Biden tightens course against riyadh
New u.S. President joe biden has sharpened course drastically on saudi arabia in a departure from the policies of his predecessor donald trump.
In connection with the murder of journalist jamal khashoggi in october 2018, the biden government announced sanctions, but crown prince mohammed bin salman was spared from them. Shortly before, the office of U.S. Intelligence coordinator avril haines had released a previously classified report on the case. It shows that the crown prince had authorized the operation to capture or kill khashoggi at the saudi consulate in istanbul, according to the U.S. Intelligence community.
Saudi auben ministry immediately rejected the report as "false" and "unacceptable". It contained "erroneous information and conclusions" about the saudi leadership, the ministry said. The "horrific crime" constitutes a blatant violation of saudi law. Those who had committed it had been sentenced. The kingdom rejects measures that violate its sovereignty and the independence of its judiciary.
Khashoggi was killed on 2. October 2018 killed in saudi consulate in istanbul by special commando from riyadh. No trace of his body has been found to date. Khashoggi lived in the U.S. State of virginia and wrote columns for the "washington post" that often included criticism of the saudi monarchy.
Islamic conservative kingdom’s leadership faced sharp criticism after khashoggi’s disappearance. It admitted the murder only after international pressure. The trail led to the crown prince’s closest entourage, but he denied ordering the killing himself.
In the fall, a saudi court sentenced five defendants to 20 years in prison, overturning a death sentence previously imposed on the accused. U.S. Report lists 21 people in connection with the operation besides the crown prince.
Immediately after the report was published, u.S. Secretary of state antony blinken announced entry restrictions against 76 citizens of saudi arabia. The U.S. Treasury department simultaneously placed former saudi deputy intelligence chief ahmed al-asiri and an elite unit protecting the crown prince on the sanctions list. Criticism was voiced over the fact that the U.S. Government did not announce any sanctions against the crown prince himself, even though democrat biden had promised to do so during the election campaign.
The chairman of the intelligence committee in the u.S. House of representatives, democrat adam schiff, called for more extensive takedowns on twitter. "The biden administration should ensure that the consequences for the brutal murder of khashoggi affect not only those who carried it out, but also the one who ordered it," he wrote. "The crown prince has blood on his hands"."Cnn, citing government sources, reported that sanctions against the crown prince were not an option because they could have endangered U.S. Military interests. Saudi arabia has traditionally been a close ally of the U.S.
Auben minister blinken defended the government’s action. "So the measures we took were not aimed at severing the relationship, but at recalibrating it to make it more consistent with our interests and values," he said at a press conference.
Blinken announced a visa reorganization called the "khashoggi ban". It allows his ministry to impose visa restrictions on people who are involved in activities against dissidents outside their country on behalf of foreign governments, he announced. "Extraterritorial threats and abuses by saudi arabia against activists, dissidents and journalists" were not to be tolerated by the u.S.
Biden-foreigner trump had concluded arms deals worth billions with riyadh. The republican, with a rather lax stance on the human rights situation in saudi arabia, was a key ally of the crown prince. Washington did impose sanctions on more than a dozen former saudi government officials in connection with the journalist’s murder. Trump, however, maintained his support for the royal house in riyadh.
Democrat biden’s administration has made clear that it will realign relations with saudi arabia. During the election campaign, biden had already promised a tougher course against saudi arabia. In a TV debate in november 2019, he had answered in the affirmative the question of whether, as president, he would punish leading saudi politicians for the murder of khashoggi. Biden had also said at the time that he believed khashoggi was killed on the orders of the crown prince.
Biden reiterated that the U.S. Government had suspended arms sales to saudi arabia pending a review. In a departure from trump’s strategy, biden’s administration had also announced shortly after taking office that it would no longer support combat operations in yemen by the saudi alliance against the huthi rebels, who are supported by iran.
Khashoggi long had close ties to the saudi royal family, but then fell from grace. In 2017 he went to the USA. From exile, he repeatedly voiced criticism of the saudi leadership, especially in columns for the "washington post" newspaper. A trial is currently underway in turkey because of the murder of khashoggi.