Blinken says he hasn’t seen evidence to back up Israel’s justification for bombing Gaza building that housed AP and Al Jazeera offices

Blinken
Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

  • Blinken said he hasn’t seen evidence to back up Israel’s bombing of a Gaza building housing AP and Al Jazeera offices.
  • “I have not seen any information provided,” Blinken said on Monday.
  • Israel said Hamas operated out of the building, making it a legitimate target.
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Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday said he hasn’t seen any evidence to bolster Israel’s justification for leveling a Gaza building that housed offices for prominent media outlets like the Associated Press and Al Jazeera.

The Israeli government said Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, was operating out of the building that was destroyed on Saturday.

“I have not seen any information provided,” Blinken said at a press conference in Denmark.

“Shortly after the strike we did request additional details regarding the justification for it,” Blinken said, adding that he “will leave it to others to characterize if any information has been shared and our assessment of that information.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday was asked on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” whether it had shared intelligence with the US to back up the government’s claims. “Well, we pass it through the intelligence services to our people, to those people,” Netanyahu said.

“We share with our American friends all that intelligence and here’s the intelligence we had, it’s about Palestinian terrorist – an intelligence office for the Palestinian terrorist organization housed in that building that plots and organizes the terror attacks against Israeli civilians. So it’s a perfectly legitimate target,” Netanyahu said. “And I can tell you that we took every precaution to make sure that there were no civilian injuries. In fact, no deaths, no injuries whatsoever.”

Netanyahu made these remarks in response to a question on a Jerusalem Post story that citing anonymous officials in Jerusalem stating that the US had been shown a “smoking gun” proving Hamas worked out of the building.

The Israeli leader underscored that Hamas has fired “thousands of rockets and missiles on our cities.”

Israel has responded to the rocket attacks by pummeling Gaza with airstrikes. The Israeli military has also said that its Iron Dome defense system has intercepted a majority of the rockets fired at Israel.

Since the fighting began last week, at least 200 people in Gaza have been killed, including 59 children and 35 women, BBC News reported, citing Gaza’s health ministry. At least 10 people in Israel, including two children, have been killed by the rocket attacks.

Amid the escalating violence, Israel has leveled multiple large buildings with strikes – including the tower housing AP and Al Jazeera offices on Saturday. Human rights groups have warned that Israel’s tactic of leveling buildings where civilians are located could constitute war crimes.

AP and Al Jazeera denounced Israel over the strike and called for an independent investigation.

AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt in a statement said the publication was “shocked and horrified that the Israeli military would target and destroy the building housing AP’s bureau and other news organizations in Gaza.”

Pruitt added, “The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today.”

Sally Buzbee, AP’s executive editor, on Sunday told CNN that AP never had an indication that Hamas was operating out of the building.

“We are in a conflict situation,” said Buzbee. “We do not take sides in that conflict. We heard Israelis say they have evidence; we don’t know what that evidence is.”

“We think it’s appropriate at this point for there to be an independent look at what happened yesterday – an independent investigation,” she added.

Dr Mostefa Souag, acting director general of Al Jazeera Media Network, in a statement called on the international community to “hold Israel accountable for its deliberate targeting of journalists and the media institutions.”

“The aim of this heinous crime is to silence the media and to hide the untold carnage and suffering of the people of Gaza,” Souag went on to say.

Joel Simon, executive director of Committee to Protect Journalists, in a statement said Saturday’s strike “on a building long known by Israel to house international media raises the specter that the Israel Defense Forces is deliberately targeting media facilities in order to disrupt coverage of the human suffering in Gaza.”

“We demand that the Israeli government provide a detailed and documented justification for this military attack on a civilian facility given the possible violation of international humanitarian law,” Simon added. “Journalists have an obligation and duty to cover unfolding events in Gaza and it would be illegal for the IDF to use military means to prevent it.”

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Putin is looking abroad for an enemy as he feels the heat at home

Russia Putin Victory Day
Russian President Vladimir Putin at an event on Victory Day, in central Moscow, May 9, 2021.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Kiev on Thursday as part of a new push from the Biden administration to show support for Ukraine in the wake of Russia’s recent military action on the border.

Blinken met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and emphasized the US’s commitment to the country.

Washington is “actively looking at strengthening even further our security cooperation and our security assistance,” Blinken said, adding that while most of the Russian troops deployed to the border had been withdrawn, “significant forces remain.”

