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Biden should not shake MBS’ hand in Riyadh, says top Democrat

Mohammed bin Salman Reuters/Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends a session of the Shura Council in Riyadh on November 20, 2019

President Joe Biden should not visit Saudi Arabia or meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the chairman of the US House intelligence committee said on Sunday.

Rep. Adam Schiff was asked about reports that the president will travel to Riyadh in July and hold talks with the crown prince, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler – who is accused by US intelligence of approving an operation to capture or kill murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Khashoggi, a US resident who criticised the prince’s policies in columns for The Washington Post, was killed and dismembered in 2018 by Saudi operatives in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.

Riyadh has denied any involvement by Mohammed bin Salman, who is often known as MBS, in the killing and rejected the US intelligence report published in February 2021.

Schiff, a Democratic congressman from California, told CBS current affairs show Face the Nation: “In my view, no.

“I wouldn’t go. I wouldn’t shake his hand. This is someone who butchered an American resident, cut him up into pieces and in the most terrible and premeditated way.” 

Schiff added: “Until Saudi Arabia makes a radical change in terms of human rights, I wouldn’t want anything to do with him.” 

The chairman of House intelligence also rejected arguments that Biden should visit Saudi Arabia to try to persuade it to increase oil production and lower U.S. petrol prices – a problem for Biden and his fellow Democrats ahead of the midterm congressional elections in November.

While saying he understood Saudi influence over oil prices, Schiff said he viewed that as “a compelling argument” for the United States to wean itself off oil “so we don’t have despots and murderers calling the shots.”

In 2019, during his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, Biden called for Saudi leaders to be treated as “the pariah that they are”.