As the world awaits the truth, or something close to it, about Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi's killing inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, one of the Gulf's most stalwart security relationships hangs in a precarious position.
Congress and the White House have sharply different views on how to approach the diplomatic crisis, now in its third week. Legislators are loudly calling for sanctions on weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and a robust response if the government in Riyadh is proven to have been behind Khashoggi's death.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeoon Tuesday announced that visas for at least 21 Saudi nationals would be revoked and that he was working with the Treasury Department to "review the applicability of Global Magnitsky Sanctions," individual penalties for human rights abusers.
"These penalties will not be the last word on this matter from the United States," Pompeo told reporters at the State Department. "We will continue to explore additional measures to hold those responsible accountable."
But while President Donald Trump has expressed his desire to get to the bottom of the case, he's appeared more reluctant to punish his allies in the kingdom's leadership, should they be found responsible. Their support is vital in carrying out his agenda to isolate Iran and keep oil prices stable ahead of the November midterm elections.
Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post and frequent critic of the Saudi royal family, disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2. Turkish officials told The New York Times that it has audio evidence which proves Khashoggi was tortured, killed and subsequently dismembered by a hit team of Saudi agents. After initially insisting that Khashoggi left the consulate unharmed, the Saudi government last week said that he died in a "fistfight" while in the building, but provided few details and no evidence.
Multiple investigations are underway, and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for the perpetrators of the crime to be tried in Istanbul, though he's stopped short of accusing the Saudi king or Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman directly.