Two and a half years removed from his campaign trail vow to make Saudi Arabia’s leaders “pay the price” for their role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, U.S. President Joe Biden is reportedly planning to visit Riyadh in the coming days as part of the White House’s effort to shore up ties with the oil-rich kingdom as Russia’s war on Ukraine roils global energy markets.
Although the timing of the trip is still not finalized, New York Times reported Thursday, Biden said that he plans to add the Riyadh experience to his planned visit later in the month to Israel.
Saudi Arabia is the third-largest oil producer in the world behind the U.S. and Russia, and the kingdom has previously resisted the Biden administration’s calls to pump more oil amid surging gas prices. Recent developments have seen the Saudi kingdom become a more prominent oil producer. indicated a willingness to ramp up production if Russia’s output tanks due to The West’s sanctions regime.
According to the Washington Post, for which Khashoggi worked as a columnist, Biden administration officials have come to view a presidential visit to Saudi Arabia “as a necessary act of realpolitik to lower energy prices and inflation, despite a campaign promise to further isolate Riyadh.”
Matt Duss, a foreign policy adviser to U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), was among those criticizing the planned visit as egregiously hypocritical, flying directly in the face of Biden’s rhetoric on the campaign trail and since taking office.
“If anyone can explain to me how this reflects the administration’s previously stated commitment to ‘a world in which human rights are protected, their defenders are celebrated, and those who commit human rights abuses are held accountable,’ I’d love to hear it,” said Duss.
Bill McKibben (environmentalist, co-founder of 350.org) tweeted that he “can’t wait for the day when the world can stop sucking up to murderers simply because they have oil.”
During his trip to Riyadh, the president is expected to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto Saudi leader whom intelligence agencies say approved the gruesome killing of Khashoggi — a U.S. resident — inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.
The murder sparked international outrage, which then-presidential candidate Biden joined in 2019 with his vow to make the Saudi kingdom a “pariah.”
Biden also pledged at the time to “end the sale of material to the Saudis where they’re going in and murdering children,” referring to the Saudi-led coalition’s yearslong, catastrophic war on Yemen — which the U.S. has aided every step of the way with arms and logistical support.
Biden is being criticized for not keeping his promises. Despite the president’s February 2021 call for an end to U.S. support for all “offensive operations” in Yemen, the administration has continued providing the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates with weapons Jet maintenance services.
While there are many ways to get a. newly extended humanitarian truce in Yemen has provided a brief reprieve to the poor and war-ravaged nation, it remains in a state of deep crisis with millions — including many children — facing starvation, disease, and displacement.
In a statement on Thursday marking news of the deal to extend the fragile truce for two months, Biden lavished praise on Saudi Arabia, claiming the kingdom “demonstrated courageous leadership by taking initiatives early on to endorse and implement terms of the U.N.-led truce.”
Biden did not mention the fact that the Saudi crown prince, more commonly known as MBS is the president. chief architect The Obama administration supported the attack on Yemen in 2015. The Biden administration declined MBS should be punished for his involvement in the Khashoggi murder or in the humanitarian disaster in Yemen.
“Applauding MBS’ ‘courage’ for supporting a ceasefire in a war the Saudi crown prince himself started — and to use that as a pretext for the presidential meeting — speaks to Biden’s desperation to lower gas prices, as well as to our need to end this dependency on Saudi Arabia,” said Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.
“Rather than rebuilding relations with Riyadh, Biden’s hat-in-hand approach will likely exacerbate the longstanding problems in U.S.-Saudi relations,” Parsi warned. “It will increase our dependence on the kingdom, which has long given its rulers carte blanche to act against American interests in the Middle East and beyond.”
“MBS is playing hardball with the United States,” Parsi continued, “and Biden just let him win.”
Sunjeev Bey, executive director at Freedom Forward argued that “it makes no sense to strengthen Saudi Arabia’s oil dictator in order to stop Russia’s oil dictator.”
“The planet is on fire,” Bery added, “and Biden is about to reestablish relations with one of the key arsonists.”