Biden’s handshake “can happen” … and what the Saudi crown prince wants, “is going to be about to happen”

US President Joe Biden plans to “visit Riyadh at the end of June” after stopping in Israel to meet with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. While in Saudi Arabia, which houses the Gulf Cooperation Council this year, the president is likely to meet with leaders from other friendly Arab states, such as the UAE, Bahrain and Qatar. “But the emotional focus will be Biden’s handshake with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman,” according to American political writer David Ignatius.

In an article for the Washington Post, Ignatius says that despite the criticism leveled at Mohammed bin Salman, after a US intelligence report revealed what the prince’s authority is to assassinate Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, there are reasons for what appears to be a “shift” in the US position.

Biden has ignored Mohammed bin Salman since he became president of the United States

The young prince is likely to rule Saudi Arabia for decades, and the United States has security and financial interests in maintaining its long-standing partnership with the allied kingdom in a joint effort to stem Iran’s destabilizing actions in the region.

There are two additional factors that are crucial to the Biden White House, according to Ignatius. The first is the war in Ukraine, and Biden’s need for Saudi aid to protect the oil market.

The second factor is Israel’s strong desire that Biden normalize his relations with Mohammed bin Salman and the kingdom as part of a far-reaching reorganization that shortens the Abrahamic agreements.

“We believe Saudi Arabia is a major player in the region and beyond,” Ignatius quoted an unnamed senior Israeli official as saying.

Biden and Mohammed bin Salman

Observers expect the expected handshake between Biden and Mohammed bin Salman to take place

He added, “We strongly support closer ties between the United States and Saudi Arabia in the context of achieving stability in the region, limiting Iran, normalizing relations with Israel, and stabilizing the energy market. “

Ignatius suggested that the main outcome of the visit would be an official Saudi-Israeli agreement to allow Israeli civil aviation to fly over the kingdom.

He says the strong Israeli demand for rapprochement between the United States and Saudi Arabia is politically critical. This is because Saudi Arabia today has few political supporters in Washington.

“Despite decades of pressure, the kingdom gradually burned its bridges with Republicans and Democrats, and it looked like President Donald Trump’s friendship was on fire again, but it was not a solid foundation,” he added. .

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have visited the kingdom, and the author says they “encouraged Biden to do the same.”

Biden ignored the Saudi crown prince for several months and last year refused to make a friendly call that Mohammed bin Salman wanted.

With this, the author believes that Biden was ready to shake hands at the G-20 summit in Rome last October, but Mohammed bin Salman did not attend, which spared Biden an “embarrassment”.

Al-Qahtani is accused of overseeing the Khashoggi assassination

The Khashoggi murder case casts a shadow over Mohammed bin Salman’s international standing

Ideally, from Washington’s point of view, a visit could cause the kingdom’s break with Russia in the OPEC + producer group – agreeing to produce more oil and supporting a similar increase in production by the UAE, says Ignatius.

It will lower oil prices, boost the world economy and at the same time undermine Russia’s influence, which will give Biden a much-needed boost.

And the Yemeni war, perhaps the “deadliest mistake” of Mohammed bin Salman, is on the wane, thanks in part to diplomatic efforts by the United States.

But over any significant liability of MBS over Khashoggi’s death or other important human rights issues, Biden is likely to come out “empty-handed”, the author believes.

Relations have worsened since Biden’s arrival in the White House in January 2021, after promising to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” country during his election campaign, against the backdrop of issues including the kingdom’s human rights record, the assassination on Khashoggi and the Yemen war.

Biden focused on human rights issues in Saudi Arabia and other parts of the world at the beginning of his term, but Richard Weitz, a political analyst at the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC, expects that to change.

Weitz told Al-Hurra that the Biden administration would not focus on human rights issues at the moment, as Washington is currently focusing, in an effort to improve its relations with Saudi Arabia, on increasing energy exports and that Riyadh purchases of Russian weapons reduced. .

And on Thursday, Axios reported that two of Biden’s top advisers had paid a secret visit to Saudi Arabia for talks on a possible arrangement between the kingdom, Israel and Egypt.

According to the website, there is talk of an agreement to increase oil production and bilateral relations between Washington and Riyadh, three current and former US officials told Axios.

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman shakes hands with US President Donald Trump during a family photo session at ...

Mohammed bin Salman and Donald Trump

The United States has imposed sanctions on a number of junior officials, and Mohammed bin Salman has only made statements denying his personal responsibility for the operation that led to Khashoggi’s assassination.

Clearly, according to Ignatius, MBS has come to the conclusion that any major concessions at home will be seen as a sign of weakness – and unnecessary.

“Real politics has its place in foreign policy, but the lack of accountability is a permanent tragedy,” Ignatius concluded, adding: “In simple terms, Mohammed bin Salman has escaped.”

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