The US-Saudi relationship after the release of Khashoggi murder report is none as expected.
Recalibration of the ties between Riyadh and Washington as promised by Joe Biden and other US high officials during the presidential campaigns has gone through a different meaning from what observers sought.
The release of report on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, Washington Post columnist killed in Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018, further reinforced the belief that the Biden administration, as opposed to his predecessor, is basically reviewing ties with Saudi Arabia.
One week after the release of the report, nevertheless, comments on both sides suggest that the plot is turning to story in a different form. As the first step, Biden administration imposed sanctions on 76 Saudi perpetrators, though anonymous, and put arms sales to the kingdom on hold.
Nevertheless, though the report obviously asserts that the implementation of terror operation without acknowledgment of the crown prince is “highly unlikely” due to his absolute security and intelligence control, no action is designed or announced against Mohammad Bin Salman.
Prince Khalid bin Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to London, told the reporters that the decision to release the report confirming the authorization of Bin Salman in Khashoggi murder was “an internal issue for the United States.”
Emphasizing on the significance of maintaining relationships, Bin Bandar added “I don’t see it as a setback at the moment. Look at what the administration has said publicly, they have said Saudi Arabia is a trusted ally, they are focused on defending and protecting Saudi Arabia. I don’t see the Americans turning away from us, or us turning away from America.”
In Germany, reporters without Borders filed a lawsuit against the crown prince citing numerous evidences of crimes against humanity. The media watchdog referred to the detention of 30 journalists and travel ban on the families.
Saudi officials assert that the arrested journalists were violators of local laws. Whether right or wrong, they say, those are the laws and they’re on the way to more improvements.
Two years after Khashoggi was murdered and one month before the US presidential election, Joe Biden issued a statement asserting that his administration would consider reassessment of relationships with Saudi Arabia. He also clearly vowed to punish the perpetrators of the murder in months before the election.
Other prominent Biden team members also made tense positions against Saudi leaders before the election. “I think the administration has missed a tremendous opportunity to use a horrific, terrible event, the murder of this journalist Khashoggi to use that as a way to influence Saudi behavior and Saudi policies in a way that better reflect our interests and our values,” Blinken, US current secretary of state said in 2019.
The kingdom has sent vibes about compromise on ending hostility against Yemen, one of the main demands of US president. The six-year war against Sana’a to destroy Houthis left tens of thousands dead, misplaced millions and led to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, as described by the United Nations.
Biden team, however, made no clear position about human rights condition in Saudi Arabia about which they talked incessantly before the election. Jake Sullivan, National security adviser, Susan Rice, White House domestic policy director, Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, Ned Price, State Department spokesperson are only some of the top-ranked Biden officials who talked about Riyadh’s suppression of human rights.
US administrations lenient behavior towards Saudi officials, specifically after releasing the report on Khashoggi’s murder, infuriated critics and human rights organization. The release of the report, long delayed by Donald Trump, should be viewed in a larger vision as a strategic step by Biden team to have privileges in starting a dominating, though cooperative, negotiations with Saudi Arabia; by the way, a recalibration is underway.