I don't know what anyone who's disappointed that Biden isn't doing anything about Mohammed bin Salman not being held accountable for the death of Jamal Khashoggi expected. Biden is a pillar of the status quo and only a fool could possibly expect him to become a disrupter. He's the most status quo president since Warren G. Harding and his "return to normalcy" presidency. The administration released the investigation report [which had been leaked 2 years ago] showing what we all knew: bin Salman had Khashoggi murdered and dismembered. Trump no doubt reveled in it. Biden probably couldn't care less and is pretending to regret it. But do something? Ha!
Today David Sanger reported that whoever is running the show for Biden "has decided that the diplomatic cost of directly penalizing Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, is too high." Posturing during the campaign, Biden had tried to make Trump look bad by calling Saudi Arabia a "pariah" state with "no redeeming social value." Now his team claims "there was no way to formally bar the heir to the Saudi crown from entering the United States, or to weigh criminal charges against him, without breaching the relationship with one of America’s key Arab allies. Officials said a consensus developed inside the White House that the cost of that breach, in Saudi cooperation on counterterrorism and in confronting Iran, was simply too high. For Biden, the decision was a telling indication of how his more cautious instincts kicked in, as the responsibilities of managing a difficult ally led him to find ways other than going directly after Prince Mohammed to make Saudi Arabia pay a price."
Biden’s aides said that as a practical matter, Prince Mohammed would not be invited to the United States anytime soon, and they denied that they were giving Saudi Arabia a pass, describing series of new actions on lower-level officials intended to penalize elite elements of the Saudi military and impose new deterrents to human rights abuses.
Those actions, approved by Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, include a travel ban on Saudi Arabia’s former intelligence chief, who was deeply involved in the Khashoggi operation, and on the Rapid Intervention Force, a unit of the Saudi Royal Guard that protects Prince Mohammed-- and is under his direct control.
...“Over all, I’m hugely pleased by the declassification,” said Representative Tom Malinowski, Democrat of New Jersey, who was the assistant secretary of state for human rights in the Obama administration. But he said that a “visa ban for M.B.S. should be mandatory” under existing law “if the secretary of state has credible information that he committed a gross human rights abuse, which the secretary just told us he has.”
Blinken, Malinowski said, had the power to waive the visa ban, but only with a report to Congress, with a written justification.
The Times also ran a harsh-ish editorial by Nick Kristof yesterday, President Biden Lets a Saudi Murderer Walk, noting that the Biden administration is doing "next to nothing." Kristof wrote that "Instead of imposing sanctions on M.B.S., Biden appears ready to let the murderer walk. The weak message to other thuggish dictators considering such a murder is: Please don’t do it, but we’ll still work with you if we have to. The message to Saudi Arabia is: Go ahead and elevate M.B.S. to be the country’s next king if you must." He called it "a missed opportunity to help Saudi Arabia understand that its own interest lies in finding a new crown prince who isn’t reckless and doesn’t kill and dismember journalists."
So what should Biden have done? Kristof says wrote that "As a matter of consistency he should have imposed the same sanctions on M.B.S., including asset freezes and travel bans, that the United States imposed in 2018 on lower-level figures who carried out the murder of Khashoggi. These sanctions should also apply to the stooges and front companies that M.B.S. has used to accumulate assets around the world... The United States should also have suspended arms sales to Saudi Arabia. United States law bars military assistance to security units involved in gross human rights abuses, and that is true of security forces under M.B.S., who also serves as defense minister."
Kristof imagines the U.S. could get the Saudis to downgrade MBS from Crown Prince to something else without "crown."
“King Salman and any independent advisers he may still have would be well-advised to consider how unsustainable it will be for the kingdom to retain M.B.S. as crown prince,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Democracy for the Arab World Now. “M.B.S. has proven time and again to be a liability and a danger for the kingdom, reviled and avoided by the international community.”
American officials sometimes say that if we don’t sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, then France or Russia will. But what Saudi Arabia gets from America is not only high-tech weaponry but, far more important, an implicit promise of defense from Iran or other countries. France and Russia can’t provide that.
Kristof concluded with a direct rebuke to Biden: "[B]y letting a murderer walk, you betray that vision [of a Democratic Arab world]." What a fuzzy vision that is! But this won't be the last rebuke Biden gets from The Times as it starts sinking in what a pile of crap-- better than Trump, sure-- we elected president.