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Opinion: Biden and the Saudi Crown Prince rehab project

Opinion: Biden and the Saudi Crown Prince rehab project

Unfortunately for Biden and the human rights community, much of the world doesn’t seem to agree.

Since the 2018 murder and dismemberment of Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, the rehabilitation of MBS has been well underway.
The Biden administration did release a CIA assessment that MBS ordered the murder and the US applied sanctions on a number of Saudi officials. Saudi Arabia’s own trial of several Saudis involved in the murder reinforced the narrative that the plotters were rogue elements not connected to the Crown Prince. And Turkey conducted a trial of 26 Saudi suspects all tried in abstentia.
But paving the way for a MBS visit to Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan approved the transfer of the trial to Saudi Arabia, which effectively closed the case.
On Wednesday, MBS met with Erdogan, one of the biggest critics of Saudi involvement in the Khashoggi murder. Driven by oil interests and a desire to broaden its diplomatic options and reach, Saudi relations with Russia and China (no human rights issues there) are closer than ever.
Next month MBS will take his most important step in from the cold when he hosts a clearly conflicted Biden. It’s evident that much of the international community has clearly decided that, unlike the Lehman Brothers, their relationships with Saudi Arabia are too big to fail.
It’s not as if there was a great deal of resistance to the MBS rehab project. Within a year of Khashoggi’s murder, presidents, prime ministers and business leaders were flocking to Saudi Arabia for the country’s Davos in the Desert investment summit. Several VIPs who had pulled out of the 2018 summit returned the next year, including the heads of HSBC, Blackstone and BlackRock. And in December 2019, Saudi Arabia became president of the G20 with the summit being held there, albeit virtually in November 2020 because of the pandemic.
Saudi Arabia also found very willing partners in Russia and China. At the G20 in Argentina in December 2018, a month after Khashoggi’s murder, Russian President Vladimir Putin tossed MBS a lifeline in a famously photographed high-five at a time when much of the international community was keeping its distance.
Saudi-Russia relations have had their ups and downs, including a price war over oil in 2020.
But as Saudi Arabia’s doubts about the US commitment to its security grew — compounded by worsening relations between MBS and Biden — Russia offered a convenient foil to demonstrate that Riyadh had other…

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