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Biden Was Always Going to Need Saudi Arabia

3 7 31
08.06.2022

Not long after U.S. President Joe Biden was sworn into office last year, he seemed to make good on his campaign promise not to give “blank checks” to dictators when he took a number of steps to alter U.S.-Saudi relations.

The new president froze weapons sales to the kingdom pending a review of how they would be used, he authorized the release of the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi’s 2018 murder, and the White House made clear that when Biden had business to do with Saudi Arabia, he would deal only with Saudi King Salman, not his son. This was followed by what the Biden administration called the “Khashoggi Ban,” which prevented Saudis and others who had threatened, intimidated, or harassed journalists and activists from entering the United States.

Although Saudi Arabia was not quite the “pariah” that candidate Biden had pledged to make it, the administration could claim that the president was changing the parameters of the relationship. The new approach also lent credibility to Biden’s vow to pursue a human rights-centered foreign policy that emphasized America’s democratic values. Human rights activists were disappointed that the administration did not sanction Mohammed bin Salman, but the problem with the policy was not that it did not go far enough but that it was bound to fail.

Not long after U.S. President Joe Biden was sworn into office last year, he seemed to make good on his campaign promise not to give “blank checks” to dictators when he took a number of steps to alter U.S.-Saudi relations.

The new president froze weapons sales to the kingdom pending a review of how they would be used, he authorized the release of the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi’s 2018 murder, and the White House made clear that when Biden had business to do with Saudi Arabia, he would deal only with Saudi King Salman, not his son. This was followed by what the Biden administration called the “Khashoggi Ban,” which prevented Saudis and others who had threatened, intimidated, or harassed journalists and activists from entering the United States.

Although Saudi Arabia was not quite the “pariah” that candidate Biden had pledged to make it, the administration could claim that the president was changing the parameters of the relationship. The new approach also lent credibility to Biden’s vow to pursue a human rights-centered foreign policy that emphasized America’s democratic........

© Foreign Policy


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