This very interesting opinion is by Madawi al-Rasheed in Foreign Affairs:
For the four years of Donald Trump’s presidency, Saudi Arabia got a free pass from the United States. Trump not only praised Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, often referred to as MBS, but refused to punish him after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that he had played a direct role in the 2018 murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. “I saved his —,” the U.S. president later said of MBS on a taped phone call with the Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, using a word I would rather not repeat.
On the campaign trail, candidate Joe Biden signaled that he would pursue a very different approach to Saudi Arabia. And his administration’s decision last month to release a two-year-old redacted report from the director of national intelligence (DNI) naming MBS as the main culprit in Khashoggi’s murder was a welcome step toward justice. So was the decision to impose sanctions on 76 unnamed Saudis, including the country’s deputy intelligence chief. Yet Biden stopped short of holding the mastermind of the murder responsible, declining to sanction MBS directly and declaring a “recalibration” rather than a rupture of U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia.
The Biden administration justified its decision not to go the last half mile with MBS on the grounds that the United States has only rarely sanctioned leaders with whom it maintains diplomatic relations. That may be true, but it is not the whole story. American reticence to push Saudi Arabia on democracy and human rights—whether under Biden or Trump—stems from the Gulf monarchy’s status as an important partner of the United States and other Western democracies. Riyadh shares valuable intelligence in the fight against terrorism, stabilizes global energy markets, guards against further Iranian expansion in the Middle East, and offers a lucrative market for financial investments and arms sales.