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Why the U.S. Can’t Control MBS

Reining in the Rogue Prince

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, October 16, 2018 Leah Millis / REUTERS

The murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 has damaged the Saudi regime’s image and credibility worldwide. Partners of Saudi Arabia that have always cherished their close relationships with the regime and refrained from overtly criticizing its domestic repression, such as France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, have spoken out in the aftermath of the murder and demanded a clear and honest investigation.

The detention and even elimination of dissidents and critics is nothing new in Saudi Arabia. But Khashoggi’s murder has shone a spotlight on the excesses of an increasingly authoritarian regime. In the past, individual Saudi rulers were at least partially constrained by a system of power sharing in which different princes controlled different influential branches of government and the sovereign was accountable to all of them. But King Salman swept away this model when he came to power

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