Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States are in hot waters since the last year of the Trump presidency. They were hedging against Biden’s presidency by aligning with Israel, which triggered the normalization of relations between the Arab States and Israel. Gone are the days when Europe and the USA were keeping their eyes and ears shut to human rights violations and a crackdown on pro-democracy activists.
Jamal Khashoggi: The recent blow to KSA and US relations came from the decision of the Biden administration to release the intelligence report of Jamal Khashoggi killing in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Jamal Khashoggi, an exiled journalist who was a frequent critic of the crown prince, Mohammad Bin Salman, was murdered in October 2018. According to a US intelligence report, Mohammed bin Salman approved an operation to “capture or kill” the journalist. The report contributed mostly by the CIA, said: “We assess that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. A declassified US intelligence report released on Friday confirms for the first time what role top US intelligence officials believe Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler played in the 2018 killing of the Saudi journalist.
The four-page report names 21 individuals who participated in or were otherwise complicit in Khashoggi’s death. While the operation in Istanbul was pre-planned, US intelligence authorities said they do not know when the decision to harm him was made. In the US Congress, Representative Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said MBS “has blood on his hands”.
The Saudi foreign ministry rejected the accusation, calling the report’s assessment “negative, false and unacceptable” and its conclusion “unjustified and inaccurate”. A statement called the murder “an abhorrent crime and a flagrant violation of the kingdom’s laws and values”.
White House officials said that the Biden administration would announce actions taken in response to the killing of Khashoggi after the report was released. The Biden administration will impose no direct punishment on Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, despite the conclusion of a long-awaited intelligence report released on Friday that he “approved” the operation, administration officials said.
“The relationship with Saudi Arabia is bigger than any one individual,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a news conference. By making public the intelligence report – withheld by the Trump administration for two years – and taking other actions, President Biden has moved toward a promised “recalibration” of the U.S.-Saudi relationship, he said.
The crown prince “should suffer sanctions, including financial, travel and legal – and the Saudi government should suffer grave consequences as long as he remains in government,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), whose legislation in early 2019 mandated release of the report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).
JCPOA/Iran Nuclear Deal: While the Trump administration unilaterally pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal and imposed sanctions on Iran, Biden has a different approach towards Iran. President Biden campaigned on restoring an accord limiting Iran’s nuclear program. It remains unclear if Tehran, which is demanding that sanctions be lifted first, will accept the offer to talk.
The United States took a major step toward restoring the Iran nuclear deal that the Trump administration abandoned, offering to join European nations in what would be the first substantial diplomacy with Tehran in more than four years, Biden administration officials said.
In a series of moves intended to make good on one of President Biden’s most significant campaign promises, the administration also backed away from a Trump administration effort to restore United Nations sanctions on Iran. That effort had divided Washington from its European allies.
And at the same time, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken told European foreign ministers in a call on Thursday morning that the United States would join them in seeking to restore the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, which he said: “was a key achievement of multilateral diplomacy.”
War in Yemen: Unlike Trump, President Biden is to end its support for offensive operations by its allies in Yemen, which has been devastated by a six-year war in which more than 110,000 people are believed to have died.
“The war in Yemen must end,” President Joe Biden said in his first major foreign policy speech. Under Mr. Biden’s two predecessors, the US-backed a coalition led by Saudi Arabia against Houthi rebels in Yemen. The conflict has left millions of Yemenis on the brink of starvation.
However, all these efforts on the part of the Biden administration to restore the Iran nuclear deal and lift sanctions from Iran will further strain the Saudi-US relationship. Also ending the support for KSA and its allies’ operation in Yemen will not only upset KSA but also its regional allies including tiny but rich and powerful UAE.
Since the presidency of Mr. Obama, Saudi – US relationship started straining. Arab allies were shocked and considered Iran’s nuclear deal as a betrayal to Gulf States security. They started to look towards India and China and slowly started to reduce their dependence on the US for their security needs. Biden administration policy measures are indicating that it will further add to the insecurity of Gulf States and they will be forced to look around and strengthen their relationship with regional allies including China, India, and Pakistan. Pakistan’s decades-long cultural, defense and military ties with KSA and other gulf counties make it a natural choice. Also, Pakistan’s strategic partnership with China gives it an important role it can play in changing the Arab world. Pakistan should not leave the level playing field for India to cash on Arabs insecurity and power vacuum to fil. With a dynamic and resilient foreign policy, Pakistan can fill the vacuum and earn Arabs trust to rely on Pakistan for their military and other defense needs.