Biden promised a foreign policy centered on human rights, but is continuing Trump-era policies and practices

Biden
President Joe Biden

  • Biden is upholding Trump-era policies on issues like refugee admissions and arms sales.
  • Progressives and advocacy groups say Biden is violating his pledge to prioritize human rights.
  • AOC called Biden’s decision to uphold Trump’s refugee cap “completely and utterly unacceptable.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden promised that his foreign policy would mark a major departure from former President Donald Trump, pledging to put human rights and democracy at the center of his approach to global affairs. But on issues ranging from US relations with Gulf states to refugees, Biden is continuing many of Trump’s most divisive and controversial policies and practices – and both progressives in Congress and advocacy groups are not happy.

Trump repeatedly demonized refugees, painting them as a threat to the US, and his administration set the lowest ever cap on refugee admissions for the 2021 fiscal year. On the campaign trail and in the early weeks of his presidency, Biden vowed to reverse that trend and lambasted Trump over his xenophobic refugee policy.

“We used to allow refugees – 125,000 refugees in the United States in a yearly basis,” Biden said during a CNN town hall in February. “It was as high as 250,000. Trump cut it to 5,000. Come with me into Sierra Leone. Come with me into parts of Lebanon. Come with me around the world and see people piled up in camps, kids dying, no way out, refugees fleeing from persecution. We, the United States, used to do our part. We were part of that. We were – and, you know, that’s – you know, ‘send me your huddled masses.’ Come on.”

But the president is now walking back on a promise to open America’s doors to 62,500 refugees this fiscal year, and is keeping Trump’s historically low cap of 15,000 in place, per a directive the president issued on Friday.

Biden is also moving to speed up admissions and change the regional allocation of refugees, ending a Trump policy that effectively disqualified most refugees from African and Muslim-majority countries.

The president’s decision-making on this has seemingly been influenced by Republican criticism over his administration’s handling of a historic number of migrant arrivals at the US-Mexico border in recent months. GOP leaders have referred to the surge as a “crisis,” blaming it on by Biden’s more welcoming immigration messaging.

Human rights groups, refugee advocates, and some congressional Democrats ripped into Biden’s decision to retain Trump’s refugee cap.

“Completely and utterly unacceptable,” said Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. “Biden promised to welcome immigrants, and people voted for him based on that promise. Upholding the xenophobic and racist policies of the Trump admin, [including] the historically low + plummeted refugee cap, is flat out wrong. Keep your promise.”

Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington state said Biden has “broken his promise to restore our humanity.”

“This is incredibly disappointing. The U.S. is the most powerful nation in the world and we can’t do better?” Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, tweeted on Friday.

Joanne Lin, the National Director of Advocacy and Government Relations at Amnesty International, in a statement said Biden is “turning his back on tens of thousands of refugees around the world who have been approved to come to the United States.”

“Biden had the opportunity to fulfill his campaign pledge and to deliver on his promises to protect the rights of and well-being of refugees, to place human rights at the center of U.S. foreign policy, and to restore U.S. global leadership. He squandered that opportunity today,” Lin added.

Biden’s human rights problem

MBS Biden
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (L) and President Joe Biden (R.)

Beyond the decision on refugees, Biden already had a big week when it comes to foreign policy. The president announced he’s pulling all remaining US troops from Afghanistan by September 11, bringing an end to the longest conflict in US history. He slapped new sanctions on Russia and called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to deescalate tensions amid a massive troop buildup along Ukraine’s borders. Meanwhile, US officials participated in indirect talks with Iranian officials in Vienna aimed at restoring the Iran nuclear deal.

Less than 100 days into his presidency, Biden has already reversed or moved to roll-back many of Trump’s biggest foreign policy changes. But as evidenced by the decision on refugees, Biden is not pulling a complete 180 when it comes to international relations – and he’s facing growing accusations of talking big on human rights without fully backing it up.

On the campaign trail, Biden pledged to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. But Biden did not sanction Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over Khashoggi’s killing, even after the release of a declassified intelligence report directly implicating the Saudi leader in the brutal murder.

