Secretary of State Antony Blinken explained that he brings up gay rights “invariably, in every conversation” with his Saudi counterpart, Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud, when responding Thursday to mounting criticism of President Joe Biden’s upcoming trip to Saudi Arabia.
Blinken made his remarks at a press event billed as “the first-ever briefing for LGBTQI reporters” by Politico — which was, rather curiously, almost alone in reporting what Blinken said during the briefing.
Politico made very short work of Blinken’s insistence that he perpetually harangues the Saudis about gay rights:
“There are a lot of different things” that constitute America’s interests in the country, Blinken said.
Speaking at the State Department’s first-ever briefing for LGBTQI reporters, Blinken told Politico that “we have real engagement” with Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud when he raises his LGBTQI-themed complaints. But he said human rights are only one part of America’s foreign policy and “everything has to be reflected in what we do.”
Blinken evidently spent at least as much time trashing his own country as criticizing the Saudis, who regard homosexuality as a capital offense:
Asked if foreign leaders point out that LGBTQI rights are under attack in states across America, Blinken admitted, “I, not infrequently, get that response.”
Breitbart News reached out to the State Department for an official transcript of Blinken’s press conference but did not receive a response by press time.
The background for the frosty media reception of Blinken’s remarks is that Biden vowed to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” state during his presidential campaign but is now frantically walking back that tough talk as he begs the Saudis to pump more oil and rescue his administration from its disastrous energy policies.
Blinken joined the desperate backpedal on Thursday, insisting Biden’s plan from “Day One” was to “recalibrate the relationship — not rupture, recalibrate.”
Candidate Joe Biden’s exact words at the Democratic primary debate in November 2019, in response to a question about whether he would “punish” Saudi Arabia more vigorously than President Donald Trump, were as follows:
Yes, and I said it at the time. Khashoggi was, in fact, murdered and dismembered, and I believe on the order of the crown prince. And I would make it very clear we were not going to, in fact, sell more weapons to them, we were going to, in fact, make them pay the price and make them, in fact, the pariah that they are. There’s very little social redeeming value of the — in the present government in Saudi Arabia.
And I would also, as pointed out, I would end — end subsidies that we have, end the sale of material to the Saudis where they’re going in and murdering children, and they’re murdering innocent people. And so they have to be held accountable.
“Khashoggi” refers to Jamal Khashoggi, an ideological activist and staunch enemy of the Saudi regime who wrote opinion columns for various international media outlets, including the Washington Post. Khashoggi was lured into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, and murdered by a team of Saudi agents in October 2018.
The Saudi government claims the killing was a rogue operation not authorized by the de facto chief executive of the kingdom, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS). These claims are not widely accepted by human rights and press freedom activists.
Biden’s accusation that the Saudis were “murdering children” was a reference to the brutal and ongoing civil war in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia leads a coalition of Arab states intervening on behalf of the deposed elected government against the Iran-backed Houthi insurgents. The Saudis have been accused of killing large numbers of civilians in their air strikes, including children. Their Houthi adversaries, who Biden delisted as a terrorist organization almost immediately upon becoming president, are no slouches when it comes to deliberately killing kids.
Gay rights groups and human rights activists have been highly critical of Biden for abandoning his tough talk about Saudi Arabia in his desperate scramble to secure more oil. Amnesty International, for example, called Biden’s planned trip to Riyadh a “betrayal for Jamal Khashoggi, for Yemen, and a betrayal of what the Democratic Party stood for over the last three years.”
“If they don’t care about human rights and democracy, then what is the benefit of this visit? I believe, as an expert on Saudi, that it’s not going to be anything at all, which makes it frankly quite stupid from a political point of view,” complained dissident Abdullah Alaoudh, whose father is jailed in Saudi Arabia.