Biden and bin Salman

An embarrassing photo demonstrates the perils of leading the free world.

The US-Saudi relationship has long been an odd one, with the ostensible leader of the free world being forced to overlook massive human rights violations in exchange for cooperation on oil prices and stability in a volatile region. Things have to say the least, not improved in recent years, with multiple incidents of Saudi nationalists murdering American citizens in acts of terrorism.

President Biden’s weekend trip to smooth things over has, not surprisingly, been without controversy.

CNN (“Biden’s fist bump with MBS ‘a win’ for US President: Saudi foreign minister“):

Joe Biden’s controversial fist bump with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was “a win” for the US President, the Saudi foreign minister told CNN in an exclusive interview on Saturday.

The US President has faced a backlash over the informal way he greeted the kingdom’s de facto ruler on his arrival in Jeddah on Friday. Critics have said the fist bump was inappropriate given US suspicions that the Crown Prince was responsible for the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi — and Biden’s subsequent 2020 campaign trail pledge to turn Saudi Arabia into a “pariah”.

“Suspicions” my ass. He ordered him murdered.

But Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan played down the controversy in an interview with CNN’s Nic Robertson hours after the President left Jeddah on Saturday.

“I see the image as a win for President Biden,” bin Farhan said.

“He got out of it a meeting with a key leader in the region. He got out of it, I think, reinvigoration of the strategic partnership between Saudi Arabia and the United States.”

Bin Farhan said it was “quite normal” that the leaders had exchanged “pleasantries”, adding, “I don’t know why we’re hung up on a fist bump.”

Considering that the image was released by the Saudi Press Agency, he knows damned well why we’re “hung up” on it. It signifies friendship and respect, seemingly conveying approval. One doesn’t generally fist bump a person one believes responsible for the torture and dismemberment of a journalist from an American newspaper.

Biden came to Jeddah seeking solutions to one of his top political problems at home — sky-high gas prices — as diplomacy with Saudi Arabia in the Middle East was seen as one of the few routes he could take to bring down prices that are putting strain on millions of Americans. Bin Farhan said the Crown Prince was open to increasing Saudi Arabia’s oil capacity — within limits.

“The most important point in the Crown Prince’s statement today was that we need to have a balanced approach towards our energy transition because the kingdom, while it’s increasing its capacity to 13 million barrels cannot go beyond that,” he said.

However, critics say Biden’s visit has been overshadowed by lingering unease over human rights issues in Saudi Arabia.

Concerns over the optics of the trip were highlighted on Saturday as it emerged that when Biden had raised the matter of Khashoggi’s killing, the Crown Prince responded by saying the US had “made its own mistakes”. In particular, the Crown Prince referenced the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison following the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the May killing of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abbu Akleh in the occupied West Bank as incidents that reflected poorly on the United States.

This surely did not come as a surprise. It’s the kind of thing Donald Trump says in justifying despots.

For its part, the White House has defended Biden’s use of the fist bump as part of an effort to reduce physical contact amid the rapid spread of a new coronavirus variant, noting that Biden also fist-bumped several Israeli leaders before his arrival in Jeddah.

This . . . is not helping. I have plenty of criticisms of the Israeli government over the years. They have committed human rights abuses of their own. They are not, however, monsters. And they’re genuine American allies sharing most of the same values.

On returning to the White House Saturday evening, Biden appeared annoyed when asked whether he regretted the greeting. “Why don’t you guys talk about something that matters. I’m happy to answer a question that matters,” he said.

It actually matters quite a lot, Mr. President.

The meeting between Biden and the Crown Prince was among the most closely watched moments of Biden’s landmark visit to the Middle East, with the controversy distracting from some of the other items on the President’s agenda — including discussions of Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Before Biden’s arrival, Saudi Arabia had been pressuring the US to provide security guarantees if negotiations with Iran were to fail. The last round of talks between the US and Iran resulted in a standstill.

In a statement following the meeting, the White House said Biden had “affirmed the United States’ commitment to working with Saudi Arabia and other allies and partners in the Middle East to integrate and enhance security cooperation.”

Again, I get it. The United States has worked with some incredibly unsavory regimes in the past and will almost certainly continue to do so.

Indeed, President Bush the Younger was infamously photographed holding hands with Crown Prince Abdullah while hosting him at his Crawford ranch almost twenty years ago. He was criticized for that—and for hypocrisy, given how much the Global War on Terror was ostensibly about global freedom and spreading democratic values.