“It is extremely problematic, in my view, if not dangerous, to acknowledge someone’s culpability and then to tell that someone, ‘But we won’t do anything, please proceed as if have we have said nothing’,” Agnes Callamard, the new chief of Amnesty International who spearheaded a UN inquiry into Khashoggi’s killing, said of Biden.

More recently, Biden decided to move forward with a Trump era arms deal with the UAE involving the transfer of roughly $23 billion worth of advanced weaponry – including F-35s and drones. The UAE has played an intricate role in the devastating war in Yemen, where US-made bombs have been used in operations leading to civilian deaths.

In February, Biden announced he’s moving to end to US support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. Critics say this arms deal doesn’t exactly jive with that move and Biden’s broader promise to prioritize human rights.

Afrah Nasser, Yemen researcher at Human Rights Watch, said that Biden’s advancement of Trump’s arm deal with the UAE means his administration “has backed out of its pledge” on Yemen and warned the US now risks complicity in future human rights violations.

“Trying to understand how a massive arms sale to a repressive authoritarian government that bankrolled regional anti-democratic counterrevolutions, backs a Libyan warlord, and helped rubble Yemen (a partial list) strengthens a rules-based international order,” Matt Duss, foreign policy advisor to Sen. Bernie Sanders, said in a tweet.

Duss has praised Biden on other foreign policy moves, such as the president’s decision to tap Antony Blinken as Secretary of State. But his criticism of Biden on the UAE sale is emblematic of evolving discontentment among progressives and human rights groups when it comes to the president’s foreign policy.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Court docs reveal Saudi wealth fund courted by Hollywood and Wall Street owned planes used in Jamal Khashoggi’s killing

Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman protest
A demonstrator dressed as Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at a protest outside the Saudi Embassy in Washington, DC, October 8, 2018.

  • The Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, an enormous sovereign wealth fund, has major investments in many prominent US companies.
  • Court documents show that the fund also owns planes that were used to carry out the killing of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

This article was copublished by Responsible Statecraft and Insider.

In spring 2018, Silicon Valley, Hollywood, Wall Street, and major universities rolled out a red carpet for nearly three weeks to welcome Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to the United States.

During his trip, MBS met with Oprah Winfrey, Rupert Murdoch, Sergey Brin, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, and Bill Gates, among many others. The New York Times described the US tour as “seeking to change the perception of Saudi Arabia from an opaque and conservative kingdom, where mosques promote extremist ideology and women are relegated to second-class status, to a modernist desert oasis.”

But while MBS was the face of that effort, an enormous sovereign wealth fund – the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, or PIF – with about $400 billion in assets and expected to grow to $2 trillion, was the real draw for many of the tech, finance, and entertainment elites seeking photos and meetings with the 32-year-old heir to the Saudi throne.

Six months later, two planes owned by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund flew a team of assassins from Riyadh to Istanbul, where they murdered Washington Post columnist and Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate. The planes then flew the kill team back to Saudi Arabia.

At least one of those planes was operating inside the US as recently as October.

Mohammed bin Salman Silicon Valley 00002
Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, and Google cofounder Sergey Brin.

The role of PIF assets in the murder was made public in court documents filed in Canada as part of an embezzlement lawsuit brought by a number of Saudi-state owned companies against Saad Aljabri, a former top Saudi Intelligence official, who is currently in exile and previously claimed in a lawsuit filed in DC District Court that MBS attempted to send a kill team to murder him shortly after Khashoggi’s assassination.

Canadian court filings, first reported by CNN and later acquired and reviewed by Responsible Statecraft and Insider, reveal that Sky Prime Aviation was transferred to PIF on December 22, 2017. Two Gulfstream jets owned by Sky Prime Aviation shuttled Khashoggi’s assassins in and out of Istanbul less than one year after the transfer of Sky Prime Aviation to PIF.

“TOP SECRET NOT FOR CIRCULATION AND VERY URGENT” reads the top of the document that detailed the transfer of a group of companies, including Sky Prime Aviation, to the PIF.

The document directs:

“According to the instruction of His Highness the Crown Prince, Chairman of the Supreme Committee for Public Corruption Cases, to transfer the ownership of all companies referred to in my aforementioned letter to the ownership of the Public Investment Fund, immediately approve the completion of the necessary procedures for this.”

