Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) announced Tuesday the Senate would fundamentally alter the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia following a CIA briefing on the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
During lengthy remarks to reporters, Graham announced a loss of faith in Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince who has consolidated power in his father's government.
"MBS, the crown prince, is a wrecking ball. I think he is complicit in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi to the highest level possible," Graham said.
As a result of the new information about bin Salman, Graham no longer considers him "a reliable partner," and he said the United States needs to reevaluate its relationship with the ruling family.
"Saudi Arabia is a strategic ally and the relationship is worth saving, but not at all costs," he said. "If the Saudi government is going to be in the hands of this man for a long time to come, I find it very difficult to be able to do business, because I think he's crazy. I think he is dangerous, and he has put the relationship at risk."
Graham was among the senators briefed by CIA Director Gina Haspel earlier Tuesday. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense James Mattis had previously defended the Saudi relationship, saying it would require a "smoking gun" to turn on the crown prince.
Asked about the administration's comments, Graham was clear that Haspel's briefing had provided as much. Graham said:
There's not a smoking gun, there's a smoking saw. You have to be willfully blind not to come to the conclusion that this was orchestrated and organized by people under the command of MBS and that he was integrally involved in the demise of Mr. Khashoggi. Open-source reports show that he had been focusing on Mr. Khashoggi for a very long time. It is zero chance, zero, that this happened in such an organized fashion without the crown prince.
Graham had previously been a strong supporter of the Saudi government's internal reforms and its campaign in Yemen.
"No one has fought for this relationship harder than myself and Senator McCain," Graham said. "If John McCain were alive," however, Graham believes he would "come down like a ton of bricks on the crown prince for what he's done to the relationship, the way he's destabilized the region."
Graham plans to have the Senate vote to designate bin Salman as someone complicit in the murder of Khashoggi and to impose Global Magnitsky Act sanctions on him.
"I want to make sure that Saudi Arabia's put on notice that business as usual has come to an end for me," he said. "I will not look at the kingdom the same way that I used to look at it."
Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.) told reporters he was "more convinced" than he had been before the briefing. Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) said he now believed bin Salman had "ordered, monitored the killing" of the journalist. "If he were in front of a jury, he would be convicted of murder in about 30 minutes."
Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) protested that his exclusion from the briefing was the work of the "deep state." Haspel's briefing was reportedly open only to a few senators so as to avoid leaks.
Paul has previously tried to end American involvement in the war in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia and Iran are vying for power. The United States has provided weaponry and assistance to the Saudis, including aerial refueling of Saudi aircraft.
Graham indicated he was not willing to continue with that involvement.
"I will not support arms sales until all responsible for the death of Mr. Khashoggi have been brought to justice," he said, "and I will no longer support the war in Yemen as constructed."
Published under: Jamal Khashoggi , Lindsey Graham , Mohammed bin Salman , Saudi Arabia