While the US has been criticizing Saudi Arabia for months since Joe Biden came to power, politicians in Washington are now speaking of the Kingdom with a soft language of unprecedented praise and approval.
During his recent visit to Saudi Arabia, US Senator Lindsey Graham, top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, praised the Kingdom for what he described as ‘positive developments’ in the Persian Gulf country.
It was last week on Tuesday that, Graham, the senior American senator from South Carolina, met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia. According to officials, the two reviewed the long-standing goodwill between their nations and spoke about a variety of matters of bilateral concern.
“I just had a very productive, candid meeting with the Saudi Crown Prince and his senior leadership team. The opportunity to enhance the U.S.-Saudi relationship is real and the reforms going on in Saudi Arabia are equally real,” Graham tweeted hours after the meeting on Tuesday.
He also said in another tweet that he looked forward to working with the Biden administration and Congress to “see if we can take the U.S.-Saudi relationship to the next level, which would be a tremendous economic benefit to both countries and bring much-needed stability to a troubled region.”
Graham’s remarks on Bin Salman, a 360-degree shift from 2018 to present
But the surprise about Graham’s beautiful words on Saudi Arabia is that he is the very same person who once used the harshest language to rebuke the Kingdom and its Crown Prince, Bin Salman. Back on October 2, 2018, Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist who worked for the Washington Post, was brutally killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Later investigations by the US intelligence bodies revealed that the assassination was carried out by agents of the Saudi government, allegedly at the behest of Bin Salman, an allegation that the young Crown Prince categorically denied. Lashing out at the Kingdom and Bin Salman himself, Graham was one of the first US politicians who reacted to the investigations, “There’ll be a bipartisan tsunami against Saudi Arabia here if they did, in fact, do this,” Graham told reporters in October 2018.
Later in November that year, Graham also said that “the Crown Prince is a wrecking ball. I think the behavior before the Khashoggi murder was beyond disturbing. And I cannot see him being a reliable partner to the United States.” When speaking of bin Salman this week, however, Graham was a totally new person who did not even reference Khashoggi’s death neither in his tweets on Tuesday nor during his interview this Sunday about his recent trip to Saudi Arabia.
During an interview with ABC News on Sunday, reporter Johnathan Karl asked Graham about his recent visit to the Kingdom and meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. “I remember how highly critical you were of him after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, “The Washington Post” columnist,” Karl said.
In response, Graham tried to justify his huge shift in rhetoric on Saudi Arabia and said, “things in Saudi Arabia are changing very quickly for the better. I see a chance to normalize the relationship between the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Israel that would be transformative for the region.”
Considering the abovementioned scenario, if the US officials arrange more of such visits to the Kingdom and they come with praises and approvals of Bin Salman and his country, then it is safe to conclude that Graham’s new trend might be the beginning of a U-turn shift in the whole administration’s approach towards the oil-rich Saudi Arabia. But most of all, such drastic changes in US politics regarding Saudi Arabia requires Washington to close eyes on human right issues in the Kingdom.