“Given the central role of the crown prince in terms of controlling Saudi Arabian assets and the government writ large, there needs to be an international independent investigation to identify what state assets were used in this gruesome murder,” said Kate Kizer, policy director for advocacy group Win Without War.

The release of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s report last week, which concluded that MBS approved of the operation to “capture or kill” Khashoggi, led to the implementation of Magnitsky Act sanctions against a former Saudi intelligence chief and members of the group who participated in the murder.

But ultimately the Biden administration chose not to sanction or otherwise penalize MBS directly, despite the ODNI’s assessment that he approved of the operation leading to Khashoggi’s death.

jamal khashoggi
Jamal Khashoggi at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 29, 2011.

“It’s a violation of Biden’s campaign promise hold the murderers of Khashoggi accountable,” said Michael Eisner, general counsel for Democracy in the Arab World Now, a group founded by Khashoggi shortly before his murder.

“We now know who ordered the murder, and he will not face the same consequences as his foot soldiers,” said Eisner. “That goes against a basic principle of justice that the person who orders a murder should face no less a severe punishment than the foot soldiers who carried it out.”

The Magnitsky Act can have far-reaching implications.

The Treasury Department describes it as being implemented “in recognition that the prevalence of human rights abuse and corruption that have their source, in whole or in substantial part, outside the United States, had reached such scope and gravity as to threaten the stability of international political and economic systems.”

“The United States seeks to impose tangible and significant consequences on those who commit serious human rights abuse or engage in corruption, as well as to protect the financial system of the United States from abuse by these same persons,” the Treasury says.

“The Biden administration should apply US Global Magnitsky Act sanctions and travel bans on senior executives at the PIF based on the use of PIF planes to move Jamal Khashoggi’s Saudi assassins between Saudi Arabia and Turkey,” said Sunjeev Bery, executive director of advocacy group Freedom Forward. “It’s ridiculous that on one hand the PIF is providing travel support for Khashoggi’s assassins while at the same time doing business deals with Uber and other companies in Silicon Valley.”

Trump Mohammad bin Salman
President Donald Trump highlights arms sales to Saudi Arabia during an Oval Office meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, March 20, 2018.

While the role of PIF assets wasn’t mentioned in the ODNI report or the sanctions announcement, MBS’s role as chairman of PIF and the use of PIF assets – the two Gulfstream jets – raises questions about the fund’s involvement in the assassination and the knowledge of other PIF executives about the operation to kidnap or kill Khashoggi.

PIF did not respond to a request for comment about the role its planes played in the murder and about what, if any, knowledge or involvement PIF had in approving or operating the flights to Istanbul.

PIF’s status as a heavily courted investor no doubt generates considerable incentives for authorities to keep discussion about the fund’s role in the killing as quiet as possible. Funds like PIF can purchase stock in any publicly traded company, and two weeks ago, PIF increased its investment in US stock to nearly $12.8 billion. The fund holds a $1.38 billion stake in Activision Blizzard, $3.7 billion in Uber, $1.06 billion in Electronic Arts, $923 million in Live Nation, and $1.1 billion in Carnival Cruise Lines.

Sky Prime Aviation, for its part, has taken measures to limit publicly accessible data about the ongoing flight activities of the airplanes used in the operation that killed Khashoggi. But, much like MBS and the PIF, their operations inside the US appear to continue without any meaningful limitations or consequences stemming from the killing.

RadarBox, a system that tracks flight data, shows one of the Gulfstream jets that was used to fly the kill team to Turkey in 2018 flying inside the US as recently as late last year. On October 13, the Gulfstream IV with tail number HZ-SK1 departed Boston and flew to Fort Lauderdale, arriving in the late afternoon. It was the same plane that ferried the second group of assassins from Riyadh to Istanbul.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Biden administration releases report on Khashoggi’s killing directly implicating Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

MBS
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has faced global condemnation over Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.

  • The Biden administration on Friday released a long-awaited report on Jamal Khashoggi’s killing.
  • The declassified intelligence report directly implicated Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
  • The Trump administration prioritized the US-Saudi relationship and refused to release the report.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The Biden administration on Friday released a declassified US intelligence report that explicitly implicated Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the brutal killing of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

“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,” said the report, provided by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

It added: “We base this assessment on the Crown Prince’s control of decisionmaking in the Kingdom, the direct involvement of a key adviser and members of Muhammad bin Salman’s protective detail in the operation, and the Crown Prince’s support for using violent measures to silence dissidents abroad, including Khashoggi.”