Diplomacy is a messy business. But this trip was poorly handled. It’s not as though this controversy was a surprise. His staff let him down here.

And he’s paying the price for it with brutal criticism from all sides.

Robin Wright, The New Yorker (“Biden Caters to Autocrats and Draws Battle Lines in the Middle East“):

On his final stop, in Jeddah, Biden held talks with the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. The C.I.A. has concluded that M.B.S., as he’s popularly known, authorized the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident and columnist for the Washington Post, in 2018. Khashoggi was lured to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to get documents to legalize his impending marriage. “Khashoggi was, in fact, murdered and dismembered—and, I believe, on the orders of the crown prince,” Biden declared, at a Presidential debate, during the 2020 campaign. He called Saudi Arabia’s current government a “pariah” with “little” redeeming value. He vowed to make the Saudis “pay the price.” Khashoggi’s body has still not been recovered.

In an open letter to Biden, published in the Post, Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, implored him to cancel the visit. She had waited for Khashoggi outside the consulate as he was suffocated and his body was sawed into pieces. “The details of the suffering he endured have haunted me,” she wrote. She was horrified that Khashoggi’s killers “roamed free” as the U.S. funnelled billions of dollars in military equipment to the Saudi government. The trip “represents not just an unprecedented capitulation to M.B.S.’s reckless, unaccountable rule but an unprecedented doubling down on support for the autocrats of the region, gifting them with a security agreement that no U.S. Administration has ever committed to in the past,” Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of dawn, a pro-democracy group founded by Khashoggi, told me. (On Friday, Biden said that he confronted M.B.S. about the killing.)

Bethan McKernan, The Guardian (“Oil trumps human rights as Biden forced to compromise in Middle East“):

For all the careful choreography of Joe Biden’s Middle East tour, the White House made a major miscalculation when the president finally came face to face with Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, for the first time.

Before Air Force One left Washington, the administration said that Biden would be avoiding physical contact and not shaking hands owing to a rise in Covid cases, a move widely believed to allow him to avoid creating an uncomfortable photo op with the powerful heir to the throne.

But the image of the two leaders leaning towards each other, hesitant smiles on their faces as they bumped fists, came across as more relaxed and familiar than the US president probably intended.

Biden came to office determined to take a firmer line with the strongmen and autocrats beloved by Donald Trump. He had a particular enmity towards Prince Mohammed, the ambitious 36-year-old who deposed his uncle to become next in line as king, waged a ruinous war in Yemen, and locked up or killed his critics.

On the campaign trail, in the aftermath of the gruesome murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Biden vowed to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah state”. He has since refused to speak to the crown prince directly, liaising instead with his ailing father, King Salman. Shortly after arriving in the White House, Biden released US intelligence findings – suppressed by Trump – which concluded that Prince Mohammed approved the operation targeting the Washington Post journalist at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

When the US president brought up Khashoggi with the de facto Saudi ruler on Friday, the prince reportedly hit back, accusing Washington of hypocrisy by not investigating the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh, and for allowing the abuse of inmates at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison.

Yet Riyadh has been one of Washington’s closest strategic partners for decades for a reason that no US president can ignore. Biden has heard the siren song of the kingdom’s vast oil reserves: the war in Ukraine has unleashed chaos in global oil markets, and he can no longer refuse the call.

Worse yet, Biden’s attempts to do damage control seem to be backfiring.

Peter Baker, NYT (“Biden Says He Confronted Saudi Prince Over Khashoggi. How True Is That?“):

As President Biden told the tale, it sounded pretty dramatic.

After meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, on Friday for the first time since taking office, the president insisted that he had pointedly blamed him for the murder of the columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

“He basically said that he was not personally responsible for it,” Mr. Biden recounted to reporters. “I indicated that I thought he was.”

The only hitch? That’s not the way it happened, according to Saudi officials. Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs, who was present for the encounter, told reporters that he had not heard the president blame the crown prince.

The White House on Saturday did not back down. “The president was very clear about the conversation, and we stand by his account,” said John Kirby, the coordinator for strategic communications at the National Security Council.

Asked by reporters after landing back in Washington whether the Saudi minister was telling the truth, Mr. Biden replied simply, “No.” He seemed exasperated by the second-guessing of his trip. When a reporter asked if he regretted the fist bump he had greeted Prince Mohammed with, he complained, “Why don’t you guys talk about something that matters?”

