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Senate move forward with plans to punish Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi killings when the US evaluates the relationship

Major Republican senators will meet Thursday mornings to discuss how to proceed, as many legislators try to punish Saudi Arabia…

Major Republican senators will meet Thursday mornings to discuss how to proceed, as many legislators try to punish Saudi Arabia for the brutal murder of the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

Several Republicans have joined the Democrats in pushing for a resolution that would withdraw all US military support for the Saudi-led coalition-fighting rebels in neighboring Yemen. They are now working with other options such as the restriction of US arms sales to the Kingdom and a “Sense of Senate” resolution censoring the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman for his reported role in the murder plot.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., A close ally of President Donald Trump, said he planned to introduce that resolution on Wednesday. Graham has been a critical critic in this matter.

It is not clear when the resolution can come to the vote. While the Yemen resolution resolved a key issue last week, it will not be put to the vote until at least next week, a spokesman for Senate leader Mitch McConnell, ABC News, said. Trump administration and GOP leaders as McConnell works to kill the bill and prevent other punishments for Saudi people, as they defend America’s relationship with them.

Everyone puts a lot of effort on Thursday’s meeting, as several members of Congress seem to send a message to both the White House and the Saudi people that it is no longer as usual. Top Senate Republicans like late Bob Corker, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman, and Graham are furious about what they call the administration’s stonewalling and fraudster on the role of the Crown Prince, sometimes known by his initial MBS.

State Secretary Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis said there is no “direct reporting” or “smoking gun” that causes the Crown Prince , and Trump has said that the United States can never know. However, according to several reports, the CIA messages exchanged between the crown prince and a top advisor who led the mission while it was in progress.

“I have no question in my mind that the Crown Prince, MBS, ordered the killing, supervised the killing, knew exactly what had happened, planned it in advance. If he were in front of a jury he would be convinced in 30 minutes – guilty” Corker said Tuesday after being informed by CIA director Gina Haspel.

The Saudi embassy in Washington has denied that, with spokesman Fatimah Baeshen tweeting Tuesday, “Crown Prince did not correspond with any Saudi officials in any state agency to harm Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen. Prosecutors associated with link the crown prince to this horrible event. “

While Pompeo and Mattis also cast doubt on the role, Graham rejected Tuesday’s statements as the “good soldiers” who beat the president’s line and added: “You must be careful blind to not conclude that this was orchestrated and organized by people under the leadership of MBS and that he was intricately involved. “

With anger bubbling on Capitol Hill, it is still an open question which congress is coming and can do the next, especially because the White House has defended the Saudis strongly and the Saudi warned that any action against the crown prince would be an attack on the country .

Still, Graham told ABC News on Wednesday that he wanted to cancel arms sales and US support for Saudi people in Yemen, saying that the US- Saudi relations are “strategically important”, but it is also “strategically important that we separate ourselves from the crown prince’s behavior”.

Graham said his resolution would go “through the horror of the MBS horror”, including his military intervention in Yemen, his rebellion against royal rivals and political dissidents and activists, detention of the Lebanese prime minister Said Hariri, the blockade of neighbor and US partner Qatar, and the public sprinkled with Canada over human rights.

It expressly states that the Senate has “a high degree of confidence that Mohammed bin Salman was complicated” and “urges the United States government and the international community to hold all parties, including Mohammed bin Salman, involved in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi responsible. “

This proposition could be added to the Yemen resolution, according to Graham, who told ABC News, that he was not inclined to support the withdrawal of US support to the Saudi coalition, but he did not believe any legislation would win enough support without it.

At the same time, Corker said he worked on a resolution similar to Graham’s, but he would not share the details as it was made. And the meeting Thursday, as Corker is expected to lead, is designed to try to find a consensus “among stakeholders.” That product could then be replaced by the Yemen resolution.

It is unlikely that Trump would support any of it and it is unclear whether Congress has the necessary two-thirds support to override a potential presidential veto. But analysts warn that the administration must do something now to work with Congress before the situation escalates.

“If you do not do enough now, the pressure will be built because the frustration will be built to do something much deeper later, which may not be of interest to preserve a relationship that still serves us in the broader Middle East,” said Dennis Ross, an American diplomat serving both Republican and Democratic presidents, most recently as Special Assistant to President Barack Obama.

Critics also say that Saudi people need to send a stronger message and Saudi Arabian, depending on the United States, means that the relationship can hold a tough one.

“Saudi needs us much more than we need them,” Ben Rhodes, vice security advisor to Obama, tweeted last week. “A remarkable display of weakness from Trump Administration.”

But one thing seems clear: The Crown Prince does not go anywhere. He has concentrated so much power in the realm and he maintains strong popularity among young people who see him as a reformer.

“The Saudis will not take him away because we say so,” Ross said, now advisor and a distinguished colleague at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

With Graham promising to hold back arms sales until the crown prince is gone, it creates a difficult deal during the weeks and months ahead.

“Saudi Arabia has never been popular in America, but both parties’ presidents have recognized the importance of strong ties with Riyadh,” wrote Bruce Riedel, a former CIA official at Brookings Institution. “This may not survive Mohammed’s connection to the throne.”

ABC News & # 39; Mariam Khan contributed to this report from Capitol Hill.

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