The White House on Tuesday defended President Biden’s plans to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia, a country he once vowed to make a “pariah.”
Although the dates for Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia haven’t yet been set, he did confirm that he has plans to meet with MbS, who is the Kingdom’s de facto leader. Defending the MbS meeting, the White House said it will serve the US national interest.
“This trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia — when it comes — would be in the context of significant deliverables for the American people in the Middle East region,” said White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
“If he determines that it’s in the interest of the United States to engage with a foreign leader and that such an engagement can deliver results, then he’ll do so,” she added.
Biden is expected to press MbS to increase oil output as Americans are facing record-high gas prices. But the plan has exposed the hypocrisy of the Biden administration as the US has banned the import of Russian oil over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine while turning to Saudi Arabia for help, a country that has been leading a brutal war against its neighbor Yemen with US support since March 2015.
Biden’s plan to meet with MbS has drawn criticism from Congress. Six House Democrats sent a letter to President Biden urging him to “recalibrate” the US-Saudi relationship. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said that if he were in Biden’s shoes, he wouldn’t meet with MbS because of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who US intelligence assessed was killed at the direction of the Saudi crown prince.
“I wouldn’t go. I wouldn’t shake his hand. This is someone who butchered an American resident, cut him up into pieces and in the most terrible and premeditated way,” Schiff said.
Democrats in Congress have also led a renewed effort to end the war in Yemen by introducing a war powers resolution to end US support for the conflict. The bill has 55 cosponsors, including five Republicans.
A two-month ceasefire in Yemen held relatively well with no Saudi airstrikes reported in that time, and the warring sides agreed to extend the truce.