Pres. Biden in Saudi Arabia

July 15, 2022

I said, very straightforwardly, for an American president to be silent on an issue of human rights is inconsistent with who we are and who I am. I’ll always stand up for our values.

United States President Joe Biden on meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — believed by U.S. intelligence to have approved the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
  • Backstory: In October 2018, U.S.-based Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered shortly after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. Khashoggi had previously lived and worked in Saudi Arabia, but “went into self-imposed exile in the US in 2017. From there, he wrote a monthly column in the Washington Post in which he criticised the policies of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the son of King Salman and Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler” (BBC).
  • Shortly after the Khashoggi’s murder, the CIA said it believed Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (also known as MBS) had approved the killing. In February 2021, Pres. Biden declassified findings of the U.S. intelligence report, which read: “We assess that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi … We base this assessment on the Crown Prince’s control of decision-making in the Kingdom, the direct involvement of a key advisor and members of Muhammad bin Salman’s protective detail in the operation, and the Crown Prince’s support for using violent measures to silence dissidents abroad, including Khashoggi.”
  • Of the declassified report, the Saudi Foreign Ministry said: “… the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia completely rejects the negative, false and unacceptable assessment in the report pertaining to the Kingdom’s leadership, and notes that the report contained inaccurate information and conclusions.”
  • Breaking News: Pres. Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia on Friday came amid criticism for his apparent tolerance toward the Saudi govt. and its human rights abuses. The president stated that he addressed the killing of Khashoggi with MBS, who “basically said that he was not personally responsible for it. I indicated that I thought he was.”

Why It Matters: The news of the encounter, particularly due to a shared fist bump between the two leaders, has brought widespread criticism from Khashoggi’s family and others.

  • The CEO and publisher of The Washington Post, Fred Ryan said: “The fist bump between President Biden and Mohammed bin Salman was worse than a handshake — it was shameful. It projected a level of intimacy and comfort that delivers to MBS the unwarranted redemption he has been desperately seeking.

While Pres. Biden was in Israel on Thursday, he was asked about the forthcoming meeting with MBS. The president responded: “With regard to the question you asked me, my views on Khashoggi have — they’ve been absolutely, positively clear. And I have never been quiet about talking about human rights. The question that I’m — the reason I’m going to Saudi Arabia, though, is much broader. It’s to promote U.S. interests — promote U.S. interests in a way that I think we have an opportunity to reassert what I think we made a mistake of walking away from: our influence in the Middle East.”

Biden says he raised Khashoggi murder with crown prince (Associated Press)

The president said he rebuked Saudi crown prince for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi (New York Times)

Read: Declassified report on Saudi role in killing of Jamal Khashoggi (CNN)

Opinion | Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia erodes our moral authority (The Washington Post)

by Jenna Lee,