Controversy persists about twenty-eight pages of the 9-11 Commission's official report that remain classified.
Former U.S. Senator Bob Graham of Florida, former Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has suggested that the classified pages implicate some highly placed Saudi individuals, if not the ruling family itself, in the 9/11 attacks.
Former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman has argued that the report, even including the redacted pages, too easily dismisses Saudi Arabia's role in the 9-11 conspiracy.
We are reminded that 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudis. Concern grows about Saudi Arabia's regular executions by beheading, decadent princes, and the linkage of Saudi Arabia's ultra-conservative Wahhabi wing of Islam to repression of women and support for violent insurgencies.
The time has come for the US to recalibrate its relationship with Saudi Arabia. In any case, the classified pages of the 9-11 report must be publicly released, with names deleted if necessary. Americans deserve to know their contents, especially the families of those killed.
Also under consideration is the very role of the US in the Middle East. After 15 years of misguided military exploits, the failure of the Arab Spring uprisings, the violent disintegration of Syria and the continuing collapse of Libya, Americans are loathe to choose military action in response to tensions or issues there.
Still, efforts toward order in the Middle East are crucial. Disorder and chaos cause massive suffering, dislocations of large populations, and tempt more US interventions, as in Syria, Yemen, possibly even Libya.
The US should lead with economic initiatives, support political negotiations on Syria and Yemen, and emphasize international law and institutions.
The US should use its influence to discourage Saudi interventions in Bahrain and Yemen. Emphasizing diplomatic solutions would set a helpful example in the region. The U.S. should enact and enforce export control laws to convince the Saudis that military adventurism will have costly consequences.
Releasing the classified 28 pages of the 9-11 report would also put on notice those in the Saudi government or religious establishment that their resources simply must not go to those who employ violence.
The example of the sanctions against Iran followed by diplomatic negotiations demonstrate non-military strategies available to US policy-makers. The nuclear agreement signed by Iran with the nations of the UN Security Council blocks Iranian nuclear development and paves the way to re-integrating Iran into regional and international systems.
Opportunities for trade between the US and Iran since easing the sanctions provide a foundation for improved political and cultural relations. The nuclear deal is being implemented despite opposition from hardliners in the US and Iran.
As populations in the Middle East get younger and younger, the U.S. can serve as an attractive model influencing societies in the region toward more hopeful possibilities for the future.
Despite challenges in the region and the history of US miscalculations, there remain viable steps the US can take to recalibrate its relationship with Saudi Arabia and throughout the Middle East.
Political and economic evolution there remain a long-term process difficult for impatient Americans to accept. But the US can neither ignore nor withdraw from involvement there. The time to begin anew is now.