Cheap oil speaks louder than justice in Biden’s diplomacy with Saudi Arabia

If President Joe Biden screws up, he deserves to be called out just like any other American president.

He had already sparked controversy with his visit to Saudi Arabia in the summer, during which he called for more oil production to ease the pressure on oil prices.

The real question at the time was whether Biden was doing it in a sincere attempt to help American motorists or taking away a major vulnerability of his Republican critics ahead of the fall election season.

In any case, the visit included a high-profile meeting with the de facto Saudi leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom Biden had promised to be held accountable for the 2018 killing of US-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The full public extent of Biden’s harsh gestures of accountability consisted of a punitive fist-bump salute with the crown prince.

A full blown handshake was seen as a false impression that everything was warm and friendly.

Khashoggi’s murder occurred at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, where the Washington Post journalist and columnist was completing paperwork for his upcoming wedding. His fiancĂ©, Hatice Cengiz, was waiting outside when Khashoggi entered the consulate. He never showed up.

Henchmen who US intelligence concluded were working under the Crown Prince’s orders killed Khashoggi and then mafia-style dismembered his body.

Last week, the Biden administration filed a court document saying the crown prince qualified for immunity in a civil lawsuit brought by Cengiz over Khashoggi’s murder.

The US government did not have to intervene on behalf of the Saudi leader, but chose to do so anyway because the crown prince’s father, King Salman bin Abdulaziz, had recently appointed Muhammad prime minister, a purely ceremonial title in a country where the king and the crown prince are both have the final say in all matters of government, including who gets to live and who must die.

“Jamal died again today,” Cengiz posted on Twitter, later adding that when it comes to justice versus money, “money came first.”

Two Democratic US senators took to Sunday’s talk shows to defend Biden, praising the kingdom’s record as a strategic US ally in the fight against Iran and the 80-year friendship that has helped the United States trade in exchange for to turn their steadfastness into the beneficiary of low oil prices. Defending Saudi Arabia against its regional enemies.

We suspect that, like most situations in international diplomacy, the granting of US immunity involved some kind of quid pro quo.

Maybe it’s about cheap oil prices or asking the Saudis to make life difficult for China or Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

But as Washington Post editor Fred Ryan noted Friday, for the crown prince, immunity effectively meant giving him a “license to kill.” The bottom line is that Cengiz is right: money came first, not justice.

– St. Louis mail delivery