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Why the U.S. Should Stay Out of Saudi Politics

Let the Royal Family Do Its Job

MbS in Cairo, November 2017.  Handout / REUTERS

In the May/June 2018 issue of Foreign Affairs, wrote that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), had consolidated his position within the ruling family to such a degree that he was free of the constraints imposed by the collective leadership model that characterized the Saudi regime in the past. That freedom of action allowed MBS to take important steps toward economic and social change, such as privatizing five percent of the state oil company, Saudi Aramco, and allowing women to drive. But it also facilitated foreign policy adventures that would not have occurred previously. “Given his ambition and impulsiveness,” I warned, “the world should expect more surprises.”

The grisly and brutal murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a former regime insider and mild critic of the crown prince, in Istanbul in October 2018 was just such a surprise. The Saudi regime has dealt brutally with its

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