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Biden high five for the crown prince of Saudi Arabia

'Smiling monopolist': Biden punches the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia with his fist

In addition to human rights, Biden said the trip was intended to “advance US interests”.

Jeddah:

Spending less than 24 hours in Saudi Arabia, US President Joe Biden has tarnished the image he has long cultivated: as a fierce defender of human rights.

The life of any politician has campaign pledges that ultimately backfire, and for Biden, that list now includes his 2019 vow to make the desert kingdom a “pariah” for its human rights record.

Similarly, his solemn description, given last year on US Independence Day, of Washington’s role on the global stage: “We stand as a beacon to the world.”

It’s hard for many to reconcile those words with the most poignant image from Biden’s first visit to the Middle East as president: the collision with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

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

Taken outside a palace in the Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah, the fist image was immediately circulated by Saudi Arabia’s official news agencies ahead of the rounds on social media.

It eventually made it to the front page of The Washington Post, where Khashoggi was a columnist.

‘Shameful’

Before Biden arrived in Jeddah, the White House had taken a number of steps to try to mitigate the impact from a confrontation it knew was imminent.

Biden ran a column in the Post explaining his reasons for making his trip, saying he wanted to “strengthen the strategic partnership” while emphasizing that “fundamental freedoms are always in the agenda.” agenda when I travel abroad”.

At the start of the tour, which took him to Jerusalem and Bethlehem before Jeddah, his media team said Biden would limit physical contact with people he met, citing concerns about the coronavirus.

Some journalists immediately speculated that the measures – which Biden ultimately did not fully comply with – were motivated less by public health and more by fear of an awkward photo with the Crown Prince. Mohammed, commonly known by his initials, MBS.

Ultimately, the first bump in Jeddah “was worse than a handshake – it’s embarrassing,” Post CEO Fred Ryan said in a statement.

“It envisages a level of intimacy and comfort that gives MBS the unwarranted redemption he has so desperately sought.”

The mobile press team was not present at the scene. When they reached the palace in Jeddah, the two leaders went inside.

Soon after, the inevitable “collision” was broadcast in a seemingly continuous loop by state media and Saudi government social media accounts.

White House-accredited journalists face further restrictions as Biden holds meetings with the Saudi leader.

They were only allowed to attend a brief meeting of the US and Saudi government delegations, and they were kept at a distance from the negotiating table.

The brief statements of Biden and Crown Prince Mohammed were not heard because the use of boom microphones was not allowed.

‘The autocrats are smiling’

After his meetings with the Saudi royal family concluded on Friday night, the White House rushed to arrange for Biden to make brief remarks and answer some questions.

Biden told journalists he raised the “head” of the Khashoggi case during a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed, adding that he made it clear “what I thought about it at the time and what I think about it now.” hours”.

On Saturday, Biden told leaders from the nine Arab countries at the summit that “the future will be won by countries reaching the full potential of their populations…where citizens are physically fit. consult and criticize leaders without fear of reprisal.”

The collision became the decisive blow of the tour.

Earlier, in Israel, Biden explained his decision to go to Saudi Arabia by seemingly alluding to the political compromise the country represents.

“My position on Khashoggi is completely clear, and I have never been silent when it comes to human rights,” he told a news conference.

Beyond human rights, Biden said the trip was intended to “advance U.S. interests,” a nod that is likely to spur more oil production from the world’s largest crude exporter, as gas prices rise. hurt his party’s prospects before mid-November elections.

Back home in the US, Biden did not receive sympathy from human rights activists.

“The autocrats of the world are smiling,” Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said on Twitter. “Biden’s support for human rights could be sold for oil.”

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and was automatically generated from the syndication feed.)

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