President Joe Biden’s administration has determined that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is immune in the case brought by the fiancée of slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi. This decision has caused outrage among many who question why America remains loyal in all situations to not only Saudi Arabia but to Israel and Iran. Is it all about oil and secrets?
According to the White House, the Biden administration has determined that bin Salman should be granted immunity in a case brought against him by the fiancée of Washington Post journalist Khashoggi, whom the administration has said was murdered at the prince’s direction.
“Mohammed bin Salman, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is the sitting head of government and, accordingly, is immune from this suit,” the filing reads, while calling the murder “heinous.”
Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi’s fiancée, filed the lawsuit against bin Salman and 28 others in October 2020 in the Washington, DC, Federal District Court. The lawsuit alleges that the team of assassins “kidnapped, bound, drugged, tortured, and assassinated” Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and then dismembered his body. His remains have still not been found, CNN reported.
Cengiz also tweeted, “Biden saved the murderer by granting immunity. He saved the criminal and got involved in the crime himself. Let’s see who will save you in the hereafter?”
The backlash has begun. In a statement on Friday, Fred Ryan, the publisher and CEO of The Washington Post, slammed the decision.
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“President Biden is failing to uphold America’s most cherished values. He is granting a license to kill to one of the world’s most egregious human-rights abusers who is responsible for the cold-blooded murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist. While legitimate heads of government should be protected against frivolous lawsuits, the Saudis’ decision to make MBS prime minister was a cynical, calculated effort to manipulate the law and shield him from accountability. By going along with this scheme, President Biden is turning his back on fundamental principles of press freedom and equality. The American people – and those wronged by MBS in Saudi Arabia and around the world – deserve better,” Ryan said.
While there is outrage, the Biden decision seems par for the course for U.S relations not on with Saudi Arabia, but also with Israel and Iran. The main factor for the U.S. to stay on the good sides of these countries, some argue, is oil.
In an opinion piece for USA Today, writers Amy Nakamura and Chelsey Cox gave their opinion as to why Israel-Saudi Arabia relations are so important to the U.S.
“Israel and Saudi Arabia are increasingly aligned in their opposition to Iran – an arch-rival and growing nuclear threat – among other hot-button global issues. And while the establishment of formal diplomatic ties is not expected, the trip could begin to lay the groundwork for what would be an historic rapprochement,” they wrote.
So why does it matters to the U.S? “The United States would benefit from a more stable Middle East, particularly when so much is going on in the rest of the world. Biden had hoped to focus on the economic and military threat posed by China, which is becoming increasingly aggressive in the South China Sea,” Nakamura and Cox wrote.
The relationship between all of these countries are complex, and in some cases secretive. Saudi Arabia has long conducted clandestine cooperation with Israel to fight against mutual enemies, Brookings Institution reported. This started back in the early 1960s, when both supported the Royalists in Yemen against the Egyptian and Sana’a’s Soviet-backed Republican government, Foreign Policy reported.
When Biden was elected he vowed to be tougher on Saudi Arabia but failed to follow through. While the U.S. is working to become “energy independent,” some thought this would give the U.S. leverage to have a hard line with the Saudi government. But the U.S. had also become the world’s largest producer of oil and Russia’s war in Ukraine exasperated the situation.
While alternative energy sources could eventually lessen the U.S.’s dependency on Saudi oil, that will be in the coming decades.
Every U.S. president has had to play nice with Saudi Arabia. President Barack Obama, despite objections of many, didn’t want 9/11 families to Saudi Arabia and its links to the 9/11 hijackers.
“Our government still puts its relationship with the Saudis first. That’s reprehensible and reason to wonder whether the U.S. is even the dominant partner,” wrote Terry Strada in an opinion piece for USA Today. Strada’s husband, Tom, died in the World Trade Center’s North Tower in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends the APEC Leader’s Informal Dialogue with Guests during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation APEC summit, Nov. 18, 2022, in Bangkok, Thailand. (Athit Perawongmetha/Pool Photo via AP)