Financial Times: Differences in the Biden administration over the nature of the response to Saudi Arabia after the publication of the Khashoggi report


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London – “Al-Quds Al-Arabi”:

The Financial Times quoted officials familiar with the thinking of the new US administration that its response to the publication of the CIA report on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 would be through the US Treasury, the Ministry of Justice and a combination of sanctions and travel bans on the persons named in the report, which will be published today. Friday.

“The question is $ 64,000,” said Gerald Feierstein, a former State Department official during the Barack Obama administration. Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst who specializes in Saudi Arabia, said he felt there was a “significant divide” within the Biden administration over the response and its nature. And “if we assume that the report explicitly indicated that Mohammed bin Salman is the murderer, then how can you not impose sanctions on him?” The Donald Trump administration had imposed sanctions on 17 Saudi officials, but Trump stood with Prince Mohammed and refused to publish the CIA report, which he was obliged to publish by law. Chris Murphy, a Democratic senator from Connecticut, told MSNBC that he wanted “broad accountability measures” for anyone involved in crime and take steps for financial sanctions and denial of entry to the United States. He is among a group of members of Congress that called on the administration to take action against the kingdom. “There is no doubt” that the killing of Khashoggi could not have taken place without the approval of Prince Mohammed, who is serving as defense minister in addition to his position as crown prince, Murphy said. Biden identified the relationship with the prince through Lloyd Austin, the US Secretary of Defense, as a counterpart to the crown prince in the position. But the US President expressed his keenness to maintain relations between the two countries.

In a White House statement about Biden’s call with King Salman, he said that a statement expressed a desire “to strengthen bilateral relations and make them as transparent as possible.”

Yasmine Farouk of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said that if the Biden team found that targeting the prince would be counterproductive, “they will ignore him or limit his role in bilateral relations.” Tamara Waits, an expert at the Brookings Institution, said that the United States may expel Saudi diplomats because the crime occurred in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, and in violation of the Geneva Convention. She said Saudi Arabia might avoid tougher penalties by taking responsibility. Realistically, she said, “I don’t think the issue is blacklisting the Saudi crown prince,” and “the ball is in Saudi Arabia’s court to assume responsibility.”

The report will be scrutinized and the prince’s role in the crime will be investigated. Its publication was delayed by two days, as the administration said it was willing to contact the Saudi king first. The newspaper believes that its publication will be the first test of Biden’s policy to reset the relationship with Saudi Arabia. Biden’s call with King Salman removed the last obstacle in his publication and put him in front of public opinion. The administration promised to reset the relationship with Saudi Arabia, which had strengthened ties with the Donald Trump administration. However, the relationship will be further complicated by the level of involvement that indicates the intelligence report and the role of Mohammed bin Salman in the crime. United Nations officials found “credible evidence” of the prince’s role in the crime, and US lawmakers emphasized the full responsibility of the crown prince. However, Mohammed bin Salman denied his connection with the “heinous crime”. While Biden spoke as a candidate about making Saudi Arabia a “pariah state,” officials warned against targeting the crown prince with sanctions. And they discussed that such an action would hinder US relations with a country that it sees as one of its regional priorities, including the Yemen war and the return to the nuclear agreement.


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