Opinion: What Biden has to achieve if MBS is to reconcile

Now President Biden isn’t so sure. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Biden had sent CIA Director William Burns encounter and explore fence repair with the reckless and ruthless crown prince. And there have been reports in recent months that Biden’s advisers he was considering a presidential visit to Saudi Arabia this spring. In light of the reports that Biden is considering a trip to Israel and perhaps to the region, the President should resist the temptation and slow any reconciliation. If there is an apology to excuse, he lets the Saudis take the first step and make sure their results are sufficient to justify a reconciliation.
It is easy to see how it can be argued that the time has come to move beyond the Khashoggi murder, kissing and putting on makeup. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has disrupted the oil market and created severe supply shortages. And the only big one available save production capacity it’s in the Gulf.
Furthermore, the Saudis are looking for a way out of the disastrous war in Yemen and last month they removed one of the biggest obstacles to progress towards a deal by forcing alleged Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. resign in favor of a presidential council. And what better way to strengthen and expand the Agreements of Abraham rather than approaching the Saudis in an attempt to persuade them to take another step towards Israel.

Finally, at a time when Iranian nuclear negotiations have stalled, what better way to increase the pressure on Tehran than to welcome Saudi Arabia (and MBS) back into the fold. Indeed, add some security guarantees that presuppose both Saudi and Emirati concerns over US complacency in the wake of Iranian-backed Houthis attacks and a dream reconciliation would be complete.

Not so nearly. The strong tensions between the United States and Saudi Arabia did not happen overnight; nor will they somehow magically be dealt with by the throat sugar the Donald Trump administration created by pampering MBS and meddling for him on human rights abuses, the war in Yemen and the murder of Khashoggi. If the Saudis take reconciliation seriously, they should be willing to accept US concerns, and it is by no means certain that they are.

On increasing oil production, which the United States has pushed them to do, the answer so far seems to be no. The Saudis may increase production, but appear reluctant to break the deal with the 13-member Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and nine other non-OPEC members to increase production only 400,000 barrels a day every month. The Saudis are covering up; they do not want to break ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin and in the long run they see the United States as an oil-producing competitor.
In March MBS he reportedly refused to answer a call from Biden. Indeed, the Saudis they are also courting the Chinese, one of the main consumers of Saudi oil.
On Khashoggi’s murder, Biden faces a serious personal credibility problem. In February, when asked if Biden had stayed true to his comments about Saudi Arabia as a pariah state whose leadership has little redeeming social value, White House press secretary Jen Psaki he said he did.

If Biden agreed to end his de facto boycott of MBS without the Crown Prince taking responsibility for the gruesome murder, the president’s entire commitment to reintegrating values ​​and human rights into US foreign policy would be undermined.

At a time when the Biden administration is fighting to defend democracy in Ukraine, it is embarrassing to reconcile with the leader of a country that represses its citizens. Like the State Department Human Rights Report for Saudi Arabia noticed: “Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: executions for non-violent crimes; enforced disappearances; torture and cases of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners and detainees by government agents; harsh and dangerous prison conditions for life; arbitrary arrest and detention; political prisoners or detainees; harassment and intimidation against Saudi dissidents living abroad “.

There is no doubt that Saudi Arabia is moving closer to Israel; and it is likely that if MBS were now king, he would be willing to take bolder steps than his father, the current king who is much more of a traditionalist committed to the Palestinian question.

MBS he said notably that he regards Israel as a “potentially”. Yet despite all the benefits and attention the Trump administration has reserved for Saudi Arabia, caution has prevailed over recognizing Israel and adhering to the Abraham Accords. And clearly given The mood of MBS (he told Atlantic he didn’t care what Biden thought of him), it is doubtful that anything the Biden administration could do would force the Saudis now to fully recognize Israel.

The relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia has always been transactional. And this is how Biden should deal with any reconciliation, careful to ensure that not only America’s interests and credibility are protected, but his as well. If the Saudis want to come in from the cold, he lets them identify the key findings on oil, Khashoggi and Yemen. And whatever security guarantees they want in return should be reasonable and not bind the United States to the policies of a ruthless and reckless authoritarian who may want to involve the United States in a war with its archenemy Iran.

Biden probably already knows that under MBS, at best, Saudi Arabia risks remaining an unpredictable partner whose interests occasionally align with American ones but whose values ​​never do.