The CIA’s report on the murder of journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi was clear: the ultimate responsible is Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. The response from the Saudi Arabian authorities was equally clear: it rejects the report’s findings and insists on an action by an autonomous group of individuals who have been punished.
Still, everything indicates that MBS, as the crown prince is also called, is behind the murder, but Washington has, for the time being, shown very cautious when it comes to national sanctions or individual sanctions such as freezing the accounts of those involved.
Anthony Blinken, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, has imposed an entry ban to America on 76 other high-ranking Saudis, “but MBS is not one of them”, America correspondent Marieke de Vries concluded in the report. NOS Radio 1 News this morning.
According to Rob de Wijk, of the Center for Strategic Studies and professor of International Relations at the University of Leiden, these sanctions have little to do. “This is one of the well-known sanctions for annoying people, just like in China or Russia. It does not bring much, although it is annoying for the person concerned. You show that you do not agree with them, but it does not work. remains largely symbolic of course. “
There are many Saudis who support the crown prince
According to Arab world correspondent Daisy Mohr, the Saudi media underlined the official account of the Khashoggi murder. This lecture was also supported today from Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. “Although there has not been as big a deal with the news here in the region in recent days as has been done in the West.”
Criticizing MBS is complicated in Saudi Arabia. “On social media we see support from the country for the crown prince, although there is hardly any room for a contrary opinion. Under the leadership of MBS, many social reforms have been carried out in recent years, the country is changing. also many Saudis who support the crown prince. “
The crown prince will be the problem, not Saudi Arabia
Still, Biden has announced that it will announce ‘major changes’ regarding its relationship with Saudi Arabia. Mohr, De Vries and De Wijk also point to Biden’s telephone conversation with Saudi King Salman prior to the publication of the Khashoggi report. Biden’s predecessor Trump always spoke to his son and intended successor, so why isn’t Biden doing that?
De Wijk: “Biden clearly serves the crown prince. My first reaction was that this can become very annoying for the crown prince. It is possible that more countries will follow Biden’s example”, De Wijk continues. “It’s also quite a smart strategy, because if the crown prince becomes persona non grata, then the crown prince is the problem and Saudi Arabia is not.”
What you want to prevent is that the Saudis come with a nuclear weapon
Nevertheless, De Wijk knows that a good relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia is of great importance to both countries. “There is now a precarious balance in the region, in which the US and Saudi Arabia need each other in their fight against Iranian influence. Biden has made it clear that he no longer supports the Saudis in their involvement in Yemen. than that the Saudis must withdraw. “
If the Americans turn away from Saudi Arabia, it could pose a security problem for Saudi Arabia in the region, with far-reaching consequences. “What you want to prevent is that the Saudis come up with a nuclear weapon. History also shows that a region becomes more unstable when nuclear weapons are in the making.”
Reviving Iran deal
According to De Wijk, the US will not do much to encourage Saudi Arabia to implement more social reforms. “Biden is too realistic for this, he thinks in small steps. In practice, Western influence always leads to hardening. The US must find a balance between keeping the tires warm at a higher strategic level and handing out punishments at a limited level below that. . “
With regard to the accusations against BMS in the Khashoggi case, the US will also take a pragmatic approach, De Wijk suspects. “You cannot prevent it from happening again, but hope that the crown prince will hold back in the future.”
Biden’s focus will be on maintaining or even improving the balance in the Middle East. De Wijk: “If he revives the Iran deal and helps the peace process in Yemen in cooperation with the United Nations, he is well on his way.”