If we’re serious about imposing major retributive costs on Saudi Arabia for its murder of Jamal Khashoggi, we cannot ignore Mohammed bin Salman.

After all, in direction and culpability bin Salman is the centerpiece of the Khashoggi conspiracy. Based on Western and Turkish intelligence findings, I am exceptionally confident that bin Salman authorized an attack which at least sought Khashoggi’s rendition from Turkey to Saudi soil. The outstanding question is whether Khashoggi’s demise was the first Saudi preference.

For a variety of reasons, I do not believe we should impose major structural punishments on Saudi Arabia at this time. Doing so would jeopardize the necessary reforms that bin Salman is pursuing and would thus endanger the United States. Instead, we should push bin Salman towards his better impulses and deter him from his worse ones. That means pushing bin Salman to engage in more economic diversification and more social liberalization more quickly, and less attacks on his political critics.

Yet those now seeking the imposition of serious costs on Saudi Arabia cannot pretend that bin Salman is of peripheral importance here. And that’s what many in Congress seem to be doing. They promise major sanctions but, all too often, leave bin Salman out of the picture. But that course is fundamentally incompatible with their claims to moral justice.

It is intellectually unsustainable to pledge to punish all those responsible for Khashoggi’s fate but then to ignore bin Salman. Again, the critical factor here is that bin Salman defines both the Saudi action against Khashoggi, but also all other ongoing Saudi actions of import. He is both the killer and the regime. Any response against bin Salman must reflect that reality.