Comedy show and an Indian star .. Saudi Arabia’s plan to improve its image in the West

Despite the criticism of US President Joe Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia and the controversy that has arisen over the issue of human rights in the kingdom, which has reflected his personal position on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Meetings concluded by the importance of the strategic partnership between the two countries and an agreement was reached. spoke.

AFP says Biden has come under heavy criticism from human rights activists upset by Biden’s recent visit to the kingdom, a country he once promised to “pariah” over abuses, especially the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi .

A senior US administration official told CNN: “It’s hard to say that values ​​will be an essential part of your foreign policy and that human rights matter a lot to us as a nation and certainly as an administration. and then you do not go abroad and do not talk to (leaders) in open and honest ways. ” around it “.

Biden said at a press conference while in Jeddah that he had discussed the Khashoggi issue: “He (Mohammed bin Salman) said he was not personally responsible for it (the crime), but I indicated that he (was involved) probably. ”

This statement received a response from the Saudi Crown Prince, according to Western reports, indicating that he had informed him that the United States was “making mistakes”, especially with reference to “the mistreatment of prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison” “. and the assassination of Palestinian-American journalist Sherine Abu Aqleh, as incidents that were badly reflected for the United States.

MSNBC’s Ayman Mohieldin said: A Saudi official told him that the prince denied orders to assassinate Khashoggi “in the same way that George Bush did not order torture in Abu Ghraib prison,” and the crown prince asked: “Why with the murder? “Missing or arresting so many American journalists, the assassination of Khashoggi is being politicized.”

In turn, after Foreign Minister Biden’s meetings in the Kingdom, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan indicated that the Crown Prince had informed him of the Kingdom’s “respect” for human rights and that it was a “core value”. based on our Islamic beliefs and Arab heritage. ” “Trying to impose your values ​​on others will not be effective. You will get a negative reaction,” the minister said.

The way in which Saudi Crown Prince Biden received also sparked great controversy when they shook hands with a “fist”, which some regarded as a lukewarm reception by his Saudi host, and it’s in Washington with severe received criticism.

The handshake made the front page of the “Washington Post” newspaper, and its CEO described it as “disgraceful”.

“The salute between President Biden and Mohammed bin Salman is painful as a visible expression of our inability to achieve accountability,” Kristin Diwan, of the Arab Gulf Research Institute in Washington, told AFP.

Saudi dissident Abdullah al-Awda, who is based in the United States, told AFP that this salute “represents a major setback.”

However, Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan in an interview with CNN, hours after Biden left the kingdom, considered Biden a “profit” on Saturday, adding: “He came out of a meeting with a great leader in the region. I think, to revive the strategic partnership between Saudi Arabia and the United States. “

The White House believes it was merely a matter of Biden’s desire not to have physical contact amid the rapid spread of the new Corona virus variant, noting that Biden did the same with many Israeli officials before his arrival in Jeddah.

“Performance” despite the disagreement

Despite the controversy surrounding Biden’s relationship with Mohammed bin Salman, analyst Hussein Ibish told AFP in a statement that “the visit is an achievement in itself, especially for the Saudis and, above all, for Mohammed. bin Salman. “

He added that the visit for Biden was aimed at restoring personal and political relations between his administration and the Saudis, “and it appears that this has been achieved.”

Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies Adviser Amr Al-Shobaki told Al-Hurra that the visit “reflects the dominance of political realism over the rights discourse, ie the weight of common interests and the strategic relationship to global crises, such as the Ukraine war and the rise in energy prices, which made it difficult to be rights issues People are independent of challenges.

Saudi political analyst Abdullah Al-Rifai told Al-Hurra there would definitely be an “improvement” in relations between the two countries and on a personal level he “broke the ice.”

He points out that the body language in the first meeting between Biden and Mohammed bin Salman was “completely” different from what it was during the extended meeting.

He said Biden’s speech at the meeting was “more realistic”, pointing out that the US administration was aware of Saudi Arabia’s position on current issues, and that it was not a single party, but rather by a “big bloc” of the GCC and Arab countries.

It is believed that relations between the two presidents and the two countries will see a new stage within the framework of the alliance.

Al-Shobaki says: “A major change has taken place that has characterized the discourse on human rights and the Khashoggi case through ‘lack of acumen’ and has become isolated from strategic issues, which even the media on the ‘victory of oil over human rights’ did not speak. ‘”

He added: “It has become difficult in the relations between different regimes to isolate the challenges facing the world,” and “of course it is different for human rights associations and civil society organizations based mainly on the idea of ​​defending human rights. independent of political systems. “

Al-Rifai believed that the issue of human rights would remain present in relations, but the problem was related to “the differences in values ​​between human rights in the West and Saudi Arabia.”

He believes the new partnership will raise the issue of human rights within the boundaries of established values, with Washington realizing that “the challenges they face are greater than this issue and therefore will not be a top priority on the table. not.”

Al-Rifai, however, pointed to “positive” movements in the field of human rights in the Kingdom, as a result of the reforms that have already taken place, such as those related to women’s and children’s rights, but “development needs time, as it is related to the societal environment that sometimes does not agree with some reforms. ”

He believed that the two sides “overcame this issue, especially President Biden,” and noted that in his speech he referred to “the positive things advocated by Saudi Crown Prince and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi word. “

He referred to the “achievements” that Biden had made during the visit, the most important of which was the positive atmosphere towards the peace process and “the pressure on Iran, which is in the interest of peace and stability,” noting that in its importance to stand against a large block in the region.

He continued, “It appears that the administration has not paid much attention to media commentary on the visit and will focus more on the U.S. domestic and its foreign interests.”

And this visit, according to Al-Shobaki, confirmed that it is possible to talk about a “pariah” state in the context of an election campaign, “but once it comes to power and faces global challenges, especially “By a superpower like the United States, it will be difficult to talk about a pure human rights discourse apart from the context.” political and strategic.

CNN said the debate on human rights apparently led to broader talks on energy security, regional stability, trade and investment, and Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the war in Yemen were a key part of the discussions.

The United States and Saudi Arabia issued a joint statement, following the Jeddah meetings, in which they reaffirmed the promotion of their common interests and promoted a common vision for achieving more peace and security leading to a prosperous and stable Middle East.

The two parties stressed the need to deter Iranian interference in the internal affairs of countries, its support for terrorism by its armed groups, and its efforts to destabilize the security and stability of the region, and stressed its importance to Iran prevent obtaining a nuclear weapon. .

US officials expect Saudi Arabia’s oil production to increase in the coming months within the framework of “OPEC Plus”.

And the Saudi foreign minister said in an interview with CNN that the crown prince is open to increasing production within limits. “The most important point in the Crown Prince’s statement today is that we need a balanced approach to our energy transition, because the kingdom is increasing its capacity to 13 million barrels and can not go beyond that,” he said.

In his interview with Al-Hurra, Saudi political analyst Abdullah Al-Rifai said the United States “should be realistic and take advantage of its partnership with the bloc led by the Kingdom. Washington needs its alliances in supporting the Middle East, in the face of China. “

He expected the region to see an increase in U.S. engagement with the Middle East in the coming months, saying it would be “bigger and different” because “Washington’s higher interests require it.” “Political realism will prevail,” he said.

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