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Khashoggi Disappearance Is an Opening for Referendum on U.S.-Saudi Alliance

With no leadership coming from the White House, the onus falls on Congress to impose swift and concrete consequences on the Saudis

Khashoggi, a long-time critic of the Saudi royal family, hasn’t been seen since Tuesday October 2, when he went inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey to get a marriage license. (Photo: Twitter)

Khashoggi, a long-time critic of the Saudi royal family, hasn’t been seen since Tuesday October 2, when he went inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey to get a marriage license. (Photo: Twitter)

Ten days after the disappearance of Washington Post reporter and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi, there seems to be less and less doubt that Saudi Arabia committed murder. Khashoggi, a long-time critic of the Saudi royal family, hasn’t been seen since Tuesday October 2, when he went inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey to get a marriage license. Turkish intelligence claim they have “documented evidence” of his murder.

As Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) put it, “If this is true - that the Saudis lured a U.S. resident into their consulate and murdered him - it should represent a fundamental break in our relationship with Saudi Arabia.”

Many prominent Republicans have also condemned Saudi Arabia for Khashoggi’s disappearance, including Senators Corker (R-TN), Graham (R-SC), Rubio (R-FL), and Menendez (D-NJ), who are normally in the pro-Saudi camp. Senator Corker went as far to say, “Our relations with Saudi Arabia, at least from the Senate standpoint, are the lowest ever. It’s never been this low.”

For now, the Trump administration has said there are still too many unknowns to draw conclusions and Trump has indicated he has no intention to halt a multibillion-dollar arms deal brokered last year. “What good does that do us?” Trump said to reporters in the Oval Office. “I would not be in favor of stopping a country from spending $110 billion.”

With no leadership coming from the White House, the onus falls on Congress to impose swift and concrete consequences on the Saudis. Luckily, it already has a clear path for doing so in pending legislation H.Con.Res. 138, anew bipartisan war powers resolution introduced in the House to end U.S. military involvement in Saudi Arabia's War on Yemen, introduced by Reps Khanna, Jones, Massie, Pocan, and Smith last month.

With U.S. military assistance, Saudi Arabia has blockaded Yemen’s ports and impeded the flow of food, medicine, fuel, and clean water into the country. What has resulted is the worst man made humanitarian disaster on the planet right now with over a million cases of cholera and 8 million people on the brink of famine. A new report by the World Peace Foundation presents strong evidence that Saudi Arabia is deliberately working to starve the people of Yemen. In August, a U.S.-made missile hit a school bus, tragically killing 44 children on their way home. Congress has never authorized U.S. military involvement in Yemen and it’s long overdue for Congress to have a floor vote on this matter.

If passed, H.Con.Res. 138 will direct the president to stop the fueling of Saudi warplanes and cut off targeting assistance for the war in Yemen. This would send a clear and indelible signal that the U.S. will no longer give a blank check to bad actions by the Saudis, whether it be in their brutal bombing of civilians in Yemen, or the apparent murder of a U.S.-based journalist.

While Congress can’t magically bring back Jamal Khashoggi, they can fire a warning shot across the bow of the U.S.-Saudi alliance that says in one clear voice to King Salman and the Royal family, “Your bad behavior won’t be tolerated and the nature of our relationship is going to fundamentally change”

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Hassan El-Tayyab

Hassan El-Tayyab

Hassan El-Tayyab is the Policy and Organizing Director at Chicago Area Peace Action and Policy and Government Affairs Fellow at Just Foreign Policy

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