Joe Biden Defends Backflip Ahead of Visit to ‘Pariah’ Saudi Arabia

US President Joe Biden leaves St. Edmunds Catholic Church after attending Mass in Rehoboth

President Joe Biden has defended plans to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) during his visit to Saudi Arabia this week, happily acknowledging the oil-rich kingdom he pledged to punish as a Democratic candidate for the White House.

The Middle East diplomatic foray comes after Biden vowed during his presidential campaign to treat Saudi Arabia as a “pariah” in response to the murder and dismembering of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the direction of the Saudis in 2018.

During a Democrat primary debate in November 2019, Biden boasted he was “going to, in fact, make them pay the price, and make them in fact the pariah that they are.”

He added there was “very little social redeeming value in the present government in Saudi Arabia.”

Now critics say Biden is going cap-in-hand to the same country to plead for them to increase oil production even after last month seeking to distance himself from the upcoming encounter, stressing to reporters he was going to meet with King Salman and his team.

But the White House confirmed earlier this week that he will meet MBS as part of that larger delegation during the trip.

AP reports in the article posted online Saturday night by Post, Biden pointed to developments in the Middle East as being more stable more stable and secure than when the Trump administration ended, among them intense diplomacy as well as military action against state-sponsored attacks.

But his framing of the Saudi relationship in particular appeared defensive, especially with some in the U.S. demanding that he not lend legitimacy to the government with a visit, AP set out in its report.

Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman waves as he is welcomed to Turkey during an official ceremony at the Presidential Complex in Ankara, on June 22, 2022. (ADEM ALTAN/AFP via Getty)

A street sign for Jamal Khashoggi Way is unveiled outside the Embassy of Saudi Arabia as guests listen to speakers in Washington, DC, on June 15, 2022. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is accused by U.S. intelligence of ordering the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi who was dismembered by Saudi agents in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate in 2018. ( MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty)

Biden linked U.S. strength and security to countering Russian aggression and competition from China, then argued that engaging directly with countries like Saudi Arabia could help promote those efforts.

The president said he aimed to strengthen a U.S.-Saudi partnership “going forward that’s based on mutual interests and responsibilities, while also holding true to fundamental American values.” Biden wrote:

I know that there are many who disagree with my decision to travel to Saudi Arabia. My views on human rights are clear and long-standing, and fundamental freedoms are always on the agenda when I travel abroad, as they will be during this trip, just as they will be in Israel and the West Bank.

Sky-high gas prices have been cited as one of the main reasons for a presidential visit, as the Biden administration has pleaded in vain for OPEC to lift their production caps on foreign oil.

Human rights advocates and some Democratic allies previously cautioned Biden about visiting the kingdom, saying such a visit without first getting human rights commitments would send a message to Saudi leaders that there are no consequences for egregious rights violations.

Biden will visit Saudi Arabia, which has long been accused of using mass arrests, executions and violence to strangle dissent, at the tail end of a July 13-16 Middle East trip that includes stops in Israel and the West Bank,

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