What is important is how the United States government is now preparing to respond.
The Trump administration has blocked the report from being released, in addition to opposing any attempts to punish or marginalize the Saudi monarchy, which is one of the world’s largest clients of US arms contractors. Saudi Arabia has denied any involvement of the crown prince.
In exchange, the Biden administration pledged to “recalibrate” relations. But Foreign Minister Anthony Blinken said on Friday that the United States would not impose any direct punishment on the Saudi king. Biden’s stated calculations were that Muhammad – the country’s 35-year-old de facto leader – was so valuable to the strategic interests of the United States that it did not risk losing as an ally.
Here’s a look at what the Biden administration has done – and has not done – so far after the Khashoggi report.
What is the “Khashoggi prevention”?
On Friday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs revealed, “Banning Khashoggi, “Directive denying entry visas to the United States to“ individuals who, acting on behalf of a foreign government, are believed to have directly participated in serious extraterritorial counter-dissident activities. ”
Blinken said 76 Saudi citizens would be banned as a result. However, the policy can be applied to situations of human rights violations throughout the world.
In addition, the Treasury Department imposed sanctions on an aide close to Muhammad: Ahmed Al-Asiri, deputy chief of Saudi intelligence. Saudi prosecutors implicated Asiri in the plot to kill Khashoggi, but he was He was acquitted in a closed trial, Alongside Saud Al-Qahtani is a powerful royal media advisor. (Sentenced eight others).
Crown Prince Al-Asiri was sacked just weeks after Khashoggi’s disappearance as initial international pressure built.
Why was the crown prince not punished?
Human rights groups, as well as some Democratic lawmakers in the United States, have called for Biden to punish MBS.
Senator Ron Wyden (Democrat, Oregon), who drafted the legislation that binds the Saudi government, said that the crown prince “should suffer sanctions, including financial, travel and legal sanctions – and the Saudi government should suffer dire consequences as long as he remains in government.” . Issue the report.
But the Biden team has made it clear that they will not go that far, at least for now.
“The relationship with Saudi Arabia is greater than any individual,” Blinken told reporters on Friday.
A senior US administration official told reporters on Friday that the United States “in practice has generally not applied sanctions to the senior leadership” when diplomatic relations are already in place. The Washington Post previously reported. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity under the rules laid down by the White House, added that the administration “has looked at this matter very closely, over the past five weeks or so” and unanimously concluded that “there is another, more effective way to deal with this persistence.” the problems “.
Washington has imposed sanctions on other world leaders, including North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko; Nicolas Maduro from Venezuela; Bashar al-Assad. And the late Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.
On Saturday, Biden responded to a question from a White House reporter about whether he plans to specifically punish the Saudi crown prince after the Khashoggi report.
The president replied, “There will be an announcement on Monday about what we will do with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in general.”
What other policy changes has Biden made?
Biden made his first call as president of Saudi Arabia on Thursday – only with the 85-year-old King Salman. Neither side said whether they discussed the Khashoggi case.
Going forward, the Biden administration said it would deal with the crown prince only in his capacity as Saudi Arabia’s defense minister. Conversely, Jared Kushner, an advisor to President Donald Trump and son-in-law, will reportedly be communicating directly with Muhammad.
The Biden administration said it has no plans to invite the crown prince to the United States. He last visited in March 2018 and met Trump in the Oval Office.
Biden has spoken out more forcefully against human rights violations and political repression in Saudi Arabia and the Saudi-led war in Yemen, which is currently facing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Biden has stopped selling offensive weapons for use in the Yemen war and temporarily halted all other arms sales to Saudi Arabia while conducting a review of their impact.
Seung Min Kim contributed to the reporting