“We are monitoring the situation very, very closely,” Blinken said alongside Zelenskiy, according to Reuters. “And I can tell you, Mr. President, that we stand strongly with you, partners do as well. I heard the same thing when I was at NATO a couple of weeks ago and we look to Russia to cease reckless and aggressive actions.”

Antony Blinken Volodymyr Zelenskiy Ukraine
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv, May 6, 2021.

Blinken’s visit to Ukraine is no doubt a calculated response by the Biden administration to Russia’s deployment of nearly 100,000 troops along the shared border last month.

While Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the military to unwind that deployment a few weeks later, it drew international rebuke and led to weeks of uncertainty and heightened tensions worldwide.

It’s this tension that led President Joe Biden to send the seasoned diplomat to Kiev.

Blinken, who was deputy national security advisor from 2013 to 2015 and deputy secretary of state from 2015 to 2017, is no stranger to Putin’s antics. He played an important role in the Obama administration’s response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in the aftermath of the Ukrainian Revolution in early 2014.

But putting the secretary of state on the ground also sends a clear message to Putin and the Kremlin.

Many have dismissed Russia’s moves as mere saber-rattling. But after more than two decades of autocratic rule, Putin’s political arsenal is growing thin. Growing domestic opposition led by the unwavering Alexei Navalny, a slumping economy, and a mismanaged coronavirus pandemic response has turned up the heat for Putin and his cabal of loyalists.

Russia military exercise Crimea Black Sea
Russian naval assault forces disembark BK-10M fast assault boats during an exercise in Crimea, April 22, 2021.

As a result, Putin is pulling the levers in his propaganda machine in the hopes of quelling any challenge to his grip on power.

Nowhere was this more obvious than in his State of the Union address before the Russian parliament last month.

Putin took the opportunity to spin up some of his hits, lacing his remarks with anti-Western rhetoric – including thinly veiled threats and ultimatums – in hopes of ginning up Russian distaste for Europe and the US. He warned the West not to cross Moscow’s “red lines.”

“If someone mistakes our good intentions for indifference or weakness … they should know that Russia’s response will be asymmetrical, swift, and harsh,” Putin said, according to a Reuters translation of the speech.

But glaringly absent was any mention of Navalny or the opposition, despite protests and arrests before, during, and after the speech.

According to The New York Times, Russian authorities arrested “dozens of opposition activists” prior to Putin’s speech, including Kira Yarmysh, Navalny’s spokesperson, and Lyubov Sobol, a high-ranking member in his political organization.

Alexei Navalny Protest
Russians clash with police during a protest against the jailing of Alexei Navalny, in St. Petersburg, January 23, 2021.

Navalny, who ended a dramatic 24-day hunger strike in late April, is still sitting in a Russian jail, despite a massive outpouring of public support.

Several cities across Russia saw demonstrations for the imprisoned opposition leader during and after Putin’s speech. And while the opposition’s campaign has always enjoyed support from younger, progressive Russians, scattered reports show expanding support for Navalny.

That support will continue to grow as Putin exerts more pressure. The BBC reported that a prosecutor has ordered all of the support offices for Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) to close.

The report also suggested that the Kremlin may designate FBK a terrorist organization, which would allow Putin to jail supporters and freeze assets with impunity.

The added pressure on Navalny is telling. His poisoning with the nerve agent Novichok in August 2020 – almost certainly carried out by Kremlin assassins – failed to kill him and backfired for Putin, putting the Russian leader in hot water internationally while inadvertently fanning the flames at home.

Since then, Putin’s footing is increasingly unstable. And like the good soldier that he is, Putin tends to go on the offensive when he’s backed into a corner.

Ukraine army soldiers Donetsk
Soldiers drill with tanks in the Donetsk region of Ukraine, April 24, 2021.

At present, the majority of Russian military equipment from the April operation is still staged at the border. While the number of troops there has fallen sharply, it would be easy for Russia to deploy them quickly and rumble over the border.

The US has responded to Russia’s display of military strength (and Putin’s propensity to unleash it on the region).

According to the State Department, the US has sent $3.7 billion in support to Ukraine since 2014, alongside another $3 billion in sovereign loan guarantees. This support has included “technical assistance, training, and equipment to the Ukrainian Armed Forces and security services,” such as lethal weaponry, though there are restrictions on its use.

Blinken’s visit is a potent reminder to Putin that the US is heavily invested in Ukraine and will, according to Blinken, “stand strongly” with Ukraine against Russia’s “reckless and aggressive actions.”

