During the election campaign, then-candidate Joe Biden pledged a hard line with the Saudi government, which was the darling of then-President Donald Trump. In a Biden government, the Democrat said, the Saudis involved in the murder and dismemberment of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018 would “pay for it,” and the United States would “pay for it”. outcasts they really are ”.
On Friday (26), the CIA released a report that personally blames Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known by the acronym MbS, for ordering Khashoggi’s assassination. And what happened? The Treasury Department imposed sanctions on former Saudi deputy intelligence chief Ahmed al-Asiri and the Saudi Monarchy Rapid Response Force, which reported directly to the prince and “looked after” dissidents. In addition, they vetoed the visas of 76 people who kidnapped journalists and dissidents abroad and took them to be arrested on Saudi soil. MbS came out unscathed, and if you want, you can even spend your vacation at Disney.
Faced with Biden’s promise to make a shift in American foreign policy, by making human rights a priority, the impositions of realpolitik spoke louder.
“We believe there are more effective ways to ensure that [assassinato de Khashoggi] this will not happen again, as we maintain space to work with the Saudis in areas where there is mutual understanding and where there are national interests for the United States. It’s diplomacy, ”White House press secretary Jen Psaki (28) said on Sunday after intense pressure from lawmakers and Democratic activists for more vigorous action against MbS.
The Biden government has created expectations by saying there will be more announcements about the case on Monday. However, a State Department spokesman confined himself to saying that the US government is “focused on the future behavior” of Saudi Arabia and simply urged Riyadh to improve its human rights role and end the “elite force” that killed Khashoggi.
President Joe Biden is making a risky bet: he wants to clean up his bar with the domestic public, who demand attitudes against MbS, without imploding the relationship with the Saudi prince, who is really in charge of the Gulf monarchy.
In Diplomatic, the White House says the goal would be to recalibrate the relationship with Saudi Arabia, but without causing a rupture.
Part of the recalibration would be the Biden government’s decision to veto arms sales for attacking the Saudis during the Yemen war. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have killed thousands of civilians using weapons sold by the Americans in an attempt to overthrow Houthi rebels, funded by Iran, Riyadh’s nemesis. Biden also canceled sales that had been authorized by Trump. But he has made it clear that he will continue to sell weapons so that Saudi Arabia can defend itself against Iran and the Shia country’s allies.
In his first appeal to the Saudi government, Biden spoke to King Salman, and the government said it was the monarch who would speak to the U.S. president, not MbS. Trump offered MbS a direct line to the White House, through his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. In addition, the Democrat has appointed a diplomat as special envoy for the war in Yemen, to try to end the conflict that has dragged on since 2015 and which has already killed 230,000 people.
Human rights organizations, journalists, Democratic lawmakers and even John Brennan, a former CIA director in the Obama administration, have strongly criticized Biden’s decision not to impose sanctions on MbS.
“To say that Prince Regent MbS was responsible for the gruesome murder of Jamal Khashoggi is not enough to hold him responsible. The Biden government needs to do a lot more. For starters, veto meetings with US officials and visits to the US, ”Brennan wrote on Twitter.
In a Monday article, Fred Ryan, editor of the Washington Post, who was an employer of Khashoggi, said Biden had given him a “free murder pass.”
The United States has sanctioned heads of state or government before: Nicolás Maduro, dictator of Venezuela; North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and Syrian Bashar al-Assad. But neither of these countries has the power to stabilize – or plunge into chaos – the global oil market. Even though the increase in production in the United States has significantly reduced dependence on the kingdom, Saudi Arabia still has the power to significantly reduce production, which most other producers do not.
Moreover, imposing sanctions on MbS is in reality severing relations with the Saudi kingdom for a long time. King Salman is 85 years old and in poor health. The 35-year-old prince is the one who really rules and is to remain in power for many years to come.
The Democrat wants to preserve the goodwill of the Saudis. Biden needs Saudi Arabia’s support in counterterrorism operations and to manage the balance in the Middle East. And it will already generate discontent in the Gulf kingdom by trying to revive the nuclear deal with Iran, sabotaged by Trump. The Saudi government has been a staunch opponent of the deal since its inception within the Obama administration. In addition, King Salman intensified his relations with Russia and China, the strategic enemies of the United States.
Trump justified his insistence on selling arms to the Saudis, even after opposition from Congress, as an economic problem. In fact, trade between the two countries is significant – it was US $ 38 billion in 2019 (R $ 214 billion as of Monday), and the Saudis are the main buyers of arms.
But that’s just a piece of the story. The strategic alliance between the United States and Saudi Arabia is old, it was signed 76 years ago, between President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and MbS’s grandfather, King Abdulaziz. The United States would guarantee access to Saudi oil and, in return, protect Saudi Arabia against foreign threats, such as Iran.
They have always been very different countries: a democracy that, at least on paper, is committed to human rights and freedom of expression, and an absolutist monarchy that represses dissenters and opponents. Throughout history, the United States has often had to turn a blind eye to human rights abuses when geopolitics were more important. Apparently that’s what’s going to happen, once again.