Despite reports suggesting the Saudi Arabian government was involved in the disappearance of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Washington is likely to prioritize maintaining its relations with Riyadh, according to a think tank expert.
Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and critic of powerful Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, vanished two weeks ago after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to retrieve documents. Saudi Arabia has so far denied any wrongdoing.
NBC News reported on Monday that Riyadh is considering a plan to say Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate, potentially pointing to rogue operatives in an interrogation gone wrong.
Nevertheless, U.S. President Donald Trump's administration is likely to continue strengthening its relationship with ally Saudi Arabia despite concerns about Riyadh's potential involvement in the journalist's disappearance, according to Emily Hawthorne, Middle East and North Africa analyst at geopolitical think tank Stratfor.
"I don't think this administration is looking as hard into issues of human rights" compared to strategic alliances with partners that promise "mutual benefit," Hawthorne said, noting that the United States has many ongoing strategic concerns in the Middle East.