J.W. Sotak is a defense and foreign-policy reporter who focuses on the Middle East and Africa. He is a 10-year veteran of the US Army and served as part of a Army Civil Affairs Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan. His reports have been published on SOFREP and The New York Times. You can follow him on Twitter at @JWSotak.

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Blinken says China is ‘acting more repressively at home and more aggressively abroad’

Blinken
Antony Blinken speaks during his confirmation hearing to be Secretary of State before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on January 19, 2021 in Washington, DC.

  • The U.S. Secretary of State warned that China had started acting “more aggressively abroad.”
  • He told CBS News that he wanted to avoid military confrontation between the two superpowers.
  • “What we’ve witnessed over the last several years is China acting more repressively at home and more aggressively abroad. That is a fact,” he said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has warned that China had started acting “more aggressively abroad” and behaving “increasingly in adversarial ways.”

He told CBS News’ 60 Minutes in an interview aired Sunday that he wanted to avoid military confrontation between the two superpowers but said it was a “fact” that China had increased its aggressive behavior towards other powers in recent years.

Asked about the prospect of military confrontation, he said: “It’s profoundly against the interests of both China and the United States to, to get to that point, or even to head in that direction.”

“What we’ve witnessed over the last several years is China acting more repressively at home and more aggressively abroad. That is a fact,” he added.

biden xi jinping china
Chinese President Xi Jinping shakes hands with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) inside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing December 4, 2013.

Tensions have increased significantly between the US and China in recent years, particularly after President Trump took a particularly hawkish line towards Beijing, with both powers imposing economic sanctions upon each other.

President Biden has pledged largely to continue pursuing a hawkish line towards China, with a recent meeting between Chinese and American diplomats in Alaska souring relations.

Blinken has specifically criticized China’s use of coercive measures against US allies, and said Washington views China as both an economic and security threat, particularly in the technology industry, CNBC reported.

Blinken told CBS News that Biden and Chinese premier Xi Jinping had talked in their first phone call in February, which lasted over two hours, about “real concerns” the US had about actions China had taken.

“President Biden made clear that in a number of areas we have real concerns about the actions that China has taken, and that includes in the economic area, and that includes the theft of intellectual property,” he said.

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The US is ‘not focused on a boycott’ of the 2022 Olympics in China amid human rights concerns, Blinken says

Beijing
A Chinese flag flutters in front of the IOC headquarters during a protest by activists of the International Tibet Network against the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics on February 3, 2021 in Lausanne.

  • The United States is “not focused” on boycotting the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
  • Calls for nations, including the US, to boycott next year’s games are growing.
  • Tensions are rising between the US, its allies, and China over allegations of human rights violations in the country’s Xinjiang region.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The United States is “not focused on a boycott” of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing despite its concerns over human rights abuses committed by the Chinese government, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday.

Calls for the US and other nations to boycott next year’s games are growing amid continued allegations of human rights abuse by the Chinese government in the country’s Xinjiang region.

Much of Blinken’s interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday was focused on China, including its role in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and its relationship with Taiwan. But Blinken said the US wasn’t ready to resort to boycotting the winter games.

“This is a year or so before the Olympics. We’re not focused on a boycott,” Blinken told “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd. “What we are focused on is talking, consulting closely with our allies and partners, listening to them, listening to concerns.”

China, meanwhile, has threatened countries against boycotting the games, and has said that a US boycott of the Olympics would be met with a “robust Chinese response.”

“The politicization of sports will damage the spirit of the Olympic Charter and the interests of athletes from all countries,” said Zhao Lijian, spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry. “The international community, including the US Olympic Committee, will not accept it.”

As Insider previously reported, the US has been in talks with its allies over whether they should boycott the Olympics, slated to begin February 2022, due to the alleged human rights abuses in China. Human rights groups have alleged the Chinese government has forced minority groups – particularly over a million Uyghur Muslims – into detention camps in the Xinjiang region.

China has repeatedly denied such claims. The US and its allies this year imposed sanctions on China. Blinken previously accused the Chinese government of committing “genocide and crimes against humanity”

“We need to be able to bring the world together in speaking with one voice in condemning what has taken place and what continues to take place,” he said Sunday. “We need to take actually concrete actions to make sure, for example, that none of our companies are providing China with things that they can use to repress populations, including the Uyghur population.”

But the US must ensure it was dealing and acting with all of its “interests and values” in mind, Blinken said.

