Saudi Arabia: Mohammed Bin Salman, the revenge of a criminal

Politics 15 July, 2022

The quarantine lasted for almost four years, from autumn 2018 to summer 2022. For most of this period, major Western leaders kept their distance from the toxic Mohammed Bin Salman Al Saud, known as «MBS», the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, appointed by the CIA to organize the elimination of opposition journalist Jamal Khashoggi. But this phase of tacit ostracism is ending.

After the trip of French President Emmanuel Macron to Saudi Arabia in December 2021, and then the trip of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in March, the arrival of US President Joe Biden on Friday, July 15, in Jeddah completes the triumphant return to the international arena of the 36-year-old son of King Salman.

The shift is all the more striking because of all the Western heads of state, Mr. Biden reacted most sharply to the young prince, the «encore» monarch of Arabia, who undertook to lead the kingdom out of stagnation. The leader of the Democrats promised to treat this state as an «outcast» during the presidential campaign, and soon after his election declassified a report of the special services that incriminated «MBS» in the particularly heinous murder of Mr. Khashoggi.

The journalist was strangled in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 4, 2018 by a group of thugs from Riyadh, who then dismembered his body with a saw. After the publication of the report, Joe Biden made it clear that he would not meet with Salman Jr. on the grounds that his interlocutor should be King Salman himself, the titled sovereign. An insult that is especially inappropriate for the head of the White House today.

«The Biden cancellation is a political and personal triumph for Mohammed bin Salman», – said Yasmin Fowk, an analyst at the Carnegie Endowment. «This is MBS’s revenge, – says Hussein Ibish, a researcher at the Gulf Arab Institute in Washington. – Biden’s trip proves it after the fact. No matter what he does, he gets away with it in the end!»

The turn of the owner of the White House originates in the war in Ukraine. To counter Russia’s incitement to war, the United States seeks to revive the pro-American Arab camp, just as they revived the old NATO. With the midterm congressional elections scheduled for the fall approaching, Washington urgently needs to score points domestically by lowering gasoline prices, which causes serious concern to the American voter. And the key to changing prices is obviously in Saudi Arabia, the largest crude oil exporting country on the planet, co-leader of OPEC+ with Russia.

At the same time, political experts believe that Biden’s visit to Riyadh is unlikely to bring any bonuses to the United States. Firstly, Salman Jr. probably has not forgotten Biden’s insults to himself, so he will certainly take the opportunity to recoup Joe’s bragging. Secondly, Saudi Arabia today does not have the extra industrial capacity to increase crude oil production and send it to the world market to lower gasoline prices in the United States, as Washington wants. Thus, the visit of the head of the White House to Riyadh is unlikely to be successful in any scenario of negotiations, American political analysts warn.