Biden to meet Saudi's MbS despite 'pariah' pledge

STORY: U.S. President Joe Biden will visit Saudi Arabia next month, where he will meet with the kingdom's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The announcement Tuesday from the White House dismayed human rights advocates and appeared to break Biden's campaign pledge to make Saudi Arabia a "pariah.”

Bin Salman, commonly known as MbS, was once hailed as a reformer in the deeply conservative kingdom. But attitudes turned when he ordered widespread arrests of perceived rivals.

And then, in 2018, Jamal Khashoggi, an American-based Saudi journalist and critic of the crown prince who wrote for the Washington Post, entered the Saudi consulate in Turkey, and never came out.

U.S. intelligence implicated MbS in the murder. The Saudi government denies the prince was involved.

In 2019, Biden vowed to make Saudi Arabia "pay the price, and make them, in fact, the pariah that they are," over the killing of Khashoggi.

The White House has said, as recently as this month, that Biden's view has not changed.

But global events did.

Inflation, Russia's war in Ukraine, and Iranian nuclear talks now mean Washington hopes Riyadh - a top oil producer - will keep a steady flow of crude to Europe and help firm up an alliance of Gulf Arab states and Israel opposed to Tehran.

At a news conference Tuesday, reporters pressed State Department spokesperson Ned Price on the president's commitment to human rights.

"I can tell you what hasn't changed: President Biden actually said this just the other week. He said, 'I'm not going to change my view on human rights.' So, in every relationship, of course, we bring our values with us. And human rights is always on the agenda, human rights is always on the table. So too are the interests of the American people. And these two things can be, and I would say must be complimentary."

Biden's visit to the Middle East will include a stop in Israel and Palestinian territories. Israel's defense minister on Tuesday said Washington should help lead regional military cooperation to counter Iranian influence.

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