Biden defends meeting with ‘pariah’ Saudis after outcry from liberal lawmakers

Biden was slammed as a “betrayer” for visit to Riyadh after promising to make “human rights the center of his foreign policy.”

By World Israel News Staff

President Joe Biden on Friday defended an upcoming meeting with Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman after coming under fire from Democratic lawmakers, saying it was part of a broader “international meeting.”

Biden has been walking a tightrope since appearing to renege on a campaign pledge to condemn Riyadh as a “pariah” state after the U.S. concluded that the Saudi crown prince, also known as MBS, orchestrated the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

But rising gasoline prices have somewhat torpedoed that pledge, and many dovish lawmakers and human rights advocates have slammed the president for “selling out” and making overtures to the Gulf kingdom in a bid to boost oil production.

Biden has been accused by rights groups of “betraying” his promise to make “human rights the center of his foreign policy.”

“The visit will be seen as a full victory and endorsement of Saudi Arabia,” Agnès Callamard, secretary general of Amnesty International, told the Guardian newspaper.

Abdullah Alaoudh of the thinktank Democracy for the Arab World Now told the paper that Biden was “frankly stupid” for visiting the Gulf kingdom.

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“Right before inauguration, he [Biden] said he will be sure to protect Saudi dissidents – those were his words. We’re not protected by someone shaking hands with the same person who is threatening us every day and taking our families hostage due to our activism here in the U.S.,” he said.

Biden was evasive when asked by a reporter how he will handle the topic of Khashoggi’s death.

“I’m not going to meet with MBS. I’m going to an international meeting, and he’s going to be part of it,” Biden said according to the Reuters news agency.

King Salman invited Biden to Riyadh along with eight additional heads of state for the GCC+3 Summit, the National Security Council said in a statement.

The U.S. is also working to encourage Gulf states to join the condemnation of Moscow, Reuters saidGulf states have until now maintained a policy of neutrality.

In an interview with World Israel News, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman denounced Biden’s hypocrisy in changing his tack with the Saudis, adding that it was a mistake to downgrade ties in the first place.

“Biden should have jumped on the progress that we made and taken further steps down that road,” he said, referring to the close ties the Trump administration had forged with the Gulf kingdom.

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“Now he’s trying to get gas down to under $4 a gallon before the [midterm] elections – but that’s not the right reason to be embracing Saudi Arabia,” he said.