More than a dozen human rights, progressive, and environmental organizations sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calling on Congress to prioritize climate and human rights concerns by recalibrating the U.S.-Saudi Arabia relationship.
At a recent OPEC+ meeting, the Saudi government decided to drive up global oil prices, helping Russia increase its fossil fuel revenue and burnishing criticism of President Joe Biden in the weeks leading up to the midterm elections by raising the cost of gasoline.
That decision was driven by interests shared between dictators who rely on fossil fuels. In response, Congress has an opportunity to push back on both authoritarianism and the predominance of fossil fuels, and to work toward a world where the U.S. can be a leader in a just transition to renewable energy.
The letter urges Congress to “reset the fundamentals of the U.S.-Saudi relationship,” by taking up a range of existing legislation to support human rights in Saudi Arabia, accelerate global renewable energy transition, and roll back U.S. military support to the Saudi government.
Among the groups endorsing the letter was Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), the human rights organization founded by Jamal Khashoggi, an American journalist murdered by agents acting on the orders of Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud.
Six months after leaving the White House, former President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner secured a $2 billion investment from a fund led by the Saudi crown prince, a close ally during the Republican administration, despite objections from the fund’s advisers about the merits of the deal.
Kushner was a leading defender of the Saudi crown prince, even after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that he had approved the 2018 killing and dismemberment of Khashoggi, a Saudi columnist for The Washington Post and resident of Virginia.
As a candidate, President Joe Biden promised to to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for Khashoggi’s murder but when it came time to actually punish Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, America’s strategic interests prevailed.
“I would make it very clear we were not going to in fact sell more weapons to them,” said Biden during a Democratic debate on November 20, 2019. “We were going to in fact make them pay the price, and make them in fact the pariah that they are.” Biden also said there is “very little social redeeming value in the present government in Saudi Arabia,” and, in reference to Yemen, said he would end “end the sale of material to the Saudis where they’re going in and murdering children.”
Congress has never voted to authorize American involvement in the Saudi war against the Houthis, or in the Yemeni civil war.
During the presidency of Barack Obama, the United States began providing Saudi Arabia with critical support to “sustain” the Saudi Arabian–led intervention in the Yemeni Civil War.
This support included logistical and intelligence aid and it was later expanded during the presidency of Trump, who vetoed a bipartisan bill in 2019 aimed at stopping U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.
In 2021, Biden vowed to halt U.S. support for the war, though U.S. arms sales to the coalition have continued.
The U.S. Department of State on Thursday suggested sovereign immunity for the Saudi Crown Prince should be granted in a lawsuit filed by the fiancée of the slain Washington Post columnist and by the rights group he founded, Democracy for the Arab World Now.
The White House spokesperson on Friday reiterated that the administration supports immunity from lawsuits despite Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s role in the killing of a U.S.-based journalist as part of “customary institutional law.”
“The United States consistently has afforded head of state immunity to heads of governments such as prime ministers, consistent with customary institutional law,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
Following the U.S. Department of State’s suggestion that the crown prince be given sovereign immunity, Cengiz tweeted, “Jamal died again today.”
The Washington Post released a statement from its publisher, Fred Ryan, following the decision, saying that Biden had turned his back on “fundamental principles of press freedom and equality.”
From 2015 to 2019, Saudi Arabia was reportedly the largest importer of U.S. arms.