Making Saudi Arabia a “pariah” state, Joe Biden’s untenable promise

In campaign, Joe Biden did not have strong enough words to condemn Saudi Arabia and its crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, says MBS. “We are going to make them pay the price [de l’assassinat du journaliste Jamal Khashoggi] and we will make this state the outcasts they are, “candidate Biden declared in a debate in November 2019. Since his arrival at the White House, the new American president has been sulking the Saudis, making King Salman wait until ‘to February 25 for a phone call.

CIA ‘wateres down’ report on Khashoggi murder

In this freezing climate, the publication by the CIA of its report on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a dissident journalist killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018, was enough to give Riyadh a cold sweat. Finally, after the disclosure of the report on Friday February 26, the Saudi capital can push a sigh of relief: if the CIA confirms that MBS has “validated” the assassination of the journalist, it does not disclose any new information on the case. “The publication of this report is disappointing,” notes Andreas Kriege, security and Middle East specialist at King’s College London. of this report, omitting the most precise details. ”

Above all, the sanctions announced in the wake seem very lenient, targeting only underlings of the Wahhabi kingdom. The United States is simply banning 76 Saudi nationals linked to MBS from its territory, but spares the almighty 35-year-old crown prince. “Our relationship with Saudi Arabia goes beyond the case of a single individual,” US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken told reporters.

A decision that goes wrong with the Democrats

MBS now seems untouchable. “He is the next king of Saudi Arabia, the United States cannot afford to deprive him of his freedom of movement or to ban him from American territory, says Andreas Kriege. In his case, Biden found himself trapped between his idealism and reality, and he had to be pragmatic: he publicly denounced MBS without officially punishing him. The US president was able to satisfy his support, without crossing the red line with Riyadh. ”

However, this benevolence towards MBS goes badly among the Democrats, who have been increasing criticism since the publication of the CIA report. New York representative in Congress and member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Gregory Meeks summed up the state of mind within the presidential party: “Given the direct involvement of Mohammed bin Salman, we look forward to action for him. to charge for his role in this matter. ” The American government may well hide behind its principle of not sanctioning foreign heads of state, it quickly forgets its direct sanctions taken against Kim Jong-un, Bashar el-Assad or even Nicolás Maduro.

Impossible to do without the Saudi kingdom

The move shows how Saudi Arabia remains an indispensable ally for the United States in the Middle East, with five US military bases on its soil and valuable intelligence information for Uncle Sam. “Without Saudi Arabia. Arabia, there is no US policy in the Middle East, says Andreas Kriege of King’s College London. The United States has a long tradition of neglecting its values ​​to work with these ‘pariah’ states and advance their interests. geostrategic. ” Also, in the hope of a new agreement on Iranian nuclear power in the near future, it is better to spare your allies in the Gulf countries.

Among human rights groups and Saudi political exiles, Biden’s leniency towards MBS created a wave of panic this weekend, and cascading criticism. Not only is Washington not sanctioning MBS, but it leaves the Saudis free to put pressure on the families of political dissidents who have gone abroad. Amrit Singh, lawyer for the NGO Open Society Justice Initiative, denounced a decision “inadmissible on the part of the American government, which leaves alone the murderer-in-chief, that is to say the crown prince: his big principles of defending democracy and human rights are already proving to be a big joke. ”

Same story with Sarah Leah Whitson, director of Democracy for the Arab World Now, the organization created by Jamal Khashoggi just before his death. “The Americans sent a clear message with this decision, said the manager : No matter how horrible your crimes are, you risk nothing, if you are important enough. ”


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