The report noted that Prince Mohammed since 2017 has had “absolute control” over the kingdom’s security and intelligence organizations, “making it highly unlikely that Saudi officials would have carried out an operation of this nature without the Crown Prince’s authorization.”

“The Crown Prince viewed Khashoggi as a threat to the Kingdom and broadly supported using violent measures if necessary to silence him,” the report said.

The intelligence assessment also named with “high confidence” 21 people who “participated in, ordered, or were otherwise complicit in or responsible for the death of Jamal Khashoggi on behalf of Muhammad bin Salman.” The report said, however, that it was unclear “whether these individuals knew in advance that the operation would result in Khashoggi’s death.”

The names included Saud al-Qahtani, formerly a close advisor to Prince Mohammed who’s been accused of directing the operation behind Khashoggi’s murder. Al-Qahtani was dismissed shortly after the killing.

FILE PHOTO: Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi speaks at an event hosted by Middle East Monitor in London, Britain, September 29, 2018. Middle East Monitor/Handout via REUTERS
Khashoggi at an event hosted by Middle East Monitor in London.

The Trump administration repeatedly defied congressional demands for an unclassified report identifying any current or former Saudi officials responsible for Khashoggi’s death in a Saudi Consulate.

The release of the declassified report on Friday is one sign of how President Joe Biden is drastically altering the dynamic with Riyadh. After Khashoggi’s killing, President Donald Trump defended Prince Mohammed and suggested that “maybe” the Saudi leader had no knowledge of the killing. “The world is a very dangerous place!” Trump said.

As part of this realignment, Biden in early February announced an end to US support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

‘A deliberate, premeditated execution’

In 2019, the UN released a report that also implicated the Saudi crown prince in Khashoggi’s killing, which it described as “a deliberate, premeditated execution, an extrajudicial killing for which the state of Saudi Arabia is responsible under international human rights law.”

Khashoggi, who once had close ties to the Saudi royal family, was killed and dismembered by agents of his own government in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. His remains have still not been found. Khashoggi had been lured to the consulate to pick up documents necessary to marry his fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, a Turkish citizen.

“Assessments of the recordings by intelligence officers in Turkey and other countries suggest that Mr. Khashoggi could have been injected with a sedative and then suffocated using a plastic bag,” the UN report said. Turkish officials have also said that Khashoggi’s body was dismembered with a bone saw.

A Washington Post columnist at the time of his killing, Khashoggi was often critical of the Saudi government.

Khashoggi’s gruesome killing prompted global outrage and sparked bipartisan calls for the US to reevaluate its relationship with Saudi Arabia. Democrats and Republicans alike explicitly accused Prince Mohammed of being behind Khashoggi’s death.

But Trump prioritized preserving the US-Saudi relationship and stood by Prince Mohammed, citing the importance of arms sales. He brushed off the CIA’s conclusion that the Saudi crown prince ordered Khashoggi’s killing.

Trump Saudis
President Donald Trump, holding a chart of military hardware sales, next to Prince Mohammed in the Oval Office on March 20, 2018.

Trump also rejected efforts from congressional lawmakers to end US support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, where a war has fostered the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Trump at one point boasted that he’d shielded Prince Mohammed from congressional retribution over Khashoggi’s killing, the veteran journalist Bob Woodward reported.

Biden snubs MBS as he recalibrates the US-Saudi relationship

The US-Saudi relationship has taken a sharp turn under Biden. Beyond releasing the Khashoggi report and moving to end US involvement in Yemen, the White House recently announced that Biden would speak with King Salman and not Prince Mohammed in official communications. This marked a major diplomatic rebuke of the Saudi crown prince, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, and underscored how serious Biden is about recalibration.

Biden spoke with King Salman for the first time as president on Thursday. A White House readout of the call said Biden “affirmed the importance the United States places on universal human rights and the rule of law.”

“Together they discussed regional security, including the renewed diplomatic efforts led by the United Nations and the United States to end the war in Yemen, and the U.S. commitment to help Saudi Arabia defend its territory as it faces attacks from Iranian-aligned groups,” the White House said.