“And when it comes to China, we have to be able to deal with China on areas where those interests are implicated and require working with China, even as we stand resolutely against egregious violations of human rights or in this case, acts of genocide,” he added.

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Blinken says China ‘didn’t do what it needed to do’ in the early stages of the pandemic

Antony Blinken
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on April 11, 2021.

  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken said we need to ‘get to the bottom’ of COVID-19’s origin.
  • Blinken said China knows it didn’t adequately respond to the early stages of the pandemic.
  • He said China should’ve allowed real-time access to international experts and been more transparent.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday we need “to get to the bottom” of the origins of COVID-19 in China to prevent a similar pandemic from happening again in the future.

Blinken made the comments Sunday during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“Meet the Press” moderator Chuk Todd asked Blinken whether he believed China knew the still unclear origin of COVID-19, noting a recent investigation by the World Health Organisation had been unable to determine the exact origin of the disease.

Read more: The Great GOP Migration: How South Florida became a shadow capital for Trump conservatives

The WHO issued a 120-page report in March that listed potential scenarios for how the virus originated after it conducted a month-long investigation in China from January to February this year.

In their report, researchers said the most likely possibility was the novel coronavirus jumped from bats to humans through an intermediary animal host, as Insider’s Aylin Woodward previously reported. But the WHO team was ultimately unable to determine which population of bats, or which intermediary species, carried the virus.

“I think China knows in the early stages of COVID, it didn’t do what it needed to do, which is to in real-time give access to international access experts, in real-time to share information, in real-time to provide real transparency,” Blinken said. “And one result of that failure is that the virus got out of hand faster and with much more egregious results than it might have otherwise.”

According to the WHO report, researchers believed that the first animal to human transmission happened in the fall of 2019, in October of November, months before China shut down wildlife farms in February 2020.

Blinken stressed Sunday that it was important that the origin of the virus was determined and how the virus spread in the early days of the pandemic to prevent a similar outbreak from occurring in the future.

“I think we have to,” he said. “We need to do that precisely so we fully understand what happened in order to have the best shot possible to prevent it from happening again. That’s why we need to get to the bottom of this.”

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Biden administration sanctions Chinese officials for ‘genocide’ against Uighurs days after diplomatic spat in Alaska

US China
Secretary of State Antony Blinken was involved in a heated exchange with Chinese officials in Anchorage, Alaska, on March 18.

  • The US on Monday announced new sanctions against two Chinese officials for “genocide” in Xinjiang.
  • Human rights groups say China has forced over a million Uighurs and other minorities into camps.
  • The new sanctions came days after Blinken confronted China’s top diplomat about human rights abuses.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Treasury Department on Monday unveiled new sanctions against two Chinese officials in response to “serious human rights abuse” against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.

The sanctions, which target Wang Junzheng, secretary of the Party Committee of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, and Chen Mingguo, director of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau, were rolled out in coordination with Canada and European allies.

“Amid growing international condemnation, the [People’s Republic of China] continues to commit genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

Blinken said that the US reiterates its call for the Chinese government to “bring an end to the repression” of Uighurs, calling on China to release “all those arbitrarily held in internment camps and detention facilities.”

“These actions demonstrate our ongoing commitment to working multilaterally to advance respect for human rights and shining a light on those in the [Chinese] government and [Chinese Communist Party] responsible for these atrocities,” Blinken added.

The Chinese government has forced more than a million Uighur Muslims and other minorities into detention camps in the Xinjiang region, according to human rights groups. China has vehemently denied allegations it’s committing genocide in Xinjiang.

The announcement of new sanctions against Chinese officials came just days after Blinken was involved in a testy exchange with China’s top diplomat in Anchorage, Alaska, as US and Chinese officials held the first face-to-face talks under President Joe Biden.

In his opening remarks at the meeting, Blinken said the US intended to use the talks to discuss its concerns regarding human rights abuses in Xinjiang, among other issues.

Yang Jiechi, China’s top diplomat, responded by accusing the US of condescending to China. In comments that lasted roughly 15 minutes, Yang said the US government was in no position to lecture other countries on human rights abuses, alluding to racism in the US as he referenced the Black Lives Matter movement.

Blinken then hit back with an impassioned defense of the US, underscoring its willingness to confront its shortcomings “openly, publicly, transparently, not trying to ignore them, not trying to pretend they don’t exist, not trying to sweep them under a rug.”

