One of the G20 summit highlights in Argentina at the end of the week will likely be a meeting between Donald Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, often nicknamed in the media as “MBS.” The prince needs to shore up oil prices and his country’s income.
But he’s also trying to repair his image after the killing of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as the Associated Press reported, and the two goals are clashing.
The prince wants to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin to probably discuss lowering oil production in a bid to drive down supply and force prices up. Both countries are heavily dependent on petro-dollars.
Trump has balked over higher oil prices and previously convinced Saudi Arabia to increase production during the summer to drive prices down in exchange for strong sanctions against Iran. The U.S. is a big market for the Saudis, who also depend on access to military equipment sales.
And that’s where Khashoggi comes in again. Trump has tried to defend U.S. ties to Saudi Arabia, both to preserve military sales and have influence through the country on oil prices. But the murder has outraged much of the world as the Saudis first denied any knowledge of the death for weeks and then settled on an explanation that seems implausible in the face of existing evidence.
Congress, in particular, has been responding with anger and threats of action. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told Axios that he and some colleagues await an intelligence briefing. If they’re convinced that the CIA, which already has “high confidence” that MBS ordered the killing, is right, then “everything would be on the table” to punish the Saudis, including a stop to military sales.