Both sides had an interest in spinning the closed-door meeting. Mr. Biden has been denounced by rights groups, media organizations and politicians in both parties for meeting with the crown prince, who the C.I.A. says ordered the 2018 operation that killed Mr. Khashoggi, a United States resident and columnist for The Washington Post. By promoting how tough he was behind closed doors, the president clearly hoped to defuse some of the criticism for abandoning his campaign promise to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah.”

For their part, the Saudis were eager to present the meeting as a return to business as usual between the leaders of two longtime allies, and had every hope of minimizing the lasting import of the Khashoggi case. Mr. Jubeir confirmed to reporters that Mr. Biden had raised the matter but characterized it in less confrontational terms. The last thing the Saudis wanted was the image of a president lecturing their young leader.

Indeed, both sides were acutely attuned to the choreography of the encounter. American news photographers traveling in the White House motorcade were given no opportunity to get in place to capture the image of the president greeting the crown prince upon his arrival at a palace here, a picture Mr. Biden’s aides had dreaded. The Saudi government, for its part, made sure its official photographers were everywhere and snapped myriad shots of the two together, which were promptly posted online.

Mr. Biden is by nature a storyteller with a penchant for embellishment. He has often told the story of meeting President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in 2011 as vice president and telling him, “I’m looking into your eyes, and I don’t think you have a soul.” Others present at the time had no memory of that specific exchange.

Mr. Biden has similarly described an unvarnished confrontation in 1993 with Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian nationalist leader who unleashed an ethnic war in the Balkans. “I think you’re a damn war criminal and you should be tried as one,” Mr. Biden, then a senator, related having told Mr. Milosevic, according to a 2007 memoir, “Promises to Keep.” Some other people in the room later said they did not recall that line.

Mr. Biden likes presenting himself as standing up to dictators and crooked figures. Another favorite story stemmed from a meeting with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan in 2008, when the Afghan leader denied that his government was awash in corruption. Mr. Biden said he grew so irritated that he threw down his napkin, declared, “This dinner is over,” and stormed out.

Often, others in the room for such sessions say that some version of what Mr. Biden has described did take place, only not with quite as much camera-ready theatricality. During his presidential campaign, for instance, he told a moving story about honoring a war hero that fact checkers at The Post later concluded conflated elements of three actual events into a version that did not happen.

All of us, from time to time, will falter in the moment only to come up with the words one wishes one had said after the fact. Biden, it seems, likes to pretend that he actually said them. Charitably, that’s a reflection of who he wishes himself to be. In the movies, the hero is always ready with the right lines. In real life we don’t have a script.

Regardless, as David Sanger and Peter Baker write in the NYT (“As Biden Reaches Out to Mideast Dictators, His Eyes Are on China and Russia“) these uncomfortable optics come in service to an actual policy agenda.

During his painful encounters with a series of Arab strongmen here in Saudi Arabia this weekend, President Biden kept returning to a single reason for renewing his relationship with American allies who fall on the wrong side of the struggle he often describes as a battle between “democracy and autocracy.”

“We will not walk away and leave a vacuum to be filled by China, Russia or Iran,” Mr. Biden said at a session on Saturday with nine Arab leaders in a cavernous hotel ballroom in this ancient port on the Red Sea. “And we’ll seek to build on this moment with active, principled American leadership.”

Mr. Biden’s framing of America’s mission as part of a renewed form of superpower competition was revealing. For decades, American presidents largely saw the Middle East as a hotbed of strife and instability, a place the United States needed a presence largely to keep oil flowing and eliminate terrorist havens. Now, more than 20 years after a group of Saudis left this country to stage terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center and strike the Pentagon, Mr. Biden is driven by a new concern: That his forced dance with dictators, while distasteful, is the only choice if his larger goal is to contain Russia and outmaneuver China.

A return to “great power competition” was ostensibly at the center of President Trump’s national security strategy and, arguably, that was presaged by President Obama’s “pivot to Asia” back in 2011. But Biden seems to genuinely be prioritizing said competition and organizing the rest of his foreign policy around that.

“We’re getting results,” he insisted on Friday night as he emerged from a meeting with the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who clearly sees the opportunity to get diplomatic rehabilitation after Mr. Biden refused to see him for months, accusing him of complicity in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi dissident and Washington Post columnist.

Mr. Biden’s effort here to negotiate greater oil production — jarring enough for a president who came to office vowing to help wean the world from fossil fuels — is driven by the need to make Russia pay a steep price for invading Ukraine.

To be sure, it’s also motivated by domestic politics. Americans are furious at the higher prices at the pump.

