The Biden administration has embarked on a perilous path in releasing an intel report that the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS, more bone saws), approved the grisly 2018 murder and dismemberment of critical journalist Jamal Kashoggi.

The report’s basic contents — thanks to Turkish surveillance — have long been public, but Trump refused to release it. Now we face the dilemma of supporting an old ally while labelling its chief a murderer. The self-contradictory policy could destabilize Saudi Arabia and the entire Gulf region and boost Iran’s power. The Biden administration had to release the report, which Saudi and other Gulf monarchies try to shrug off.

Candidate Biden called our Saudi tie a “dangerous blank check,” but dare we now withdraw it? Secretary of State Blinken’s “recalibration” of U.S. policy is a waffle: We still support Saudi Arabia but urge it to evolve toward democracy. Good luck with that.

Kashoggi was likely killed not for his Washington Post columns but for his contacts with Saudi princes who see MBS as a usurper and want to replace him. For MBS, this is about retaining power, not human rights.

MBS hypnotizes both Saudis and foreigners (especially Jared Kushner) with his ambitious Vision 2030 to modernize the Kingdom and wean it off energy-dependency. His reformist gestures — allowing movies and women drivers — are popular, but he keeps firm political control and hates and fears Iran.

Seeing Iranian influence in Yemen, MBS began air strikes against Shia Houthi rebels in 2015, a war that still rages amid humanitarian disaster. Washington has started to say no.

Saudi is militarily ineffective.

How closely should we support a regime that dismembers critics? Morally, is there much difference between the murderous Saudi and Iranian regimes? Geostrategically, however, Iran is expansionist while Saudi Arabia is defensive against Iranian influence in its partly Shia Eastern Province and in Yemen.

After rockets hit a U.S. post in Erbil, Iraq, Biden ordered retaliation on an Iran-linked supply depot on the Syria-Iraq border. Seven smart bombs destroyed it, showing impressive U.S. intelligence and targeting capability. Was this a prudent and necessary deterrence or an escalatory step? The administration denied it was escalation, but Iran last week rocketed U.S. forces in Iraq. As Clausewitz saw, escalation climbs automatically.

MBS arrests dozens of critical Saudi intellectuals and journalists. He mistreated and detained some 500 princes and millionaires in 2017, demanding they return billions they acquired corruptly. In a country where wealth flows from energy revenues through the House of Saud, it’s hard to tell which royal payoffs are corrupt. Saudi kings buy fealty.

Oil billions also support the Saudi religious establishment, the Wahhabi branch of conservative Islam that has long preached and funded hatred of infidels (including us). Some graduates of Saudi education became jihadis who fought in Afghanistan, Iraq and in the skies over America. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers of 9/11 were young Saudis. And they were products, not aberrations.

Samuel P. Huntington’s 1968 “Political Order in Changing Societies” predicted that traditional monarchies, by modernizing, especially education, become ripe for overthrow. Egypt, Iraq and Iran are prominent examples. “Modernizing tyrants” like MBS undermine themselves. Instability naturally accompanies efforts to modernize. Can’t be helped. But should it be accelerated?

Saudi Arabia began to visibly wobble in 1979, when 500 homegrown Muslim purists seized the Great Mosque of

Mecca, seeking to overthrow the House of Saud for corruption and debauchery. It took more than two weeks and hundreds dead to dislodge the rebels.

Academics have long anticipated instability for the archaic Saudi regime (full disclosure: I was one). Signs mount that their clientelistic buy-offs no longer work. Osama bin Laden, heir to a Saudi construction fortune, learned extremism from a militant Egyptian Islamist and carried it through to Al

Qaeda and 9/11.

At times, I want to scream, “Get out of the Persian Gulf and stay out! It’s ready to blow!” But then I wonder what U.S. withdrawal would lead to. Probably revolutions, wars, civilian deaths, refugees and disrupted energy supplies. Does a small American presence help avoid this? If so, maybe it’s worth it. But can it stay small or will it soon have to expand?

The U.S. no longer has military forces in Saudi. Regime fears and Osama’s threats persuaded Riyadh to order the Americans out before the 2003 Iraq War, which we had to launch from Kuwait. Some allies. Now, our Fifth Fleet has a base in Bahrain and our Air Force in Qatar.

Biden’s Persian Gulf policy basically continues those of virtually all his predecessors since American oilmen discovered an incredible Saudi oilfield in 1938. The Gulf became a fixed U.S. national interest but not critically examined for decades. Is it still? Should we deepen U.S. involvement in the region, or is now time to rethink?