The line out of the Trump administration, the mainstream media, and the well-funded Saudi Arabian public relations machine is that Saudi Arabia is becoming less repressive and is changing in other positive ways. It and Israel are the US’s strongest allies in the Middle East. From Jason Ditz at theantimedia.org:
he disappearance of high-profile Saudi journalist, and regular writer for the Washington Post, Jamal Khashoggi has put the Trump Administration into an uncomfortable position, obliging them to raise the questions about the disappearance and presumptive murder of the man by Saudi officials.
Khashoggi’s connections with the Washington Post made this a much bigger story than the disappearances of most dissident journalists in the Middle East. That he was in exile for writings critical to the Saudi Crown Prince, and entered a Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, but never came out, making it very likely he came to a bad end.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is calling for a “thorough” investigation by the Saudis into Khashoggi’s disappearance as well, which also virtually obliges the US to follow through when such an investigation doesn’t happen.
The Saudis, after all, insist that nothing happened to Khashoggi, and barring the Turkish government coming across his corpse at some point in the near future, that’s a position they’re likely to stick to.