Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, told CNBC’s The News with Shepard Smith that President Joe Biden would not make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” as it would mean US economic and military ties to interrupt the Saudis.
“The global economy still needs this Saudi oil, even if we don’t need it here in the US per se, and the Saudis need our military protection, and we don’t want them to lose a war against Iran,” said O’Hanlon explained during an interview on Thursday evening. “We will not turn the Saudis into a pariah nation if you hear North Korea or Iran itself or some other extremist government with that word.”
In 2018, NBC News learned that the CIA concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) commanded the hit squad that lured Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, killing him and his body cut into pieces. In November 2019, Biden promised to make the Saudis “pay” for the killing of Khashoggi during a democratic debate.
“We really wanted to get them to pay the price and actually make them the pariah they are,” Biden said.
O’Hanlon stated that the US-Saudi Arabia relationship passed previous tests, including the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
“This is, after all, a relationship that will last until September 11th, when we know the Saudis tolerated the Wahhabi tribe of Islam and an approach to preaching in many of its mosques that actually motivated many kidnappers and other extremists, but need the two sides.” each other, “said the foreign policy expert.
Joel Rubin, former deputy assistant secretary of state in the Obama-Biden administration and executive director of the American Jewish Congress, told The News with Shepard Smith that Biden understands that US-Saudi relations are “too important” to be lost .
“Biden will work to maintain that bond strategically, with the due respect an ally deserves nearly eight decades,” said Rubin. “But it is also very likely that he will share the nature of concern about Saudi activities in Yemen, human rights and the Khashoggi assassination that have motivated him to label Saudi Arabia a ‘pariah’ on the path of the presidential campaign . “
The White House confirmed that President Joe Biden was speaking to Saudi Arabian King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud as he prepares to declassify and publish a U.S. intelligence review that reportedly the king’s son, MBS, was in will involve the brutal murder of Khashoggi.
O’Hanlon told host Shepard Smith that Biden’s call to King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud was a form of “symbolic setback” instead of speaking to MBS. However, due to the age of the king, he remarked: “The king cannot last that long, so he has to figure out how to still deal with Mohammed bin Salman.”
Rubin warned that it would be very difficult for the US to have direct diplomatic relations with MBS.
“With the publication of the intelligence report on his culpability in the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, Congress will only increase bipartisan pressure to block US involvement with him, his assets and the institutions he controls,” said Rubin. “This is just the beginning of the tough questions, and now that Donald Trump is no longer president, he won’t have anyone in the White House to protect him.”
The former president refused to publish the intelligence report and publicly sowed doubts that MBS or the Saudis were involved in Khashoggi’s murder. Trump praised the arms sales between the two countries. In 2018, he even held up a card in the Oval Office listing the billions of dollars in military hardware the Saudi government was planning to buy.
O’Hanlon told Smith that the “symbolic price” against MBS should be as high as possible.
“I would try to treat him personally like a persona non grata,” said O’Hanlon. “He’s the type of guy who likes to rub his elbows in the corridors of power and the high economy of finance, and I think we should at least withhold that from him.”