After being repeatedly humiliated by Prince Mohammed, Biden continues to appease an autocrat who disdains him

By Mohamad Bazzi, The Guardian

The Biden administration told a US judge last week that Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince, should be granted immunity in a civil lawsuit over his role in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. That decision effectively ends one of the last efforts to hold the prince accountable for Khashoggi’s assassination by a Saudi hit team inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.

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It is an act of weakness and political cowardice by Joe Biden’s administration, which staked its reputation on holding Khashoggi’s killers accountable and centering its foreign policy on human rights, rather than accommodating autocrats. Biden has done neither. Even worse, he has capitulated yet again to what he views as a realpolitik pressure to make nice with the 37-year-old prince who could well be Saudi Arabia’s king for decades. But Biden can’t seem to collect on that quid-pro-quo arrangement and claim a political victory, as Prince Mohammed has snubbed the US president at every opportunity.

In July, Biden swallowed his pride and traveled to Saudi Arabia, trying to reset his relationship with a regime he called a “pariah” as a presidential candidate. Biden greeted Prince Mohammed with an embarrassing fist bump, hoping that the photo op would convince the Saudis to increase oil production and lower gasoline prices, easing pressure on US consumers struggling with record inflation. By October, the Saudi-led Opec+ cartel did the opposite of what the Biden administration asked – it decided to cut oil production by 2 million barrels a day, which will mean higher global fuel prices this winter.

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