The murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi isn’t the first atrocity committed by key U.S. ally Saudi Arabia. And Donald Trump isn’t the first U.S. president to stand by and watch. America’s red lines almost never apply to America’s allies.
But this time could be different.
Khashoggi’s murder was committed in broad daylight, in a Saudi diplomatic venue in another U.S. allied country. It was carried out by a special team flying in private jets known to be owned by the Saudi crown prince, including at least one “autopsy specialist” armed with his own bone saw, and followed up by a cleaning crew armed with buckets, scrub-brushes, and fresh paint.
This wasn’t normal, even by Saudi standards.
Khashoggi was a mild, cautious journalist with close ties to the Saudi royals, who only recently emerged as a critic of the regime. A permanent legal resident of the United States who was friendly with Washington elites, the Washington Post columnist should have been untouchable. Going after him so brazenly could only be an attempt to intimidate all potential critics.