Biden Checkmates Bin Salman

After years of snug relations between Trump and Mohammed bin Salman, the United States’ president has drawn a card that will work in his favour to abolish these excessively unnerving ties. The long-awaited US Intelligence report on Jamal Khashoggi’s barbaric murder has been published. The way in which the U.S. will deal with Saudi Arabia in future relations is sure to change.

The Saudi crown prince, bin Salman is held accountable, “We assess that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi” the report concluded. Although, it is naïve to think that a lot will change, there is sure to be a tilt in the way the U.S. conduct said Saudi affairs. Human rights organisations such as Amnesty International, European Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR), Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), Human Rights Watch (HRW), International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), MENA Rights Group and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and various committees of the United Nations, have been shouting out for years and pressuring authorities to take action on a nation who has no limit to its brutal ways. The list of humanitarian violations are countless, yet include: forbidding women their basic rights, imprisoning journalists who speak against the monarchy, holding a PM captive and pressuring him to step down (Lebanon, 2017), causing the greatest humanitarian crisis to date in Yemen amongst many other crimes.

The four page report stated that prince Mohammed viewed Mr. Khashoggi as a threat and “broadly supported using violent measures if necessary to silence him”. It is interesting to note that the report does not contain a shred of explicit evidence of the crown prince’s involvement, but rather, smaller pieces of evidence in combination with the C.I.A.’s knowledge on how the prince controls segments of the kingdom, led them to a high confidence conclusion of his accountability. The report stated that the prince “fostered an environment” where the RIF (Saudi Rapid Intervention Force – the prince’s hit team) feared that any failure to follow his orders could result in their arrest- “This suggests that the aides were unlikely to question Mohammed bin Salman’s orders or undertake sensitive actions without his consent”. The report also lists 21 individuals involved in Khashoggi’s murder.

 Adding to report, proof of two jets used by the Saudi hit squad to escape Turkey were uncovered in a Canadian court as part of the evidence used in a lawsuit against former Saudi spy chief Saad Al-Jabri – who is said to have been the source for the intelligence report on Khashoggi’s murder. 

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the State Department’s “Khashoggi Ban,” – a visa restriction policy “on individuals who, acting on behalf of a foreign government, are believed to have been directly engaged in serious, extraterritorial counter-dissident activities,” which can be seen as a positive action in light of the report.

What many await now, is the impact of this report on U.S. and Saudi relations. Previously, Biden stated in 2019, whilst calling for accountability for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, “I would make it very clear we were not going to, in fact, sell more weapons to them. We were going to, in fact, make them pay the price and make them, in fact, the pariah that they are”, which already hints at the forthcoming changes that will emerge – mainly that Biden will not communicate with the Saudi crown prince as Trump – with the report checkmating bin Salman. 

Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, the chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, released his acknowledgements following the report, “For years, the House and Senate have pressed for this measure of accountability, and I’m grateful to President Biden and Director of National Intelligence Haines for making this report public as we requested,” and continued, “the highest levels of the Saudi government, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, are culpable in the murder of journalist and American resident Jamal Khashoggi, and there is no escaping that stark truth laid bare in the Intelligence Community’s long overdue public assessment”.

Biden and administration officials have continuedly repeated that they are committed to preserve the relations with Saudi Arabia. However, the President has ended U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen launched by the crown prince six years ago and ordered an end to several weapons sales with a report to be released, underlining the prince’s abuse of basic human rights.

Ultimately, this just goes to show that relations based on materialistic advantages without regards for human life, are doomed to collapse. As Thor Halvorssen, founder and CEO of the Human Rights Foundation, a copious non-profit that promotes human rights and hosts the Oslo Freedom Forum, stated “For far too long, it (the U.S.-Saudi relationship) has been based entirely on security and money with not a single care for morals. It’s short-sighted and ultimately fails…A moral foreign policy must prioritize not establishing a protection racket for a psychopathic murderer.”

By: Ragheb Malli