So far, that price has been scant: Not only are the Russians continuing to collect substantial oil and gas revenues, they are even supplying Saudi Arabia, Reuters reported recently, with fuel for its power plants — at discounted prices.

Perhaps the most notable of Mr. Biden’s flurry of announcements with the Saudis was an agreement signed Friday night to cooperate on a new technology to build next-generation 5G and 6G telecommunications networks in the country. The United States’ main competitor in that field is China — and Huawei, China’s state-favored competitor, which has made significant inroads in the region.

It is all part of a larger Biden administration effort to begin pushing back on Beijing in parts of the world where for years the Chinese government has made progress without feeling much competition.

Three weeks ago, at the NATO summit meeting, Mr. Biden celebrated a new “strategic concept” for the Western alliance that, for the first time, recognized China as a systemic “challenge,” describing its policies as coercive and its cyberoperations around the world as malicious. The doctrine said that along with Russia, Beijing was trying to “subvert the rules-based international order,” words similar to those the Biden administration has used on this trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia.

After that summit, European officials said they would focus on pushing back on China’s influence inside Europe, and on reducing dependency on its electronics, software and other products.

The effort here in Jeddah is similar — to show that the United States will help push back on Chinese and Russian influence. Mr. Biden outlined a five-part “new framework for the Middle East” that included supporting economic development, military security and democratic freedoms. “Let me conclude by summing all this up in one sentence,” he said. “The United States is invested in building a positive future in the region in partnership with all of you, and the United States is not going anywhere.”

Frustrating though it may be, human rights aren’t always at the top of our foreign policy agenda. Certainly, the prospect of China setting the global agenda is more problematic than how the Saudi government treats its subjects.

FILED UNDER: Middle East, World Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. R.Dave says:

    Meh, this is a nothingburger that the press and others are cynically playing up for clicks and/or political advantage. Every President shakes hands with the scumbag dictators they meet with because refusing to do so would be undiplomatic. A fist bump is just the COVID-era equivalent of the handshake.

    That said, if making a big deal about this helps keep public pressure on officials to distance the US from the Saudis, I’m good with that.

  2. CSK says:

    I see your point, but I think elbow-bumping was the Covid precaution.

    There’s something about fist-bumping that seems a little too buddy-buddy for the occasion. And MBS.

  3. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @R.Dave: That makes no sense. The US and Saudi Arabia have strategic interests that don’t end because Saudi Arabia poorly moved 1 piece.

    That’s not the way Strategic Competition works…at least for Countries looking to be strategically well placed. If the subject is human rights, of course, hammer away at the Saudis. But there is more common interests between the US and Saudi than Human Rights and it’s dumb to alienate regional partners over single issues. Especially when the US is not the only international partner of Choice.

    I actually think this narrative is driven my media bias in that the Saudis have a horrible human rights record with a lot of outside groups..,yet the expectation is the US must now shitcan our relationship and cede the Saudis to China…because they killed a journalist (appalling that it is).

    *What I did not say was the media should shut up about Kashoggi. Their expectation that the US President should not handle US business because of him, is a too far.

  4. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Jim Brown 32:
    I think this was an act of statesmanship. Biden is eating dirt for the benefit of the country he leads.

    It’s hard to watch. It’s not pretty. But as @Jim Brown 32: points out, we have bigger fish to fry, starting with getting the Saudis to pump more oil at a time when we’ve largely taken Russian oil out of the equation. And there’s Iran. And there’s China looking to build naval and air bases in the ME. And there’s the UAE opening to Israel.

    The US is energy self-sufficient, and I had always hoped that would free us from our involvement with scum like MBS. Unfortunately we still have other issues in the Gulf beyond our own need for oil.

  5. Lounsbury says:

    @R.Dave: Indeed, it is a bit of Realpolitik at a crisis moment when the USA and W. Europe are on back-foot due to Putin. Pious purism is a way to lose. Biden did the right thing in the terms of wider liberal demcracy interests, a short-term sacrifice of moral purity in wider interest. (that is in accord w @Jim Brown 32: ; @Michael Reynolds: )

    As the other real world choices on the table is an energy crisis worthy of 1973 and the almost certain enabling of radical reactionary populism throughout the western world, for an ultimate greater loss for liberal (in the liberal democracy sense) values.

  6. DK says:

    It actually matters quite a lot, Mr. President.

    Quite a lot? Lol. Not to anyone outside your Beltway bubble, Mr. Joyner.

