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Washington Post publisher Fred Ryan sharply criticized President Biden this week for his planned trip to Saudi Arabia, saying that it “erodes our moral authority.”
“When, seeking votes, Biden vowed to make Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman a ‘pariah’ for his role in murdering Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi, the world had every reason to think he meant it,” Ryan wrote in an op-ed on Monday.
Ryan described Biden’s decision to make the trip to Saudi Arabia as an “embarrassing reversal.”
“So why is President Biden now going to Jiddah on bended knee to shake the ‘pariah’s’ bloodstained hand? Once again, he is seeking votes,” Ryan wrote.
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Biden defended his trip in his own op-ed for the Washington Post on Saturday, saying the purpose was to “strengthen a strategic partnership.”g
Ryan fired back that the president’s meeting will send a signal to the world that America’s “values are negotiable.”
“Biden needs the Saudis to increase their oil production to help keep global energy prices in check. The trip sends the message that the United States is willing to look the other way when its commercial interests are at stake,” he wrote.
Biden acknowledged there were many who disagreed with his decision to go to Saudi Arabia.
“My views on human rights are clear and long-standing, and fundamental freedoms are always on the agenda when I travel abroad, as they will be during this trip, just as they will be in Israel and the West Bank,” Biden wrote.
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“Neither meetings with Biden’s deputies nor a phone call would give MBS what he most wanted: a photo of the president shaking his hand. So, MBS held out until Biden grew desperate enough to give in. We can be sure other ‘allies,’ whose support we need, are taking note,” Ryan said.
He said that Biden’s trip sends a “dangerous message about the value” that the U.S. “attaches to a free press.”
Ryan said the world was “stunned” that Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS, “would butcher a journalist so closely connected to the United States.” He also noted that another Washington Post contributor, Vladimir Kara-Murza was being held in Russian jail, and freelancer Austin Tice, is also imprisoned in Syria.
“When the image of Biden pressing flesh with Jamal’s murderer flashes around the world, what will it say to Vladimir Putin and to the Syrians, who hold the lives of these journalists in their hands?” he wrote.
Ryan called on Biden to “send over a list of political prisoners to be released as a precondition for the encounter” and to insist on a “face-to-face meeting with Saudi dissidents.”
“If Mohammed bin Salman delivers anything less, Biden should refuse the staged handshake the crown prince so desperately craves. Otherwise, MBS’s cherished photo will belong in an album of American shame,” he concluded.
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Biden, while campaigning for president, said he would make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” due to its human rights abuses and the killing of Khashoggi. According to the Central Intelligence Agency, a team of Saudi agents brutally murdered him inside the Saudi embassy in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2018, on the crown prince’s orders.
“We were going to in fact make [Saudi Arabia] pay the price, and make them, in fact, the pariah that they are,” Biden said in a 2019 debate.