Biden White House Signals Shift Away from Saudi Arabia, Key Mideast Ally

In this Tuesday, June 25, 2019, photo released by Bahrain News Agency, from left to right, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Bahrain Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner attend the opening session of the "Peace to Prosperity" workshop in Manama, Bahrain. Amid …
Bahrain News Agency via AP

President Joe Biden promised to restore relations with U.S. allies, but the White House indicated Monday that it is deliberately backing away from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, traditionally a key Arab ally in the Middle East.

Last Friday, the Biden administration revealed that U.S. intelligence agencies had concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey in 2018.

Journalists asked White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Monday why the administration had imposed visa bans and sanctions on individuals directly involved in the killing, but not on Crown Prince bin Salman himself.

Psaki said that the administration hoped to preserve a working relationship with Saudi Arabia, but that “the president has been clear … that the relationship is not going to look like what it’s looked like in the past.”

President Barack Obama notoriously bowed to the Saudi king in 2009, though relations soured as Obama negotiated the Iran nuclear deal.

President Donald Trump strengthened ties with the Saudi regime, using it quietly to promote peacemaking efforts in the Middle East. But Democrats seized on the Trump administration’s ties to the Crown Prince and tried to block arms sales to the Saudi regime after Khashoggi’s murder.

Psaki offered several examples of ways in which the Biden administration had tried to distance itself from the Saudi regime, including criticism of Saudi human rights abuses and withdrawing support for the Saudi war effort in Yemen. The Saudis have backed the government against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, which Biden delisted as a terrorist organization.

Separately, the U.S. condemned a Houthi attack Saturday on Saudi civilians.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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