    However, folks out here in normalland are talking about fires and floods, and about Ohio Republicans trying to force a 10 year-old rape victim to have her attacker’s offspring.

    A story that has dominated political conversation for a week without a topline post here, even as we’ve had two trans panic posts.

    What matters? What doesn’t? Who decides?

    And he’s paying the price for it with brutal criticism from all sides.

    So, in other words, another day in the Biden administration. Replace this nothingburger with anything else Biden has done as president, and this line will read exactly the same.

    We get the Biden Derangement Syndrome by now, it’s nothing new. Just hard to take seriously from folks like Peter Baker, an arrogant who still won’t backtrack on his anti-Hillary witch hunt smears that put America on the brink ot fascism.

  7. Stormy Dragon says:

    This . . . is not helping. I have plenty of criticisms of the Israeli government over the years. They have committed human rights abuses of their own. They are not, however, monsters. And they’re genuine American allies sharing most of the same values.

    How is the Israeli assassination of American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in retaliation for negative coverage of their government any different than the Saudi assassination of American journalist Jamal Khashoggi in retaliation for negative coverage of their government?

  8. James Joyner says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    How is the Israeli assassination of American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in retaliation for negative coverage of their government any different than the Saudi assassination of American journalist Jamal Khashoggi in retaliation for negative coverage of their government?

    Khashoggi was deliberately lured to the Saudi embassy to get marriage paperwork, was then abducted, tortured, and dismembered, almost certainly under the orders of the de facto Saudi head of state. Abu Akleh was killed in the crossfire in a combat zone.

  9. JohnSF says:

    Like others round here, canoodling the al-Saud in general, and MBS in particular, leaves me queasy.
    But there is damn good reason for it:
    Oil prices drop below $95 for first time since invasion of Ukraine

    The West needs to buy time for economic adjustments to meet the challenges coming this winter, when Putin will try to break the European economies.

    And also to mitigate the massive economic, social and political strains currently being placed on poorer with high fuel and food import requirements.

    It’s an unfortunate geopolitical fact that Iran is not available as a alternative, but it is not, and largely due to the decisions of the Iranian elites.
    As collapsing the al-Saud rule would be a perilous course (see: Iraq) especially in the current crisis, there is no alternative but to grin and bear it.
    And make another debit entry in the Saudi ledger in hope of future repayment.
    There will come a day when the oil and the petro-dollar no longer purchase immunity; and then karma may pay a visit to Riyadh.

    President Biden deserves plaudits for being realistic enough to take the brickbats he will be lobbed over this.

    (Next step: increase private pressure on Berlin to halt and reverse the folly of shutting down the fission reactors.)

  10. Stormy Dragon says:

    @James Joyner:

    Abu Akleh was killed in the crossfire in a combat zone.

    While that was the IDF’s original story, it’s now known that she was actually killed an hour and a half later, blocks away, and appears to have been intentionally targeted by a unit who was aware exactly who she was.

  11. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

  12. Stormy Dragon says:
  13. MarkedMan says:

    “Suspicions” my ass. He ordered him murdered.

    You might want to throw an “allegedly” or “it sure seems obvious to me” in there…

    The Saudis have a lot of lawyers and aren’t afraid to use them

  14. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Also, on the IDF’s long history of intentionally targeting journalists:

  15. James Joyner says:

    @Michael Reynolds: @Stormy Dragon: As of July 4, weeks after those reports, here’s what the US State Department says:

    After an extremely detailed forensic analysis, independent, third-party examiners, as part of a process overseen by the U.S. Security Coordinator (USSC), could not reach a definitive conclusion regarding the origin of the bullet that killed Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Ballistic experts determined the bullet was badly damaged, which prevented a clear conclusion.

    In addition to the forensic and ballistic analysis, the USSC was granted full access to both Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Palestinian Authority (PA) investigations over the last several weeks. By summarizing both investigations, the USSC concluded that gunfire from IDF positions was likely responsible for the death of Shireen Abu Akleh. The USSC found no reason to believe that this was intentional but rather the result of tragic circumstances during an IDF-led military operation against factions of Palestinian Islamic Jihad on May 11, 2022, in Jenin, which followed a series of terrorist attacks in Israel.

    @Stormy Dragon I do concede that the Israeli government cares much less about press freedom than ours. Especially when it comes to Palestinian journalists they see as working for the enemy.

  16. MarkedMan says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I think this was an act of statesmanship. Biden is eating dirt for the benefit of the country he leads.

