In response to a question about possible sanctions against the Saudi crown prince, President Biden said, “We will announce on Monday what we will do about Saudi Arabia in general.”
Biden’s decision to publish a report set aside by his predecessor, Donald Trump, restores Washington’s position on dealing with Riyadh, with regard to its human rights record and its arms deals.
And Washington made it difficult for its Western allies to deal directly with the crown prince, the de facto ruler of the kingdom, after he was publicly accused.
Washington did not impose sanctions on bin Salman to avoid causing a “boycott” with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the main ally that “flatly rejected” the report.
At a time when it wants to reduce the size of the crown prince’s influence, Washington realizes, according to Reuters, that it cannot tolerate the estrangement with Saudi Arabia, its oldest Arab ally and the main balance of Iran in the region.
Elizabeth Kendall, a senior research fellow specializing in Arab and Islamic studies at the University of Oxford, described the report as extremely embarrassing for Riyadh, and puts world leaders in an awkward position as well, as they are now forced to decide if they will continue to deal with the crown prince.
Biden pledged to look more broadly at human rights issues in the kingdom, as the prince crushed dissent, marginalized and imprisoned his opponents, including his relatives, as he sought to consolidate his power.
On Friday, Biden said he had made clear, in a phone call with King Salman, that killing political opponents was unacceptable, and that human rights violations must be addressed.
Neil Quilliam, an associate fellow at the Chatham House think-tank, says the report is a heavy blow to Riyadh, but nevertheless Washington will remain the kingdom’s ally in its security and defense.
On Friday, a US intelligence report accused bin Salman of “authorized” the assassination of Khashoggi in 2018.