Washington (CNN)The Trump White House may have too much at stake to make Saudi Arabia pay a proportionate price for the apparent murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
If Riyadh finds a scapegoat and absolves senior members of the royal family over the disappearance of The Washington Post columnist in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul two weeks ago, Trump may accept it.
For multiple geopolitical and domestic political reasons, the administration has far more to gain from helping engineer a face-saving exit for itself and its ally from its biggest foreign policy crisis in nearly two years in office than by making an example of the Saudis in a belated stand for human rights.
The kingdom forms the foundation of President Donald Trump's Middle East policy, and a decision to severely punish its rulers could spark an estrangement that would cripple his hopes of confronting Iran. It would also weaken Washington's strategic position in the region and offer an opening to rival powers.