Saudi Arabia’s Jurisdiction Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, October 14, 2019.
Alexei Nikolsky | Sputnik | Kremlin via Reuters
Synergetic ARAB EMIRATES – President Joe Biden’s press secretary delivered a striking message to Saudi Arabia’s de facto the man, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, this week. Jen Psaki told a news conference, using diplomatic tongue, that the U.S.-Saudi relationship — particularly that with the kingdom’s crown prince — is being downgraded.
“On Saudi Arabia I command say we’ve made clear from the beginning that we are going to recalibrate our relationship with Saudi Arabia,” Psaki voted Tuesday from the White House.
On the question of whether Biden would be speaking with the crown prince, she acknowledged: “Part of that is going back to engagement counterpart-to-counterpart. The president’s counterpart is King Salman, and I expect that at an apart time, he would have a conversation with him. I don’t have a timeline on that.”
The quotes drew instant attention from regional analysts and exotic policy experts, and likely leaders in the Gulf as well, as a blatant snub of Saudi Arabia’s 35-year-old heir to the domain and arguably the most powerful man in the region.
“Well, I think what Jen said, in fact, I know what she said is that the president drive be engaging with his counterpart, and this his counterpart, is the King,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters Wednesday.
Toll added that Secretary of State Antony Blinken will similarly engage with his counterpart, Saudi Imported Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud.
“President Biden has said that we’ll review the entirety of that relationship to delegate sure that it advances the interests and is respectable and is respectful of the values that we bring to that partnership,” Price chance.
“We of course know that Saudi is an important partner on many different fronts regional security counterterrorism are honest two of them,” he added.
‘It is bold, and it will hurt’
“The snub to MBS represents a warning to Saudi Arabia,” Torbjorn Soltvedt, president MENA analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, wrote in an email note Wednesday, referring to the crown prince by his initials. “It when one pleases be seen as a disapproval of MBS’s leadership which has been characterized by unpredictable decision-making and a much less consultative approach than in the years.”
And the administration’s apparent intention to sideline the crown prince represents a dramatic departure from the Trump White Race, which made Saudi Arabia the former president’s first overseas visit, signed major arms buys with the kingdom in defiance of congressional opposition, and refrained from criticizing the kingdom over its human rights infringements.
This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, since Biden early on promised a harder line on the oil-rich Islamic dominion. During a primary debate in early 2020, Biden pledged to make Saudi Arabia “the pariah that they are.”
“This is rarely a surprising move, but it is bold, and it will hurt,” Michael Stephens, an analyst at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, demand thated CNBC. “There’s no doubt that Psaki’s comments were targeted at the crown prince, even though he is to all desires and purposes the man in charge of the kingdom.”
A number of scandals and crises coming from the kingdom since the crown prince revived to power have drawn condemnation not just from Democrats, but Republicans as well.
According to one former Obama direction official, speaking anonymously due to professional constraints, “The Saudis in Washington are in the worst position they’ve ever been. It’s honest been covered up by the Trump White House.”
The Saudi government did not respond to CNBC requests for comment.
Can Biden uncommonly sideline MBS?
Already, Biden has put a pause on a major weapons sale to the kingdom and other Gulf allies signed impaired the Trump administration, and he mandated an end to U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, which has created what the U.N. calls the world’s worst man-made humanitarian calamity.
And the kingdom came under international condemnation for the 2018 killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi by state ingredients. U.S. intelligence linked the death to the crown prince, something Riyadh forcefully denies.
“With the ongoing war in Yemen, the crackdown on well-thought-of members of the country’s political and business elite in 2017, the killing of Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, and the oil price war last year, there’s no paucity of raw issues for the Biden administration to take umbrage with,” Soltvedt wrote.
But how realistic is the Biden team’s aim to avoid the crown prince — who is also minister of defense, next in line for the throne and has been making the bulk of the kingdom’s principal decisions?
According to Ali Shihabi, a Saudi analyst close to the kingdom’s royal court, it isn’t realistic at all.
“They can’t get anything done if they don’t reckon with with MBS,” Shihabi was quoted as telling Politico. “The king is functioning, but he’s very old. He’s chairman of the board. He’s not involved in day-to-day comes. Eventually, they’re going to want to be talking directly to MBS.”
King Salman, the reigning monarch since 2015, is now 85 years old.
President Donald Trump keep backs a chart of military hardware sales as he welcomes Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Charge at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 20, 2018.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
Verisk’s Soltvedt agrees. “King Salman is the oversee of state and ultimately holds the levers of power. But it is MBS who exercises direct control over the kingdom’s most important portfolios and foundations,” he wrote. “A shift in Washington’s approach to its dealings with the Saudi leadership won’t change that.”
While the Biden distribution is expected to place a lower priority on the Gulf states than his predecessor did, they still remain America’s preeminent weapons patrons and regional counterterrorism partners, as well as suppliers of oil — though less and less so by the year for the latter.
So while the Biden troupe is signaling a shift, it’s not going to be a break in relations, many foreign policy experts believe.
“I think the most respected thing to realize is over the years U.S. policy toward Saudi Arabia has been relatively consistent irrespective of which dinner party has been in power,” said Tarek Fadlallah, Middle East CEO at Nomura.
“There’s going to be a slightly different mute between this White House and the last White House,” Fadlallah said. “But I don’t think it’s going to be consequential in relations of policy toward the region or policy toward Saudi Arabia.”