    I admit that I haven’t been following this too closely, but I haven’t seen any commentary on what seems to me to be fairly obvious: He is currently trying to keep an anti-Russia coalition together which requires asking all kinds of leaders to do things they find politically risky or personally repugnant. One of the most crucial things in holding the coalition together is to get energy prices down and that means talking to the Saudis, among others. If Biden played “too pure to touch it” right now, it could have consequences the next time he’s trying to keep, say, the Germans inside the fence.

  17. MarkedMan says:

    @Lounsbury: I see you beat me to it…

  18. MarkedMan says:

    @JohnSF: And also you. I should have learned by now to read all the comments before spouting off…

  19. Stormy Dragon says:

    @James Joyner:

    The Office of the United States Security Coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority (USSC) is a liaison office, not an investigatory organization. That was a political statement intended to further US policy interests, not the announcement of the results of any sort of legitimate independent investigation.

    If you cut out all the fluff, all it really says is “we read both the Israeli and Palestinian reports, and they disagree so *shrug*”

  20. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    appears to have been intentionally targeted by a unit who was aware exactly who she was.

    That statement is not supported by any of the investigations. Yes, it was an Israeli soldier who fired the round. No, there is no evidence as to that soldier’s motives or what that soldier knew or intended, or same as relates to the ‘unit.’ I’m not denying it’s possible, but I think it is highly unlikely that the Israeli officer in charge ordered anyone to fire on known journalists.

  21. Lounsbury says:

    @JohnSF: Indeed, the sheer stubborn idiocy of the reactor position (too much paperwork to reverse as an actual statement, in the face of absolute production shortfalls at European level if gas is cut or substantially reduced). The only potential upside a Fall broad crisis breaking the idiot wing of the green left.

    @MarkedMan: where would the fun in that be?

  22. Lounsbury says:

    @Michael Reynolds: It also is rather unlikely in a sense of real world fog of war situations – the sort of claims of people who also critique police for not shooting to wound in a justified use of deadly force situation.

    That Israeli fordces would be aware of presence of journos in area and probably adopted “whatever” PoV in flragrant disregard, that one can easily credit. American action movie levels of situational awareness of specific personalities physical positions, not as much.

  23. R. Dave says:

    @Jim Brown 32: Yeah, to be clear, I’m not saying Biden shouldn’t have met with MBS or that we should walk away from the Saudi relationship immediately or all at once. I’m just saying they’re evil bastards who are, at best, temporary allies of convenience and necessity, and it’s a good thing for public sentiment about them to remain negative so our more realpolitik inclined leaders don’t get too comfortable and cozy about doing business with them in the long term.

  24. JohnSF says:

    When will I learn: read thrice, then edit, then post. 🙁

    My sentence:
    “And also to mitigate the massive economic, social and political strains currently being placed on poorer with high fuel and food import requirements.”
    Should read:
    “And also to mitigate the massive economic, social and political strains currently being placed on poorer countries with high fuel and food import requirements.”

  25. Console says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    The US is energy self-sufficient, and I had always hoped that would free us from our involvement with scum like MBS.

    We choose capitalism over everything, so there’s no real such thing as being self sufficient. The global price of oil is still king. Exxon will sell to China before you if the price is right

  26. Skookum says:

    He is currently trying to keep an anti-Russia coalition together which requires asking all kinds of leaders to do things they find politically risky or personally repugnant.

    Which is similar to what the US did after WWII by “forgiving” Nazis we recruited to help spy on the Soviet Union and capitalize upon Nazi science.

    Trump and the Saudis was the meeting of minds, i. e., the US has no moral superiority, therefore anything goes. Biden, at least, acknowledged that the US is holding its nose to maintain a relationship with a kingdom that has both strategic importance and vastly different ways of dealing with political dissidents.

  27. Lounsbury says:

    @JohnSF: Bourgeois luxury, editing.

  28. JohnSF says:

    “After the Revolution, editing will no longer be necessary, as the New Soviet Man will damn well get it right first time!
    If he knows what’s good for him.”

    attrib. J.V. Stalin. (allegedly) 🙂

  29. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    This is nothing. Go look up photos of past Presidents, including Obama, in the same situation.
    Biden actually played it as well as it could be played.
    He should be getting praise for that.

  30. al Ameda says:

    Yes, at least Jared Kushner had the decency to forego the fist bump and quietly accept $2 billion from the Saudis.

    File this ‘story’ under NOTHING HAPPENED