Jun 7, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Democrats urge Biden to "recalibrate" U.S.-Saudi relationship

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2019. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Ahead of President Biden's upcoming trip to the Middle East, a group of six Democratic lawmakers wrote a letter Tuesday urging the president to take steps to ensure the U.S.-Saudi relationship serves the United States' national interests.

Driving the news: Since 2015, the kingdom has "repeatedly acted in ways at odds" with the policies and values of the U.S., the lawmakers wrote.

  • Saudi Arabia's "refusal to stabilize global energy markets" has indirectly enabled Russia's war crimes in Ukraine and its actions in Yemen threaten to fuel instability in the Middle East, they added.

What they're saying: "Until Saudi Arabia shows signs of charting a different course...we encourage you to redouble your efforts to recalibrate the U.S.-Saudi relationship," the letter read.

The big picture: The letter outlines steps Biden should take to recalibrate the U.S.-Saudi relationship, including securing commitments on Saudi oil production, pushing for the release of jailed human rights activists and dissuading the kingdom from pursuing greater strategic cooperation with China.

  • Demanding accountability for the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi is also of the utmost importance, they wrote.
  • The letter was signed by Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee; Gregory Meeks, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Adam Smith, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, Carolyn Maloney, who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Reform; Bennie Thompson, who chairs the Homeland Security Committee; and Stephen Lynch, who chairs the Subcommittee on National Security on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

State of play: Biden told reporters last week that there is a "possibility" he could visit Saudi Arabia during his trip to the region, which would likely entail a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

  • Schiff advised Biden against traveling to Saudi Arabia to meet with MBS during an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday, saying "until Saudi Arabia makes a radical change in terms of its human rights, I wouldn't want anything to do with him," referring to Saudi leader.
  • U.S. intelligence has concluded that MBS is responsible for approving the murder of Khashoggi — an allegation Saudi officials reject.
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