The US Biden administration is facing criticism from rights groups and anti-war advocates for welcoming Saudi Arabia to Prince Khalid bin Salman in Washington, DC, for meetings of high level this week.
Prince Khalid bin Salman is the brother of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS. From July 6 to 7, the prince met with U.S. President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, and Common President Mark Milley is another senior American official.
MBS era formally identified earlier this year by U.S. intelligence agencies for sanctioning the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi by a Saudi hit team in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2018. As a presidential candidate by 2020, Joe Biden had denounced Khashoggi’s assassination and promised Saudi Arabia would be a “Pariah”.
“It is a tremendous hypocrisy on the part of the Biden administration to act as if it is going to transform the relationship with the Saudis,” said Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink, a women’s peace advocacy group in Washington , DC.
“The Biden administration is going against everything he said it had to do,” Benjamin told Al Jazeera on Thursday.
He added that he said he would have a different relationship with Saudi Arabia. “Biden talked about MBS being a pariah, and how he was going to make sure that the United States didn’t support the structures in its war in Yemen.
“But, in reality, he’s putting the red carpet on MBS’s brother.” It continues to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia. And it keeps the information from the public about Khashoggi’s killing, ”Benjamin said.
President Biden and his team have come a long way between condemning Khashoggi’s assassination and maintaining a working relationship with Crown Prince bin Salman, the de facto governor of Saudi Arabia. The United States wants Saudi cooperation for a series of challenges from Iran’s nuclear program to the civil war in Yemen and the ongoing crisis in Lebanon.
U.S. spy agencies, in an unclassified report prepared by the CIA and published Feb. 26, had assigned responsibility for the operation that killed Khashoggi at MBS.
With the publication of the report, the State Department has arrested more than 70 Saudi citizens a list without travel and the Treasury Department imposed financial sanctions on officials who were directly involved in Khashoggi’s assassination. But neither MBS nor his brother Prince Khalid were included in these sanctions.
Khalid bin Salman was the Saudi ambassador to the United States at the time of Khashoggi’s assassination. At the time, he condemned “malicious losses and sad rumors” surrounding Khashoggi’s disappearance on October 2, 2018, saying that all the claims he lacked in the Istanbul consulate ”or that the authorities of the Kingdom arrested or killed are absolutely false and unfounded. “
The Saudi government later admitted that a team of Saudi agents had killed Khashoggi at the consulate.
“President Biden has spoken of a good game to hold Khashoggi’s assassins accountable, even promising during his campaign to end arms sales to Saudi Arabia,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Democracy. for the Arab World Now (DAWN) in an op- published in the Washington Post on July 6th.
DAWN was founded by Khashoggi who wrote opinion columns for the Washington Post criticizing the Saudi monarchy at the time of his death.
But his administration has not only refused to sanction MBS – the chief architect of the assassination – and has continued to sell weapons under the name of ‘defensive weapons’, it now appears that it maintains a cover on critical information. on the killing of Khashoggi, ”Whitson wrote.
Several members of the MBS-backed “Tiger Squad” team that killed Khashoggi had received paramilitary training in the United States, and Egypt allegedly provided a lethal substance used to kill Khashoggi, Whitson said, citing reports.
By welcoming Prince Khalid, who is a “proxy” for MBS, the Biden administration seeks to gain Saudi access to a renewed ban on nuclear weapons in Iran, and to continue the sale of profitable weapons to the wealthy kingdom. of oil, Whitson told Al Jazeera.
“On the one hand they want to seem to take a hard line on the Saudis … and on the other hand they welcome this guy who should have been the number one to implement the Khashoggi ban,” Whitson said.
DAWN is the girlfriend of Khashoggi Hatice Cengiz report MBS and other Saudi officials in a U.S. court in 2020 seeking damages and a jury trial. Prince Khalid has denied any role in Khashoggi’s assassination.
The CIA reviewed a 2018 phone call in which Prince Khalid told Khashoggi to go to Istanbul to collect the marriage documents and assured her she would be safe, according to the Washington Post.
Prince Khalid posted photos on his Twitter feed of his meetings with top US officials.
– Khalid bin Salman Khalid bin Salman (@kbsalsaud) July 7, 2021
“We discussed the historic and long-term partnership between our two countries, our military and defense cooperation, and our mutual efforts to preserve regional stability,” Prince Khalid said on Twitter.
Khalid said he had a “big meeting” with Secretary Blinken “to discuss the Saudi-US strategic partnership, review the latest developments in the region, and explore ways to strengthen Saudi-US ties.”
State Department spokesman Ned Price said Bin Salman’s conversation with Blinken focused on regional security issues, including “efforts to achieve a complete ceasefire, at the national level and the transition. towards a political process in Yemen, the need for economic reform and humanitarian aid for the Lebanese people, and other key bilateral issues, including human rights. “
Documents leaked from Riyadh that were reported in May by the Gulf Institute indicate that the Biden administration has so far rejected a request from Saudi King Salman to allow MBS to visit Washington.
During the visit, Prince Khalid bin Salman, the Saudi Deputy Minister of Defense, met with US Special Envoy Tim Lenderking to discuss the war in Yemen. The United States is seeking Saudi cooperation in the opening of a Yemeni seaport and airport to allow access for more humanitarian supplies.
Lenderking “emphasized the need for a continued Saudi commitment in Yemen, allowing room for a complete ceasefire at the national level, followed by a transition to a Yemeni political process that would lead to a permanent solution to this conflict,” he said. Price.