The readout did not mention Khashoggi, and it wasn’t clear whether Biden brought up the Saudi journalist’s killing. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.

Following the release of the report on Friday, the Treasury Department unveiled sanctions on Gen. Ahmed al-Asiri, a former deputy head of the Saudi intelligence services, and the Saudi Rapid Intervention Force over their involvement in Khashoggi’s killing. No sanctions against Prince Mohammed were announced, even though the intelligence assessment said that he approved Khashoggi’s murder and that the RIF answered to him.

A senior administration official said the Biden administration was concerned that sanctioning the crown prince could “rupture” the US-Saudi relationship, Reuters reported.

Read the full ODNI report:

Read the original article on Business Insider

Biden spoke with Saudi King Salman for the first time, but didn’t say if they discussed Khashoggi’s murder

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.

  • Biden spoke with Saudi King Salman for the first time, but it’s unclear if he mentioned Khashoggi.
  • The call came ahead of the release of a US intelligence report on Khashoggi’s murder.
  • The report was expected to implicate Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

President Joe Biden spoke with King Salman of Saudi Arabia for the first time on Thursday, ahead of the public release of a highly anticipated declassified US intelligence report on the murder of Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. 

The report was expected to implicate Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Khashoggi’s killing. 

Biden in his conversation with King Salman “affirmed the importance the United States places on universal human rights and the rule of law,” a White House readout of the call said.

But the readout made no mention of Khashoggi or his brutal killing, and it’s unclear if Biden discussed the Saudi journalist’s murder with King Salman. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The fact Biden spoke with King Salman, who is 85 and reportedly in poor health, instead of Prince Mohammed is directly linked to the ongoing fallout over Khashoggi’s killing. 

The Saudi crown prince, colloquially known as “MBS,” is the kingdom’s de facto ruler. But as the Biden administration prioritizes recalibrating the US-Saudi relationship, the White House has made a point to state that the president will speak directly to King Salman and not Prince Mohammed.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki earlier this month said that King Salman – not the crown prince – was Biden’s proper “counterpart” in Saudi Arabia. This marked a major diplomatic snub of the crown prince. 

That said, Prince Mohammed, who is also the Saudi defense minister, spoke to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin last week. “That’s the appropriate line of communication,” Psaki told reporters on Wednesday of the conversation between Prince Mohammed and Austin.

Prince Mohammed has been widely accused of orchestrating Khashoggi’s death, which occurred at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. Khashoggi was lured to the consulate – where he sought documents to marry his Turkish fiance – killed by agents of the Saudi government, and dismembered. His remains have never been located. 

Trump Saudis
President Donald Trump holds a chart of military hardware sales as he welcomes Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, March 20, 2018.

Not long after Khashoggi’s murder, media reports circulated that the CIA concluded Prince Mohammed ordered the killing. A subsequent report from the UN also implicated Prince Mohammed.

Khashoggi’s murder sparked outrage worldwide, and led to bipartisan calls in Washington for the US to reassess its relationship with the Saudis.

Democrats and Republicans alike pushed for the US to end support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, where a devastating war has led to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

But then-President Donald Trump threw cold water on these efforts. Trump prioritized the US-Saudi partnership, touting US arms sales to the kingdom, and controversially stood by the crown prince.

During his presidential campaign, Biden signaled that his approach to the dynamic between Riyadh and Washington would represent a drastic shift from Trump’s. Biden in early February announced an end to US support for the Saudis in the Yemen conflict. But his administration has emphasized that the US is still committed to helping the Saudis with its security. The US has long viewed Saudi Arabia as an important buffer against Iran, which both countries view as a threat. 

Along these lines, the White House on Thursday said Biden and King Salman “discussed regional security, including the renewed diplomatic efforts led by the United Nations and the United States to end the war in Yemen, and the US commitment to help Saudi Arabia defend its territory as it faces attacks from Iranian-aligned groups.” 

“The President told King Salman he would work to make the bilateral relationship as strong and transparent as possible,” the White House added. “The two leaders affirmed the historic nature of the relationship and agreed to work together on mutual issues of concern and interest.”

Read the original article on Business Insider