Destabilizing speculation

Biden to visit ‘pariah’ Saudi Arabia in July despite opposition at home

US President Joe Biden plans to continue his visit to Saudi Arabia next month despite many lawmakers advising him to cancel the trip.

A Reuters report, citing a source familiar with the planning, said on Sunday the White House was likely to announce the high-profile trip this week.

“We are working on a trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia for a (P)GCC+3 summit,” a senior administration official was quoted by NBC News as saying.

“We are working to confirm the dates. When we have something to announce, we will.

On Sunday, Biden said he had “not yet” decided whether to visit Saudi Arabia, amid opposition from Democratic Party lawmakers and human rights groups.

Biden confirmed earlier this month that he was planning a trip to Riyadh in a surprising about-face that many have linked to Washington’s energy needs following sanctions on Russia’s energy sector.

Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia, a country he has sworn to make a “pariah”, has stirred up a hornet’s nest in the halls of power in the United States in recent weeks, with many lawmakers advising him to cancel the visit.

In an open letter on Thursday, a coalition of rights groups called on the US president not to proceed with the trip without Riyadh’s human rights commitments, warning it could encourage ‘further abuses’ .

“Efforts to repair U.S. relations with the Saudi government without a genuine commitment to putting human rights first are not only a betrayal of your campaign promises, but will likely embolden the crown prince to commit further violations of human rights and international humanitarian law,” reads the letter from 13 NGOs.

The leaders of the oil-rich country are accused of widespread human rights abuses, particularly against religious minorities.

The country’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, is also accused of ordering the brutal murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

US House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff reportedly said last weekend that if he was Biden, he wouldn’t go to Saudi Arabia.

“I wouldn’t go. I wouldn’t shake his hand. He’s someone who slaughtered an American resident, cut him to pieces and in the most terrible and premeditated way,” he said. -he declares.

Biden’s planned visit to Saudi Arabia “is a slap in the face for activists, dissidents, women human rights defenders, journalists and ordinary citizens – in Saudi Arabia and abroad – who have been imprisoned, disappeared and murdered. “, Project on Middle East Democracy said on Twitter.

Biden’s U-turn on Saudi Arabia comes in the wake of a worsening global energy market crisis and soaring oil prices, fueled by the war in Ukraine.

The war, now in its fourth month, has resulted in the biggest energy supply disruption in decades, forcing Biden to recalibrate his stance on Saudi Arabia, observers say.

There is also speculation that Biden during the trip intends to take steps to help normalize relations between Riyadh and Tel Aviv, following in the footsteps of his predecessor.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the Saudi regime aims to invest millions of dollars in Israel, which could pave the way for the official normalization of relations between the two parties.

Since the start of the Russian military operation in Ukraine and the ensuing spike in oil prices, the US president has gone to great lengths to control fuel prices and isolate Russia.

The Biden administration has tried to blame the country’s economic woes on Russia, accusing Russian leader Vladimir Putin of destabilizing the global food supply and driving up the cost of groceries at home.

Meanwhile, the national average price of gasoline in the United States last week hit $5 a gallon for the first time in the country’s history, as inflation hit a 41-year high of 8.6 % in May.

Rising fuel and food prices are hitting Americans hard, causing Biden’s popularity to decline rapidly as well, making it difficult for his party to run into November’s midterm congressional elections.