The Times reports that the Biden admin will not hold Mohammed bin Salman personally accountable for murdering a U.S. resident journalist who was employed by The Post:
WASHINGTON — President Biden has decided that the price of directly penalizing Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, is too high, according to senior administration officials, despite a detailed American intelligence finding that he directly approved the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, the dissident and Washington Post columnist who was drugged and dismembered in October 2018.
The decision by Mr. Biden, who during the 2020 campaign called Saudi Arabia a “pariah” state with “no redeeming social value,” came after weeks of debate in which his newly formed national security team advised him that there was no way to formally bar the heir to the Saudi crown from entering the United States, or to weigh criminal charges against him, without breaching the relationship with one of America’s key Arab allies.
Officials said a consensus developed inside the White House that the price of that breach, in Saudi cooperation on counterterrorism and in confronting Iran, was simply too high.
We’ll see; the report just came out. Also, can’t the U.S. bar any noncitizen it wants from entering the country, maybe with an exception for U.N. business? I don’t know, but that statement needs clarification. Anyway, Rep. Adam Schiff released this statement today:
“For years, the House and Senate have pressed for this measure of accountability, and I’m grateful to President Biden and Director of National Intelligence Haines for making this report public as we requested.
“The highest levels of the Saudi government, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, are culpable in the murder of journalist and American resident Jamal Khashoggi, and there is no escaping that stark truth laid bare in the Intelligence Community’s long overdue public assessment. It should not have taken this long for the United States to publicly share what we knew about the brutal murder of a U.S. resident and journalist, and this report underscores why Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s repeated claims that he was either unknowing or uninvolved in this heinous crime are in no way credible.
“As the Crown Prince continues to demonstrate no remorse for his actions and to shield senior Saudi officials from accountability for their role in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi, the Biden Administration will need to follow this attribution of responsibility with serious repercussions against all of the responsible parties it has identified, and also reassess our relationship with Saudi Arabia. We must ensure that if foreign governments target journalists simply for doing their jobs, they are not immune to serious repercussions and sanctions, because restoring confidence in American leadership requires we act in accordance with the values that have long set America apart.
“The Administration should take further steps to diminish the United States’ reliance on Riyadh and reinforce that our partnership with the Kingdom is a not a blank check.”
Amen to all of that. Saudi Arabia is a horrifying autocracy, but since I didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday, I know realpolitik is a thing and understand (while not necessarily approving) why American presidents have coddled Saudi autocrats for generations. And further, for all its lofty rhetoric about democracy and human rights, the U.S. often acts as a global crime syndicate its own damn self, so there’s that. But Bone Saw shouldn’t skate. I think Froomkin is right here:
What WH reporters should be saying: Absent a plausible public explanation for why punishment does not extend to MBS personally, it is evident that in this case concerns about geopolitical stability and domestic politics outweighed the commitment to human rights and press freedom.
— Dan Froomkin/PressWatchers.org (@froomkin) February 26, 2021
What do you think?