Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “is a wrecking ball,” Graham said at a press conference Tuesday after he and a small group of senators had received a CIA briefing on the October murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. “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’s dangerous and he has put this relationship at risk.”
The pontifications of senators on foreign policy usually don’t count for much. Most of the constitutional power is invested in the executive branch. Senators get to advise and consent on treaties, diplomatic nominations and generals, but statecraft is left to the president and his advisers.
There is one area, however, in which a single senator can make a very big difference: arms sales. That is exactly what Graham promised Tuesday. He will not support any arms sales to Saudi Arabia, he said, so long as Prince Mohammed remains in charge. Graham also said he will be pressing his colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support a resolution that squarely says MBS, as he is known, is complicit in Khashoggi’s murder.
This is a big deal. For one, it undermines President Donald Trump’s pledge last month not to hold arms sales to Saudi Arabia hostage over the Khashoggi affair. Furthermore, it puts pressure on the State Department to sanction the de facto head of the Saudi state. So much for Graham’s early-autumn bromance with Trump during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings.