President Biden spoke with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on Thursday ahead of the release of a US intelligence report on the 2018 killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi that is expected to pin the killing on Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS.
US officials have told media outlets that the report is a declassified version of an intelligence assessment that says MBS ordered Khashoggi’s murder that took place in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul. Saudi Arabia denies that MBS directed the hit.
The Biden administration has said it will reevaluate the US-Saudi relationship. So far, the only real policy change has been an announcement that the US is ending all support for Saudi Arabia’s “offensive” operations in Yemen. But President Biden made it clear that military support will continue if it can be framed as defensive.
According to a readout of the Salman-Biden call, President Biden reaffirmed the US “commitment to help Saudi Arabia defend its territory as it faces attacks,” a reference to attacks inside the kingdom launched by Yemen’s Houthis. The fact is, these attacks wouldn’t be happening if the Saudis haven’t been waging a vicious bombing campaign in Yemen for almost six years now.
The two leaders also discussed “the renewed diplomatic efforts led by the United Nations and the United States to end the war in Yemen.” As part of Biden’s new Yemen policy, he appointed a special envoy to seek a diplomatic solution to end the war who has been meeting with Saudi officials.
“The President told King Salman he would work to make the bilateral relationship as strong and transparent as possible,” the readout said. Biden also “noted positively” the recent release of women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia.