The brazen murder of Washington Post journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi has elicited that rarest of reactions in contemporary U.S. politics: bipartisan consensus. Both Republicans and Democrats in the House and the Senate have condemned Saudi Arabia for the assassination operation in Istanbul, with the ever-colorful Lindsey Graham urging that the United States “sanction the hell out of” the Saudi government.
President Trump’s administration, however, has adopted a notably restrained response thus far: it is considering sanctioning the low-level operatives who carried out the killing but has given little indication that it will hold Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally responsible. One explanation for this reticence is that the administration fears that punitive steps could complicate its Iran policy. Senior administration officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, have alluded to such concerns when pressed on the Khashoggi case.
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