On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said President Biden plans to “recalibrate” the US relationship with Saudi Arabia, something that Biden pledged to do while on the campaign trail.
“We’ve made clear from the beginning that we’re going to recalibrate our relationship with Saudi Arabia,” Psaki said. She added that President Biden would be communicating with King Salman instead of his son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, who is seen as the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia.
MBS’s reputation has been on the decline since the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Saudis have also been under fire for their disregard for civilian life in Yemen, where the US-backed Saudi-led coalition has bombed civilian infrastructure for years.
From his post as defense minister in 2015, a title he still technically holds, MBS was the driving force behind the Saudi intervention in Yemen, an intervention that the Obama administration was quick to support.
President Biden recently announced he is cutting off US support for “offensive” operations in Yemen, leaving wiggle room to continue military support for Riyadh if it can be framed as defensive in nature. Biden has also suspended some Saudi arms sales and appointed a special envoy to seek a diplomatic solution in Yemen.
Psaki also addressed another controversial Middle East leader, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Almost a month into the new administration, President Biden has yet to call Netanyahu. Psaki said that Biden plans to call Netanyahu before any other leader in the region and insisted that the call will happen “soon.”