the Middle East....

    By Elisa Catalano Ewers, Ilan Goldenberg & Kaleigh Thomas

  • Podcast
    • September 16, 2020
    Episode 118 | A Historic Day in Washington

    Following the formal ceremony marking the normalisation of relations between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain at the White House, Richard Pater speaks to Ilan Goldenberg, the Direc...

    By Ilan Goldenberg

  • Podcast
    • September 11, 2020
    Looking Back At 9/11, Nineteen Years Later

    Today, we reflect back on the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, 19 years ago. Nearly 3000 people died when hijacked passenger jets slammed into the World Trade Center and ...

    By Ilan Goldenberg

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia