Middle East expert says there’s ‘unprecedented disruption’ in US-Saudi relationship

There’s an “unprecedented disruption” in U.S.-Saudi relations following the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to Middle East scholar Hussein Ibish.

Ibish, a senior resident scholar at the The Arab Gulf States Institute, told Hill.TV on Wednesday that even though President TrumpDonald John TrumpZuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount Trump leaning toward keeping a couple hundred troops in eastern Syria: report Warren says making Israel aid conditional on settlement building is 'on the table' MORE has doubled down on his defense of Saudi Arabia, Congress could put sanctions on a number of Saudi officials, including Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

But the scholar thinks that even without the sanctions, the current situation makes it nearly impossible for the crown prince to visit Washington and have a direct relationship with the Trump administration.

“Congress could place sanctions on Saudi Arabia in general and even more on specific Saudi officials, potentially including the crown prince and others that would limit American contact with them, limit their ability to operate in the U.S., and I think even now under the current circumstances, it would be practically impossible for the crown prince of Saudi Arabia — he's not the de facto ruler but he's the day-today executive authority — to come here,” Ibish told co-host Buck Sexton on “Rising.”

“That’s an unprecedented disruption in our relationship,” he continued.

Ibish added that the U.S.-Saudi relationship has had its fair share of ups and downs for decades but has remained relatively solid, and he predicts this won't change even after Khashoggi's brutal death. 

"The U.S-Saudi relationship has been very solid since the 1940s and it has survived all kinds of shocks — the '73 oil crisis and embargo, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, our invasion of Iraq that they didn't agree with — all kinds of big earthquakes have happened and the relationship has survived," he said. 

Khashoggi's killing has sparked outrage both in the U.S. and abroad. 

Khashoggi was killed and dismembered after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. The Saudi government later acknowledged the killing, but the crown prince has steadfastly denied any involvement in the operation.

Trump has remained critical of Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the killing, despite damning evidence from the intelligence community and grim reports from Turkish officials. 

Trump signaled on Tuesday that he will not take strong action against Saudi Arabia, saying it would be a “terrible mistake” to break with the country.

“I’m not going to destroy the economy for our country by being foolish with Saudi Arabia,” Trump told reporters outside of the White House.

— Tess Bonn