Opinion

Biden baffles Saudi Arabia

US President Joe Biden and Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia

It is not at all easy to analyse the purpose of the Biden administration's decision to publish a three-page intelligence report, the first containing the title and the other two containing assertions that may seem obvious, but without providing the slightest evidence to back them up.  

One might think it was an innocent and ignorant balancing act following the US president's order to bomb pro-Iranian militias in Syria, causing the death of 22 of their members, in response to the attack on a US base a few days ago that killed a businessman. It would be too simple to say that I give my first order as president to use military force with an attack against pro-Iranian militias and show that the new Democratic tenant of the White House is not going to be as weak as Trump claimed, and at the same time, as if to compensate, I publish an intelligence report against the leader of the country that is standing up to Iran's expansionism throughout the region.

The case of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul has all the elements of an all too simple and obvious plot of a film riddled with crude conspiracies. The report holds Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman responsible for ordering the kidnapping or murder of the journalist critical of Saudi power on the basis of simple intelligence assessments, assumptions and speculation without evidence. For example, bin Salman is responsible because an advisor and members of the preventive security staff were involved in the murder.

Conclusion: it is unlikely that Saudi officials would carry out such an operation without the permission of the crown prince or we believe that the members of the Rapid Intervention Force would not have participated without Bin Salman's approval or we do not know to what extent the officials decided in advance to harm him or we do not know whether these people knew in advance that the operation would result in the death of journalist Khashoggi.  

And the bottom line is: we base this assessment on Prince Bin Salman's control over decision-making in the Kingdom.  The blow against the US's great ally in the Middle East is completed with the announcement of a block on the sale of arms deemed offensive to stop the war in Yemen where the Saudi-led coalition is fighting the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels to overthrow the legally elected government. This could be a gesture towards Iran to get it to accept the conditions to restore the agreement on its nuclear programme. Turkey also seems to benefit from this multi-faceted manoeuvre by the Biden administration, which appears to be aimed at regaining its own control over the region. Biden's manoeuvre is puzzling.