Biden betrays Khashoggi, campaign promises in quest for Saudi oil

“[Jamal] Khashoggi was, in fact, murdered and dismembered, and I believe on the order of the crown prince. And I would make it very clear we were not going to, in fact, sell more weapons to them, we were going to, in fact, make them pay the price and make them, in fact, the pariah that they are. There’s very little social redeeming value of the — in the present government in Saudi Arabia.”

That was then-candidate Joe Biden during a 2020 presidential debate. But after capturing the Oval Office, President Biden went ahead with a $650 million sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia in December 2021.

Now Biden is set to visit Saudi Arabia to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the very man Biden said ordered the murder Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi embassy in Turkey.

Last week, the Washington Post, where Khashoggi was a columnist before his death, published an op-ed by Biden in which the president claimed his goal has always been to “reorient – but not rupture – relations” with Saudi Arabia. So much for treating Saudi Arabia as a pariah.

The Post also published an op-ed by Hatice Cengiz, to whom Khashoggi was engaged before his murder. Cengiz expresses her shock and disappointment over Biden’s meeting with her ex-fiancé’s killer and suggests Biden is overlooking Saudi Arabia’s “horrific human rights abuses” to reduce oil prices.

And that’s exactly what this trip is about. Biden wants the Saudis to produce more oil to bring down record-high gas prices.

Biden had options other than kowtowing to a murderous dictator. But he’s done several things domestically that have contributed to sky-high prices. He has cancelled the expansion of the Keystone pipeline, prohibited drilling in the oil-rich Arctic National Wildlife refuge in Alaska and cancelled oil leases to drill off the Gulf and Alaskan coasts. Meanwhile, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm has prioritized transitioning to green energy.

Unsurprisingly, Biden has downplayed the role oil is playing in his trip, mentioning it only once in his Washington Post op-ed.

The Biden administration is clearly on the defensive when it comes to energy and gas prices. The president has bounced between blaming Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine (which occurred well after gas prices began to soar), to pointing the finger at oil companies, which Biden says are motivated by “greed,” to condemning “mom and pop” gas stations by alleging they’re fleecing customers for profit. None of it is resonating. 

A devastating New York Times poll released on Sunday puts the president’s approval at 33 percent nationally, easily the lowest of any first-term president. Worse, 64 percent of Democrats (yes, Democrats) say they don’t want Biden to run for president again in 2024. And a stunning 94 percent of Democrats under 30 years would prefer a different presidential nominee.

Biden no doubt believes that by going to Saudi Arabia on bended knee, he can alleviate some of the pain Americans are feeling at the pump. But by doing so, he will only aggravate the pain felt by Hatice Cengiz and all those horrified by Khashoggi’s unjust killing.

Joe Concha is a media and politics columnist.

Tags gas prices Hatice Cengiz Jamal Khashoggi Joe Biden Mohammed bin Salman Oil prices Saudi Arabia Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman US-Saudi relations

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