RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA – DECEMBER 10: (—- ONLY OBLIGATORY USE CREDIT – “BANDAR ALGALOUD / SAUDI-KÖNIGREICH-RAT / HANDOUT” – NO MARKETING, NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS – DISTRIBUTED TO CUSTOMERS Attended the 40th Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 10, 2019 (Photo by Bandar Algaloud / Saudi Kingdom Council / Handout / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON – The White House on Sunday defended its decision not to target Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after a U.S. intelligence report linked the king to the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
“Historically, and even in recent history, the Democratic and Republican governments, sanctions have not been imposed on the leaders of foreign governments when we have diplomatic relations, even when we do not have diplomatic relations,” said Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, said during an interview on CNN’s State of the Union program.
“We believe there are more effective ways to make sure this doesn’t happen again and to leave room to work with the Saudis in areas where there is mutual agreement,” said Psaki.
“This is what diplomacy looks like. This is what a complicated global engagement looks like and we made no secret of it and we knew we were going to hold them accountable on the global stage,” said Psaki, adding that the government have done so steps by the Treasury Department and the Foreign Department.
As he ran for president, Joe Biden said he would hold senior Saudi leaders accountable for Khashoggi’s death and describe the kingdom’s leadership as a “pariah” with “very little social salvation value”.
On Friday, the Treasury Department imposed sanctions on the Crown Prince’s security detail known as the Rapid Intervention Force. It also sanctioned the former Deputy Chief of the Kingdom’s Intelligence Service, Ahmad Hassan Mohammed al-Asiri, who is accused of being a leader of the conspiracy.
Meanwhile, the State Department has imposed visa restrictions on 76 Saudi individuals “believed to threaten dissidents overseas, including but not limited to the killing of Khashoggi”.
Khashoggi, a 59-year-old American and well-known critic of the Saudi royal family, went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018. He never reappeared after the planned appointment. He was killed in the Saudi government building and later dismembered. His remains were never recovered.
A man holds a placard by Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a protest organized by members of the Turkish-Arab media association at the entrance to the Saudi Arabian consulate on October 8, 2018 in Istanbul, Turkey.
Chris McGrath | Getty Images News | Getty Images
When asked if the Biden administration would take further action, Psaki said the United States would recalibrate its relations with Saudi Arabia after the Trump administration.
Earlier this month, Biden announced the end of US support for offensive operations in Yemen. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been carrying out attacks against the Houthis in Yemen since March 2015. The Saudi-led intervention in Yemen was previously supported by the administration of former President Donald Trump. And last month, Biden stopped selling precision-guided ammunition to Saudi Arabia to assess possible human rights violations.
During the campaign, then-Vice-President Biden criticized then-President Donald Trump’s refusal to deal with the kingdom’s human rights abuses and willingness to sell more American-made weapons to the royals.
“I would make it very clear that we are not going to sell them any more weapons, we would actually get them to pay the price,” said Biden during a democratic presidential debate. “You need to be held accountable,” he added.
Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich monarchy is one of America’s most strategic partners and a major promoter of US defense companies. The Saudis are the main buyer of US-made weapons, a title that has protected the kingdom from retaliation for the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the Saudi Arabia-waged war in Yemen.
Despite reports that Saudi Arabia was behind the attack, Trump said in a long statement that the United States would stand by Saudi Arabia.
US President Donald Trump looks over at Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammad bin Salman al-Saud, as they speak out for the on the opening day of the 2018 Argentine G20 Summit on the Costa Salguero on November 30, 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina Put on family photo.
Daniel Jayo | Getty Images
During his presidency, Trump frequently referred to the importance of America’s relations with Saudi Arabia and repeatedly urged the approval of significant economic or political ramifications for the human rights abuses in Riyadh.
Trump has also previously said that the U.S. defense industry would be negatively impacted if his administration sanctioned the Saudis for the Khashoggi murder.
“I’m telling you what I don’t want to do,” Trump told CBS ‘”60 Minutes” when asked if he could possibly block arms sales to Riyadh. “Boeing, Lockheed, Raytheon, all of that [companies]. I don’t want to hurt any jobs. I don’t want to lose such a job. There are other ways to punish using a word that is a pretty harsh word, but it’s true, “he said a month after Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Continue reading: Arms sales restrictions in Saudi Arabia would likely have limited impact on U.S. defense companies, Cowen says
The Biden administration previously announced it would review US relations with Saudi Arabia, and unlike the previous administration, the 35-year-old king is not seen as the president’s counterpart. Instead, Biden and the relations through the Crown Prince’s aging father, King Salman, and Foreign Minister Antony Blinken will conduct relations through the Foreign Minister.