On March 17th, US President Joe Biden said that there would be no sanctions on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, despite evidence pointing that he orchestrated Jamal Khashoggi’s killing.
In Biden’s interview for ABC News, George Stephanopoulos asked him what his position was towards various world leaders.
Biden said that Russian President Vladimir Putin was “a killer” and he would continue to antagonize him and exert even more pressure.
Regarding Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, however, he said that since the Kingdom is allied, nothing would come of his involvement in Khashoggi’s killing.
“You said during the campaign that you would personally punish the Saudi leaders if they were found to be responsible for this death of Khashoggi. They were found to be responsible. Mohammad bin Salman — Salman was found to be responsible. He was found to have acknol — authorized it. Yet, you didn’t personally sanction him,” the interviewer asked.
And then Biden explained his point of view, and the hypocrisy of the entire US policy.
“Three things. One, I’m the guy that released the report. That report had been done for a while. It wasn’t released. I insisted it be released, number one. Number two, when I spoke to the king, I made it clear to the king — the king, his father, that things were gonna change. And I insisted on several things. Number one, we held accountable all the people in that organization –
Not the crown prince because we have never, that I’m aware of, when we have an alliance with a country, gone to the acting head of state and punished that person. And — and — ostracized him. But here’s the deal. We said, number one, end the war in Yemen. End the starvation there.
Number two — and I went down the list of the things we expected the Saudis to do. And they’re in the process of doing those things. And if they don’t, we’re gonna — it’s a changed relationship. It’s a changed relationship we have with Saudi Arabia. There’s no blank check.”
And he basically gave an unclear answer, but still explained that the Saudi crown prince is safe, and he is not being sanctioned, persecuted or anything, since a US ally can do as they please.
The United States has no treaty binding itself with Saudi Arabia, and the kingdom is not one of the Arab countries designated as a major non-NATO ally. The US often refers to the kingdom as a strategic partner because of its oil production, its status as a regional counterbalance to Iran and its counterterrorism cooperation.
The US recognizes that serving heads of state or governments should be granted immunity from prosecution under international law. But Prince Mohammed’s father, King Salman, remains the titular head of state of Saudi Arabia, and the US has never officially granted immunity to an “acting head of state.”
Plus, they are exempt of sanctions and pressure, only, if they are allied to the US.
Furthermore, Biden’s inaction against the prince was a turnabout from his campaign, when Biden spoke scathingly of the royal family and said he wanted to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” for the killing and other abuses.
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