Biden won’t penalize Saudi crown prince: Report

Washington: US President Joe Biden has decided that the diplomatic cost of penalizing Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, is too high, as per a report.

Despite an intelligence finding that the Saudi Arabia crown prince directly approved the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The declassified report said the Crown Prince approved a plot to “capture or kill” Jamal Khashoggi.

Fifty-nine-year-old Khashoggi, who lived in the US as a legal permanent resident and wrote for The Washington Post, was critical of the prince’s policies and was killed by operatives linked to the crown prince in the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018.

According to The New York Times, Biden’s decision came after weeks of debate in which his national security team advised him that there was no way to formally bar the heir to the Saudi crown from entering the US or to weigh criminal charges against him, without breaching the relationship with one of the US’ key Arab allies.

“A consensus developed inside the White House that the cost of that breach, in Saudi cooperation on counterterrorism and in confronting Iran, was simply too high,” officials told the New York Times.

The report added that the decision was a “telling indication of how his more cautious instincts kicked in”, as the responsibilities of managing a difficult ally led him to find ways other than going directly after Prince Mohammed to make Saudi Arabia pay a price.

While human rights groups and members of his own party applauded Biden for making public the official intelligence finding, whose contents leaked more than two years ago, many said that it was just a first step — and that more had to be done to hold the crown prince accountable for his role.

NYT added that Biden’s aides said that Prince Mohammed would not be invited to the US anytime soon, and they denied that they were giving Saudi Arabia a pass, describing series of new actions on lower-level officials intended to penalize elite elements of the Saudi military and impose new deterrents to human rights abuses.

Dennis Ross, a former Middle East negotiator, applauded Biden for “trying to thread the needle here.” “This is the classic example of where you have to balance your values and your interests,” Ross told NYT.

“We are now doing things that show a clear difference from Trump on democracy and human rights,” he added.

Khashoggi, who was a vocal critic of the Saudi regime, was killed on October 2, 2018, in Turkey where he had gone to obtain paperwork certifying his divorce from his former wife Alaa Nassif in order to be able to marry his Turkish fiancee Hatice Cengiz. His killing had brought international outrage and battered the reputation of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Salman. (India Today)

Image courtesy of (Wikimedia)

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