Biden told reporters he was “proud” of Blinken’s handling of the heated back-and-forth with the Chinese diplomats.

The dynamic between the US and China became increasingly contentious under the Trump administration, particularly as then-President Donald Trump blamed the COVID-19 pandemic on the Chinese government. Top experts have warned that the US and China are entering a new Cold War that could have devastating consequences for the global economy.

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Biden says he’s ‘proud’ of his secretary of state for confronting China’s top diplomat in a heated debate

Blinken
Secretary of State Antony Blinken confronted China on human rights abuses in the first high-level talks between the US and China under the Biden administration.

  • Biden on Friday expressed pride in Blinken for confronting Chinese diplomats in Alaska.
  • Blinken and China’s top diplomat engaged in a lengthy verbal spat on Thursday.
  • The secretary of state called out China for human rights abuses and defended America’s record.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden on Friday expressed pride in Secretary of State Antony Blinken after the top US diplomat confronted his Chinese counterpart in a testy exchange in Alaska the day before.

“I’m very proud of the secretary of state,” Biden said in comments to reporters before departing for Atlanta.

At the start of the talks in Anchorage on Thursday – the first face-to-face meeting between US and Chinese officials under the Biden administration – Blinken said the US intended to use the discussions to raise concerns about China’s increasingly aggressive activities at home and abroad.

Blinken cited concerns about human rights abuses in Xinjiang, attacks on democracy in Hong Kong, aggression toward Taiwan, cyberattacks on the US, and economic coercion toward US allies.

“Each of these actions threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability. That’s why they’re not merely internal matters and why we feel an obligation to raise these issues here today,” Blinken said.

National security advisor Jake Sullivan echoed Blinken’s concerns and said that China had engaged in “assaults on basic values.”

Yang Jiechi, China’s top diplomat, responded by accusing the US of “condescending” to China while rejecting the notion that the US government is suited to lecture other countries on human rights and related issues.

“We believe that it is important for the US to change its own image and to stop advancing its own democracy in the rest of the world,” Yang said. “Many people within the US actually have little confidence in the democracy of the US.”

“On human rights, we hope that the United States will do better on human rights,” Yang added. “China has made steady progress in human rights and the fact is that there are many problems within the United States regarding human rights, which is admitted by the US itself as well.”

Yang said human rights challenges in the US are “deap-seated,” and “did not just emerge over the past four years, such as Black Lives Matter.”

The Chinese diplomat’s comments lasted for roughly 15 minutes, according to the Associated Press, and the State Department accused the Chinese delegation of violating the format for the talks by breaking the two-minute time limit for opening statements.

After Yang’s lengthy remarks, Blinken urged reporters to stay in the room so he could offer a response.

Blinken said that what makes the US different is its willingness to confront its shortcomings, seemingly alluding to the Chinese government’s general denial of human rights abuses.

“What we’ve done throughout our history is to confront those challenges openly, publicly, transparently, not trying to ignore them, not trying to pretend they don’t exist, not trying to sweep them under a rug,” Blinken said. “And sometimes it’s painful, sometimes it’s ugly, but each and every time, we have come out stronger, better, more united as a country.”

Tensions between the US and China have escalated to historic heights over the past year, and Thursday’s meeting was emblematic of the increasingly combative dynamic.

Though former President Donald Trump often boasted about his amicable relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping early on his first term, his disposition toward China shifted with the COVID-19 pandemic. Trump blamed the pandemic, which originated in Wuhan, China, on the Chinese government. This rhetoric, combined with Trump’s trade war with China, placed major strains on US-China relations. Top experts have warned that the US and China are entering a new Cold War.

From a policy standpoint, Biden’s approach to China does not differ drastically from Trump’s. But the new president’s overall tone toward Beijing, while still tough, is less belligerent than his predecessor’s.

The Biden administration issued fresh sanctions on two dozen Chinese officials on Wednesday over assaults on democracy in Hong Kong, just a day before the first high-level talks between the US and China were set to begin. Chinese diplomats were highly critical of this move on Thursday. “This is not supposed to be the way one should welcome his guests,” said Wang Yi, the Chinese foreign minister.

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Biden will not sanction MBS over Khashoggi’s killing despite US report implicating the Saudi leader in the murder

mohammed bin salman mbs
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends a session of the Shura Council in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on November 20, 2019.

