April 2, 2023

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Biden’s meeting with the Saudi crown prince tarnished his image

Prince of Biton
AFP photo

In less than 24 hours in Saudi Arabia, US President Joe Biden has tarnished the image he has long sought to carve as a staunch defender of human rights.

Any politician’s career is filled with campaign promises, and Biden now has a 2019 list to consider Saudi Arabia a “pariah” for its human rights record.

There’s also his solemn declaration on July 4, 2021, about America’s place on the international stage: “We lead by example, not by showing our strength. We are part of something bigger than ourselves. We are a compass to the world.”

Many have found it difficult to reconcile those words with a more shocking photo from Biden’s first trip as president to the Middle East, in which he is seen bumping fists with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

US intelligence services believe the crown prince, the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia, “authorized” the operation that led to the 2018 murder and mutilation of the journalist. Jamal Khashoggi.

The photo, taken in front of a palace in the Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah, was immediately circulated by official Saudi media before it spread on social media.

Published by many newspapers including Washington Post, Khashoggi was an essayist.


Before Biden arrived in Jeddah, the White House took several steps to mitigate the fallout from the meeting.

The President of the United States published an article Mail In it he explained his reasons for the trip, saying he wanted to “strengthen a strategic partnership” and asserted that “fundamental freedoms are always on the agenda when I travel abroad.”

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At the start of his tour, which will take him to Israel, the Palestinian territories and Saudi Arabia, his communications team said Biden will limit physical contact with people he meets because of Covid-19.

Some journalists speculated that the measures — which Biden ended up not fully complying with — were motivated less by ill health and more by fear of an embarrassing photo op with Prince Mohammed.

In the end, the fist bump with MBS was “worse than a handshake, it was awkward,” the director-general assessed. MailFred Ryan, in a statement.

Dictators laugh

Biden told reporters that he discussed Khashoggi’s murder at the start of his meeting with Prince Mohammed. I said clearly what I thought then and what I think now.

On Saturday, Biden told the leaders of nine Arab countries at a summit that “the future belongs to nations (…) citizens can question and criticize leaders without fear of retribution.”

But the fist bump with MBS has already become the defining image of his tour.

Beyond human rights, Biden explained that his trip was aimed at “advancing America’s interests,” pointing to the need to boost more oil production from the world’s biggest oil exporter as rising gasoline prices hurt his party’s prospects. November by-elections.

“Extremists have to laugh, Biden’s support for human rights can be sold for a drop of oil,” Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, commented on Twitter on Saturday.

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