MBS gets away with Murder while Biden goes Beyond Trump's Commitment in Defending some Saudi and Gulf Countries
By: John Mason / Arab America Contributing Writer
Disturbingly, President Biden is following ex-president Trump’s path. First, he is overlooking MBS’ part in the brutal murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Second, he intends to commit American soldiers’ lives to defend some Gulf countries. Here, we report on these gross inconsistencies in U.S. policy towards Saudi Arabia and the Region.
As his visit to Saudi Arabia unfolds, Biden puts business over principle in support of MBS
The Ukraine war has overtaken America’s principled foreign policy. It’s all about the world’s increased need for oil. Biden is visiting Saudi Arabia next month as the world craves lower gas prices. He had vowed to recalibrate U.S. policy towards Saudi in the twixt of Khashoggi’s murder but now struggles to keep that promise.
Biden’s vow to punish Saudi, according to Business Insider, following “years of President Donald Trump shielding Riyadh and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from punishment over the brutal murder…” He even threatened to make Saudi a “pariah on the global stage and pledged to pursue a foreign policy centered on human rights.” Biden also threatened an end to U.S. help in the Saudi-led coalition of the Yemen conflict.
In reversing these policies toward Saudi, Biden hopes to reduce the negative impacts of the U.S.-European embargo on Russian oil. The hope is for Saudi and its partner Gulf producers to increase production. That would help to lessen the effect of global sanctions against Russia on global markets. Biden’s endgame is to reduce gas prices—and ultimately create a more positive election environment for his continued political career.
Biden on track to repeat Trump’s Middle East failures, thus sidestepping traditional U.S. Palestinian interests
Ironic and intolerable as it seems, it is rumored that Biden seeks to expand a key Trump-Kushner initiative. According to an MSNBC Opinion, it was the Abraham Accords, “which normalized diplomatic relations between Israel and Bahrain and the UAE.” Biden now wants to draw Saudi into a parallel agreement with Israel. (Since this is based on an MSNBC opinion, its accuracy has not been confirmed.)
Such an agreement requires Saudi’s recognition of Israel. Previously, this would have been a very far reach. But now Biden offers, in exchange, a security pact with the Kingdom and the Gulf States. However, such a pact would additionally ensure U.S. security to the autocratic regimes in Saudi and the United Arab Emirates. That is a step even beyond the Abraham Accords.
We recall, Biden promised to split with Trump’s Middle East policy. He would bring home U.S. troops from that war-torn region. He would make Saudi a pariah, end the Yemen war and renew the Iran nuclear pact. This new deal would toss aside all these principled intentions.
Furthermore, MSNBC offered a frightening opinion about Biden’s calculation. It stated, “In reality, he is making a much more sinister and dangerous calculation than most realize: He is reportedly planning to offer the dictators in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — where all but two of the 9/11 terrorists came from — a defense pact that commits American lives to defend their regimes. What could go right?”
A huge stretch for U.S. to defend Saudi and Gulf Arab Dictatorships
It seems to absolve MBS of his grisly elimination of Jamal Khashoggi is far less reprehensible than defending Gulf dictatorships. As MSNBC put it, “Committing American lives to defend these Arab dictatorships is far more scandalous than an embarrassing presidential handshake with MBS.”
Further, per MSNBC, Biden isn’t just forgiving MBS. The President himself stated, “this Middle East trip is about regional security — and that of Israel in particular.” Biden said that commitments to Saudi had nothing to do with energy. Rather, it concerns, according to an Emirati source, what would be a “binding strategic defense cooperation pact.” Such a pact would go beyond anything the U.S. has agreed to in the region before.”
Some reporting suggests that Saudi Arabia wants assurances that the U.S. would “retain a significant military presence in the region to help Saudi Arabia address the threats it faces from Iran.” Saudi also wants the U.S. to continue to take its side against Iran forces in Yemen. A U.S. commitment to place American lives at the service of Saudi and Gulf dictators is a bridge too far for some critics.
Biden’s upcoming visit to the Middle East involves several complexities. New arms sales to Saudi and Gulf nations in addition to Israel would complicate any Iran deal on nuclear arms. Iran’s return to the Obama-era nuclear deal would mean delisting Iran’s Revolutionary Guard from the U.S. terrorist list. That would, in turn, inflame both Israel and Saudi.
On the other hand, the entire U.S. arrangement with the Gulf nations and Saudi would amount to “all give and no take.” Diplomatic relations between Israel and Saudi would not further peace in the region. This is especially so because it leaves out the Palestine question completely. As can already be seen, the Abraham Accords between several Arab countries and Israel have not affected peace with the Palestinians. Rather, the Accords represent an agreement to increase commerce with each other.
Kushner and company had no intention the Accords would result in peace. Rather, as he proudly stated at the time, their purpose is to “move beyond the Arab-Israeli conflict.” It would not be good U.S. policy for Biden to build on the Trump-Kushner pact to just do business deals.
Biden’s visit could be the final blow to any hope for a Palestinian peace arrangement. He has not asked Israel for any compromises on its continuing oppression of the occupied Palestinians. In fact, since the Abraham Accords were signed, Israel has advanced its annexation of Palestinian territory. This is a bad deal for the U.S. And it totally contradicts Biden’s campaign promises to the Palestinians. It sadly comes down to votes for his reelection.
“Biden’s Saudi Arabia trip shows MBS got away with murder as the Ukraine war forces him to put business over principles, experts say,” Business Insider, 6/14/2022
Opinion: “In the Middle East Biden walks in Trump’s footsteps and will repeat his failure: Committing American lives to defend dictatorships is far more scandalous than engaging with MBS,” MSNBC, Trita Parsi, 6/18/2022
John Mason, PhD., who focuses on Arab culture, society, and history, is the author of LEFT-HANDED IN AN ISLAMIC WORLD: An Anthropologist’s Journey into the Middle East, New Academia Publishing, 2017. He has taught at the University of Libya, Benghazi, Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, and the American University in Cairo; John served with the United Nations in Tripoli, Libya, and consulted extensively on socioeconomic and political development for USAID and the World Bank in 65 countries.
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