“Few American foreign-policy challenges are more vexing or divisive than relations with Saudi Arabia today. U.S. interests would seem to dictate close ties, but American values argue otherwise. For President Trump, who is all about transactions, it is a no-brainer to focus on arms sales and oil, and little else matters. For Congress, there must be a price for the killing of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as well as conduct of the war in Yemen. Congressional attempts to punish the Saudis, including ending all U.S. military support for the Yemen conflict, have been blocked by the White House.

“Historically, presidents — Democrats and Republicans alike — have turned a blind eye to Saudi Arabia’s repressive domestic policies, in return for guarantees of a stable oil market. Two things are different today. First, in Congress there is a broad consensus that the Saudis crossed the line and that the administration’s protecting them is simply wrong. Second, the U.S. is increasingly energy-independent and buys little Saudi oil — making many on Capitol Hill believe our stakes in the Saudis are far lower than before.”

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