Now that President Trump has not only given Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman a pass on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, but in his Tuesday written statement even heaped praise on the kingdom while ultimately blaming Iran for destabilizing the region, Riyadh has come out swinging and put political enemies on notice.
In an official statement issued Wednesday the Saudi foreign ministry warned that any any criticism of MbS is a "red line" that would not be tolerated. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir specifically related his comments to the Khashoggi case, saying that calls for MbS to be held account would not be tolerated, according to the AFP.
"In Saudi Arabia our leadership is a red line. The custodian of the two holy mosques (King Salman) and the crown prince are a red line," Jubeir told the BBC in an interview discussing the ongoing Khashoggi murder probe.
The Saudi FM said that not even so much as "discussion" would be tolerated, saying of the kingdom's rulers:
They represent every Saudi citizen and every Saudi citizen represents them. And we will not tolerate any discussion of anything that is disparaging towards our monarch or our crown prince.
Up until Trump's White House letter underscoring the United States' continued close relations with the Saudis, MbS' future prospects for an easy ascent to his father's throne were shaken by the revelation that the CIA assessed MbS had ordered the October 2nd grisly murder and dismemberment of Khashoggi.
Trump had also praised Saudi Arabia for keeping oil prices low and providing Americans with "hundreds of thousands of jobs" by agreeing to invest $450 billion in the United States and through defense contracts.
And notably the president even hinted at some level of justification for the Khashoggi murder, echoing the Saudi line that the Washington Post columnist was possibly a dangerous Islamist, though adding his decision to maintain close positive ties with Riyadh was "in no way based on that...":
Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an “enemy of the state” and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but my decision is in no way based on that — this is an unacceptable and horrible crime.
On Wednesday Trump doubled down on his position, tweeting while on holiday at Mar-a-Lago: "Oil prices getting lower. Great! Like a big Tax Cut for America and the World. Enjoy! $54, was just $82." And he added: "Thank you to Saudi Arabia, but let's go lower!"
Oil prices getting lower. Great! Like a big Tax Cut for America and the World. Enjoy! $54, was just $82. Thank you to Saudi Arabia, but let’s go lower!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 21, 2018
This came after a number of Congressional leaders and prominent commentators expressed outrage at MbS basically being given a permanent get out of jail free card by the president.
Democratic Congresswomen Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii lashed out with perhaps her most fierce criticism of the president to date, eviscerating Trump as "Saudi Arabia's bitch" in a Wednesday tweet. Just before entering the White House in November 2016, Trump had met with Gabbard to discuss ending regime change wars around the world while pursuing non-interventionist foreign policy.
Gabbard tweeted: Hey @realdonaldtrump being Saudi Arabia’s bitch is not “America First.”
Hey @realdonaldtrump: being Saudi Arabia’s bitch is not “America First.”— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) November 21, 2018
While Iraq war veteran and Army reserve officer Gabbard's (who clearly has skin in the game) criticism is right on, it's also the case that Trump has simply continued a long line of presidents going back to at least Jimmy Carter who've been tied at the hip with the Saudi regime.
But the Saudis know this and are now ready to go on the offensive after almost two months of their backs being up against the wall.