  • The Biden administration announced new sanctions over Khashoggi’s murder.
  • Saudi Crown Prince MBS is not targeted by the new sanctions. 
  • The administration is also instituting a new visa restriction policy called the Khashoggi Ban.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The Biden administration will not sanction Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over Jamal Khashoggi’s 2018 murder despite the fact the Saudi leader was explicitly implicated in the killing in a declassified US intelligence assessment.

The Treasury Department on Friday unveiled sanctions against General Ahmed al-Asiri, former deputy head of the Saudi intelligence services, and the Saudi Rapid Intervention Force over connections to the Khashoggi killing.

“Those involved in the abhorrent killing of Jamal Khashoggi must be held accountable. With this action, Treasury is sanctioning Saudi Arabia’s Rapid Intervention Force and a senior Saudi official who was directly involved in Jamal Khashoggi’s murder,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement. “The United States stands united with journalists and political dissidents in opposing threats of violence and intimidation. We will continue to defend the freedom of expression, which is the bedrock of a free society.”

But the administration will not sanction Prince Mohammed, known colloquially as “MBS,” over concerns it would “rupture” the US-Saudi relationship, an administration official said, per Reuters.  

Prince Mohammed is the kingdom’s de facto ruler. But in a diplomatic snub of the crown prince, the White House recently announced that President Joe Biden’s official communications with the Saudis would involve King Salman and not Prince Mohammed. Biden and King Salman spoke for the first time on Thursday.

On Friday, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released the declassified report on Khashoggi’s killing.

“We assess that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” the report stated. “The Crown Prince viewed Khashoggi as a threat to the Kingdom and broadly supported using violent measures if necessary to silence him.”

But other than being downgraded in the eyes of the US under the Biden administration, it’s unclear what other consequences, if any, Prince Mohammed will face over Khashoggi’s killing.

Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who was a Washington Post columnist at the time of his death, was murdered by agents of his own government in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. His body was dismembered, but Khashoggi’s remains have never been found.

The Khashoggi Ban

Khashoggi
People hold posters picturing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and lightened candles during a gathering outside the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, on October 25, 2018.

After the ODNI assessment on Khashoggi’s death was released, the State Department announced a new policy involving visa restrictions called the “Khashoggi Ban.”

“The Khashoggi Ban allows the State Department to impose visa restrictions on individuals who, acting on behalf of a foreign government, are believed to have been directly engaged in serious, extraterritorial counter-dissident activities, including those that suppress, harass, surveil, threaten, or harm journalists, activists, or other persons perceived to be dissidents for their work, or who engage in such activities with respect to the families or other close associates of such persons,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

“As a matter of safety for all within our borders, perpetrators targeting perceived dissidents on behalf of any foreign government should not be permitted to reach American soil,” Blinken added. “While the US remains invested in its relationship with Saudi Arabia, President Biden has made clear that partnership must reflect US values.”

Blinken said that “to start,” the State Department is citing the ban to impose visa restrictions on 76 Saudi individuals “believed to have been engaged in threatening dissidents overseas, including but not limited to the Khashoggi killing.” It’s unclear whether Prince Mohammed would be impacted by the new policy. 

“Under US law, individual visa records are confidential, and we cannot provide details as to who is or will be included in the Khashoggi Ban,” a State Department spokesperson told Insider.

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Nearly 4-in-10 Americans say Biden is weak on China, new Insider poll shows

Biden Xi Jinping China
Chinese President Xi Jinping, then-Vice President Joe Biden, Peng Liyuan and Jill Biden stand for the US National Anthem at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, September 24, 2015.

  • 36% of respondents in a new Insider poll say Biden is weak on China.
  • The poll found that 33% of respondents feel Biden’s stance on China is “about right.”
  • Biden has faced criticism from Republicans who accuse him of being weak on Beijing.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Almost four-in-10 respondents (36%) in a new Insider poll said that President Joe Biden’s policy toward China is weak or too weak.

Poll participants were asked: How do you feel about the Biden administration’s stance toward China?

Here’s a breakdown of the poll’s findings on how America’s feel about Biden’s China policy: 

  • Close to 5% said “it’s too tough.”
  • Nearly 9% said “it’s tough.”
  • About 33% said “it’s about right.”
  • 14% said “it’s weak.”
  • 22% said “it’s too weak.”
  • Almost 17% said “I don’t know.”

The poll found a significant disparity in how respondents answered the question based on their apparent political affiliation. 

