By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) – A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation Wednesday that could dramatically overhaul U.S.-Saudi ties.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch was joined by Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Democratic Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Chris Coons in sponsoring the Saudi Arabia Diplomatic Review Act of 2019.
In addition to initiating a sweeping and strategic review of bilateral relations, the bill would revoke or deny visas for members of the Saudi royal family that serve in executive posts. It would further address in a yet-unspecified manner the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen.
Historically close U.S.-Saudi ties have been strained by the Kingdom's air campaign in Yemen, which has exacerbated widespread famine in what was already the Arab world's poorest country and has resulted in mass civilian casualties, as well as Riyadh's brutal murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018.
Risch said that while Saudi Arabia's conduct is not new, "it reached a turning point" with Khashoggi's murder.
“All of us in Congress agree that we need to see a change in Saudi conduct going forward,” he said in a statement accompanying the bill's introduction.
"This legislation is meant to address the tensions between our two nations, reevaluate our bilateral relationship, and change Saudi conduct moving forward."
The bill makes specific mention of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, Saudi Arabia's de facto leader whom the CIA concluded with a relatively high degree of certainty ordered Khashoggi's killing despite the Kingdom's official denials.
It says that bin Salman's actions since having been elevated in Riyadh's succession hierarchy in 2017 "have had the potential to significantly harm the United States' historic relationship with Saudi Arabia".
"The Crown Prince has frequently behaved in a reckless manner, including arresting those opposed to his rule," it says.
Among the issues it takes exception with is the Saudi-led international blockade of neighboring Qatar, which it says has "undermined United States efforts to end regional conflicts and empowered Iranian influence in the region".