(Photo credit: Saudi Royal Court via Reuters)
US President Biden has accused the Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Adel al-Jubeir, of lying after the Saudi official said he “did not hear” Biden bring up the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in his meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS).
Al-Jubeir was asked by a Fox News reporter on 16 July about Biden’s account of discussing the murder with MbS, as the US president claimed he “indicated” to MbS that he held him “personally responsible” for the 2018 killing.
“I didn’t hear that particular phrase,” the Saudi official replied.
After the US president returned to Washington, he was asked by reporters if Al-Jubeir was telling the truth, to which he simply replied: “No.”
In an earlier interview with Reuters, Al-Jubeir said that Biden “raised the issue … and the crown prince responded that this was a painful episode for Saudi Arabia and that it was a terrible mistake.”
For his part, Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan said that, in response to Biden, the crown prince brought up the murder of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Aqla by an Israeli sniper, as well as the torture committed by US soldiers at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib detention center, telling Biden that the two incidents “reflected badly on the US.”
Bin Farhan also called the controversial meeting between the US and Saudi leaders a “win” for Biden.
“I see the image as a win for President Biden. He got out of it a meeting with a key leader in the region,” he said.
This latest back-and-forth is underscored by Biden’s failure to secure commitments for increased oil production.
At the Jeddah Security and Development Summit on 16 July, MbS highlighted that Saudi Arabia would increase per day oil production from 11 million barrels to 13 million by 2027, “after which the kingdom will not have any additional capacity to increase production”.
The west is currently experiencing a crippling energy crisis due to sanctions imposed on Russia, and has been unsuccessful in its attempts to pressure OPEC+ to increase output.
Aside from failing to secure output increases – which would alleviate the worst inflation the US has seen in decades – the US president also failed to walk away with concrete advancement on the idea of a NATO-style Arab military alliance, one that would be hostile towards Iran.