Of the respondents who said they were likely to vote in their state’s Democratic primary or caucus, for example, a majority (roughly 55%) said Biden’s stance on China is “about right.” A little less than 15% of this cohort said Biden’s China policy is “weak” or “too weak.”

Comparatively, roughly 46% of respondents who said they were likely to vote in their state’s Republican primary or caucus said that Biden’s China policy is “too weak.”

Since his presidential campaign, Republicans and right-wing pundits have repeatedly accused Biden of being too soft on China. But the president’s policies toward Beijing have not shifted drastically from those seen under President Donald Trump. Biden, for example, has not gotten rid of Trump era tariffs on China that were at the center of a controversial trade war. 

The Biden administration has made challenging China’s ever-expanding global influence a top priority, also zeroing in on human rights abuses in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong.

“Competition with China is going to be stiff,” Biden said during the Munich Security Conference last week, calling for the US and Europe to “push back against the Chinese government’s economic abuses and coercion.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that Trump was correct to take tough stance with China, but has questioned the former president’s methods.

Meanwhile, some progressives in Congress have warned Biden against getting sucked into a new Cold War with China as Republicans seek to portray him as weak toward Beijing. 

SurveyMonkey Audience polls from a national sample balanced by census data of age and gender. Respondents are incentivized to complete surveys through charitable contributions. Generally speaking, digital polling tends to skew toward people with access to the internet. SurveyMonkey Audience doesn’t try to weight its sample based on race or income. Polling data collected 1,154 respondents February 22, 2021 with a 3 percentage point margin of error.

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Senate confirms Antony Blinken as Biden’s secretary of state

Blinken
Antony Blinken speaks during his confirmation hearing to be Secretary of State before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on January 19, 2021 in Washington, DC.

  • The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Antony Blinken as secretary of state with a 78-22 vote. 
  • Blinken is a veteran diplomat with a long working relationship with President Joe Biden. 
  • Blinken, along with Biden, has made repairing America’s alliances a top priority. 
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The Senate voted 78-22 on Tuesday to confirm Antony Blinken as secretary of state, ushering in a new era of American diplomacy.

Though Blinken was confirmed in a bipartisan vote, he received the least support from Senate Republicans out of all President Joe Biden’s Cabinet nominees so far. With that said, Blinken still received more votes in favor of his confirmation than both secretaries of state under President Donald Trump, Rex Tillerson (56-43) and Mike Pompeo (57-42). The Senate has so far confirmed four of Biden’s Cabinet nominees

Blinken, who formerly served as deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration, has a long history of working with Biden. When Biden was vice president, Blinken was his national security advisor. He also served as staff director on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Biden was chairman. 

Biden’s decision to tap Blinken to be America’s top diplomat was applauded by members of the foreign policy community across the political spectrum.

“This is a good choice. Tony has the strong confidence of the president-elect and the knowledge and experience for the important work of rebuilding US diplomacy,” Matt Duss, a foreign policy advisor to the progressive Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, tweeted in November. 

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a Republican, in November said he was “delighted” to learn Biden had selected Blinken for the role. 

During his confirmation hearing, Blinken underscored the importance of American leadership in the world. Biden has made repairing US alliances a key competent of his foreign policy agenda as part of a broader effort to repair America’s global reputation post-Trump. 

“American leadership still matters. The reality is the world simply does not organize itself. When we’re not engaged, when we’re not leading, then one of two things is likely to happen: Either some other country tries to take our place, but not in a way that’s likely to advance our interests and values, or maybe just as bad, no one does, and then you have chaos,” Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. 

Blinken signaled that the Biden administration will focus heavily on countering Russia, Iran, and China on the global stage. He also said that the US will move to end support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, marking a major break from the policy of the Trump administration toward the kingdom. 

The incoming secretary of state is poised to take a drastically different approach to the job than his predecessor, Mike Pompeo, who frequently decried multilateralism and criticized international institutions like the United Nations. 

The Biden administration has already made big moves on the foreign policy front, with the president signing executive orders to return the US to the Paris climate accord and World Health Organization. Both Blinken and Biden have emphasized that tackling climate change will be a major priority in concert with rekindling key partnerships. 

“We can take on the existential threat posed by climate change. We can revitalize our core alliances, force multipliers of our influence around the world. Together, we are far better positioned to counter threats from Russia, Iran, North Korea, and to stand up for democracy and human rights,” Blinken said on January 19. “And in everything we do around the world, I believe that we can and we must ensure that our foreign policy is actually working to deliver for American working families, here at home.”

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