Joe Biden has come under fire from human rights campaigners and the widow of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi as he prepares a diplomatic visit to Saudi Arabia.
Biden is set to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman later this week after visiting Israel to discuss the country’s nuclear plans.
While Biden assured the widow of Khashoggi that he would “bring his name up” during his discussions with the Crown Prince, the White House now seems to be going back on its word.
Joe Biden defends meeting with Saudi prince Mohammad bin Salman: Biden’s plans to see the crown prince, known as MBS, are part of his first trip to the Gulf region as president #news #newspakistan pic.twitter.com/4QPuCWtOl8
— Toufaani (@Toufaani) June 18, 2022
Hanan Elatr Khashoggi met with White House officials last week, but now they appear to be unable to confirm that the slain US-based journalist’s death will be on the agenda during the meeting:
"*" indicates required fields
“We’re not in the habit of previewing private discussions we have with other leaders before they happen, but President Biden took actions with respect to the Khashoggi murder right after coming into office,” a White House spokesman told Fox News earlier today.
“The President’s views on human rights are clear and longstanding, and fundamental freedoms are always on the agenda when he travels abroad, just as they will be during this trip,” the statement continued.
As a prominent but controversial Saudi journalist, Khashoggi, 59, was often critical of his country’s government, particularly its human rights abuses.
He had a monthly column in the Washington Post and was reportedly very close to the Saudi Arabian royal family, including the Crown Prince, bin Salam.
While bin Salman at first denied Saudi had any involvement in the attack on Khashoggi outside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018, a Saudi official later said the journalist had died while being held in a “chokehold”.
An investigation concluded he had been injected with a lethal dose of a drug and then dismembered.
Upon his admission to the White House, Biden claimed he would not treat the Saudis as a “pariah state” but has since eaten his words as gas prices continue to soar. Saudi Arabia is rich in oil and produces around 15 percent of the world’s reserves.
It comes a day after Khashoggi’s widow, Hanan Elatr broke her silence to urge Biden to take a tougher stance on Saudi and to remember the plight of her late husband:
“As his only wife upon his death, it is important to me that Jamal’s legacy of freedom and tolerance outlive his death,” she wrote.
“I am here today, before President Biden departs to Saudi Arabia, to thank him and express what Jamal wanted most in this world: the release of all political prisoners being held in Saudi Arabia, including Jamal’s close friend, Essam Al-Zamil.
“I do not want those political prisoners to suffer the same fate as Jamal.”
While some have insisted Saudi’s Crown Prince bin Salam has made determined efforts to update the country’s archaic laws and dire human rights standards, including allowing women to drive and go abroad without male chaperones, Saudi experts say the changes are little more than window dressing.
Former Saudi Arabian intelligence official, Saad Aljabri told 60 Minutes that Western leaders should not be lulled into falsely believing the region or its leadership has improved:
“I am here to sound the alarm about a psychopath, killer, in the Middle East with infinite resources, who poses threat to his people, to the Americans, and to the planet,” he warned.
“A psychopath with no empathy, doesn’t feel emotion, never learned from his experience. And we have witnessed atrocities and crimes committed by this killer.”
Biden will shake hands with Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salam on Friday.