The Biden administration defended Sunday against criticism that it failed to punish Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for his role in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, as allies of the president left the door open to new actions.
Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, said the United States wanted to “recalibrate” relations with Saudi Arabia, but not destroy them by imposing sanctions directly on Prince Mohammed after US intelligence report found he approved an operation to “capture or kill” the veteran journalist in Turkey in 2018.
“Even in the recent history of Democratic and Republican administrations, there have been no sanctions in place for foreign leaders or governments where we have diplomatic relations – and even where we do not have relations. diplomatic, ”Psaki told CNN.
“We believe there are more effective ways to ensure that this does not happen again and also to be able to leave room to work with the Saudis in areas where there is mutual agreement where there is a national interest. for the United States.
Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, announced last week a visa ban on 76 Saudi nationals suspected of having been implicated in the threat of dissidents abroad in the continuation of the intelligence report. This report concluded that the Saudi crown prince had approved an operation in Turkey to “capture or kill” Khashoggi, a senior journalist.
But the administration’s decision not to individually sanction Prince Mohammed has caused dismay among human rights activists and some Democrats in Congress.
Bob Menendez, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on Friday he wanted the White House to consider personal sanctions against the crown prince.
Andy Kim, Democratic member of the House of Representatives Committee on External Relations and former head of national security, tweeted on the weekend: “The lack of action against the crown prince sends a clear message across the world that those at the top can escape the consequences.”
The criticisms echoed complaints from human rights groups and journalists, many of whom have also called for Prince Mohammed to be personally sanctioned. The Society of Professional Journalists said on Friday it was “outraged” that no one has yet been held responsible for Khashoggi’s death, adding: “We will continue to press for justice for Khashoggi.
Biden is due to make an announcement on Monday on the future of the US-Saudi relationship, although officials said over the weekend that he was unlikely to announce any new sanctions immediately.
Prince Mohammed is not the Saudi head of state, but its day-to-day leader.
Sherrod Brown, another senior Democratic senator: “We have to make sure that we make the Saudis, and especially the Saudi member of the royal family or members of the royal family, to hold them accountable.”
Asked about the likelihood of that happening, he added, “I don’t think this is a final end of story decision. We are talking to the White House. The others too. We have to hold any foreign authoritarian like the royal family, some members of the royal family, we have to hold them accountable.
Chris Coons, one of Biden’s closest allies in the Senate, defended the president but also hinted that further action would be taken.
“We are not yet done recalibrating the relationship between the United States and the Saudi Kingdom, and I respect the way President Biden has elevated human rights.”