Biden to downgrade ties with Bin Salman

TEHRAN, Feb. 17 (MNA) – According to the latest announcement of the White House, US President Biden is to decrease ties with Bin Salman and to revise Washington-Riyadh relations.

Biden intends to “recalibrate” the US relationship with Saudi Arabia and will emphasize outreach to King Salman, in a move that signals a downgrade in ties with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, Bloomberg reported.

It is the latest sign Biden’s team is taking a different track from former President Donald Trump toward the world’s largest oil exporter. Trump established close ties with Prince Mohammed and made Saudi Arabia the centerpiece of his strategy toward the Middle East after taking his first trip abroad as president there.

“We’re going to recalibrate our relationship with Saudi Arabia,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday. “Part of that is going back to engagement counterpart-to-counterpart. The president’s counterpart is King Salman.”

Instead of engaging primarily with Biden, the crown prince’s most appropriate counterpart is Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, according to a person familiar. While Prince Mohammed’s official role is deputy prime minister and defense minister, he has a vast range of responsibilities as heir to the throne his father, 85, has held since 2015.

The changes suggest US-Saudi relations will return to “more structured, routine channels,” according to Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former Mideast official at the State Department. “This is a slapdown of MBS, who the administration views as reckless and ruthless.”

The crown prince became a pariah in much of official Washington after the 2018 killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. An investigation by a United Nations special rapporteur implicated senior Saudi officials who reported directly to the crown prince, an accusation rejected by the kingdom’s officials.

Trump and his administration, in particular, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, remained close to Prince Mohammed after the murder and avoided blaming him for it. 

Avril Haines, Biden’s director of national intelligence, has vowed to release an unclassified CIA report into Khashoggi’s killing that is likely to embarrass the crown prince.

A White House official, who asked not to be identified discussing the change, said Psaki’s comment signals a return to the long-standing diplomatic process.

Saudi Arabia this month freed prominent Saudi women’s rights activist Loujain Al-Hathloul after nearly three years in jail as Biden’s team stepped up pressure over rights.

HJ/PR

News Code 170076

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