Biden’s Saudi problem after the Khashoggi report was released


Those words are ringing awkwardly now. The Biden administration is sure to turn the page about “the hideous and unprecedented indulgence of Saudi Arabia by former President Donald Trump,” as an introductory article. Mention. But Biden chose to avoid direct punitive action on the crown prince for his role in the Khashoggi assassination, even after that. His administration released a US intelligence report Which confirmed the US assessment that the crown prince approved the operation in 2018 to target Khashoggi.

“Since 2017, the crown prince has had absolute control over the kingdom’s security and intelligence services, making it unlikely that Saudi officials would carry out an operation of this kind without the crown prince’s permission,” the report states.

But the White House did It chose not to impose direct penalties On the crown prince. “The relationship with Saudi Arabia is greater than any individual,” said Foreign Minister Anthony Blinken at a news conference on Friday. The Biden administration sanctioned other prominent Saudi figures associated with the crown prince and imposed a “Khashoggi ban” – visa restrictions for foreign governments that have been found to be involved in “serious anti-dissident activities outside of regional boundaries.”

For many liberal commentators, activists and politicians, this is not enough. The Open Society Justice Initiative, which has been fighting in court since early last year, to release intelligence on Khashoggi’s killing, She said “The United States and other governments should take immediate measures to hold the crown prince and the Saudi government accountable for their blatant disregard for the rule of law.”

Some commentators want to see the crown prince subject to the same US embargoes and restrictions imposed on perceived adversaries in Venezuela and North Korea. “Instead of imposing sanctions on Mohammed bin Salman, Biden appears ready to let the killer pass.” Wrote Nicholas Kristof, columnist for The New York Times, uses a common acronym for the crown prince. “The weak message to other thuggish dictators who contemplate such a killing is: Please don’t do that, but we will continue to work with you if we must. “

“The failure to take action against the crown prince sends a clear message around the world that those at the summit can escape the consequences.” chirp Rep. Andy Kim (DNJ). “When we make exceptions to our allies in such situations, we expect the rest of the world that our values ​​will only go as far as our relations. We show countries like Russia and China that we may have convictions, but the consequences are not guaranteed.”

Others would argue that these exceptions have been addressed Decades of American Foreign Policy. Strategists in Washington have long since enabled or at least endured a catalog of rulers violating human rights for reasons of geopolitical expediency, and that’s no different. “The basic geopolitical reality has not changed,” Wrote Graeme Wood in the Atlantic. “The reality in Saudi Arabia is that the United States, not for the first or last time, is stuck in a miserable situation, and that the end of this sordid episode will most likely be an American official shaking hands with, once again, a killer.”

Biden and his allies say they have embarked on a “recalibration” of US-Saudi relations. This gentle approach, Experts argueMy work is more than the potential disruption that sanctions could provoke on the crown prince, especially at a time when Biden needs Riyadh to come to his side amidst Other challenges in the Middle East. However, left-wing activists assert that the Saudis They no longer have the same leverage that is driven by oil They may have had more than Washington a generation ago and that Trump’s cynical embrace and deals for the Saudis unnecessarily encouraged the reckless crown prince.

The “recalibration” has already begun to emerge with Biden freezing arms sales to Riyadh that have been given the green light by Trump over congressional objections. This would also include keeping the crown prince – who had a famously direct line with the White House through Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner – out of sight and perhaps even working to persuade the Saudi king to reconsider the succession hierarchy and bring the number of rival royals the crown prince has kept out of action. For the cold.

There is an obvious incentive for the Saudis to correct. A senior Israeli defense official told journalist Neri Zilber that Arabs “need to grow up.” Writing for Newlines magazine. “They don’t need every activist arrested, and they don’t need to go to battle with Congress.”

At the same time, the crown prince is the most influential figure in the Arab country that is most important in the Middle East to American interests – given his youth, he could stay in place for the next half-century. U.S. policymakers must reckon with the future shaped by the crown prince’s ambitious plans for modernization.

Mohammed bin Salman has accelerated the economic and social transformation which is necessary and should be encouraged. Ultimately, moving toward “normality” would mean either a revolution in Saudi Arabia, or a less authoritarian government. ” Annelle Sheline of the Quincy Institute for the Art of Responsible Governance. Biden should help support Saudi Arabia in this transformation. But to avoid the Iranian model, that is, Saudi Arabia is undergoing a violent revolution and 40 years of hostility toward the United States, Biden must support Saudi normalization, despite Mohammed bin Salman’s murderous tyranny.

This is a cold consolation for Khashoggi and his allies. In an interview with Today’s WorldView, Omar Abdulaziz, a Saudi Canadian-based dissident and friend of Khashoggi, pointed out: The mysterious disappearance of another Saudi dissident It’s based in Canada just last month after entering the Saudi embassy in Ottawa (he later showed up in Saudi Arabia, in circumstances activists fear may have damaged an entire network of dissidents abroad). Abdulaziz said that some of his relatives and friends were as well Thrown in prison Because of the regime’s dissatisfaction with its dissenting views.

“Issuing the report and naming Mohammed bin Salman is a good step,” Abdulaziz said. But the CIA knew that the Saudi regime had injured other people and did nothing.

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