No sanctions on the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammad Bin Salman. This is the signal Joe Biden is sending to ally Saudi Arabia.
And Biden is taking the hit from some allies for stopping short in keeping his electoral promise.
While he released the half-cooked intelligence report based on beliefs and not concrete proof, he did not act against MBS.
For the Saudi’s this is of great relief because it would have opened another conflict embroiling the country.
And this would have been a conflict with an ally and Saudi Arabia could not afford that at this moment.
Nor could the Americans because it would have, in a sense, cut the US off the Middle East.
Joe Biden’s administration believes the Saudi prince approved the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
But Biden is worried about disrupting the US-Saudi relationship.
The US faced a massive backlash from the Arab world with most countries in the ME showing support for MBS.
Critics are saying Biden’s lack of action will give the Prince more reason to continue with repressive methods.
Instead of targeting the Prince, the US is imposing travel bans and financial sanctions against some who are accused of murder.
The US also is sanctioning the Rapid Intervention Force, an elite unit that protects Prince Mohammed and answers only to him.
The US intelligence report released on Friday says that seven members of the force were part of the 15-man team that killed Khashoggi.
But it based its assertion against the Prince on observations.
Critics are unhappy that Biden and his aides find Prince Mohammed too big to punish.
They also question whether the US will remake its relations with the Saudis.
During a campaign debate in November 2019, Biden’s words were harsh towards the Saudis.
He did say he would make the Saudis into “the pariah that they are.”
or there is “very little social redeeming value in the present government”.
He promised that his administration would not “sell more weapons to them”. This may hold for some time but we know the US is an arms seller.
Writing in the Guardian, Mohamad Bazzi, a journalism professor at New York University barely holds his anger against Biden and the Saudi prince.
He says Biden and his aides seem to be relying on wishful thinking.
“That the prince would no longer try to hunt down, kidnap or kill dissidents outside the kingdom, fearing that a future crime could instigate US sanctions or other punishment.”
He adds Saudi Arabia has since the murder of the journalist, has continued its crackdown on political opponents at home and abroad.