Washington: The Biden administration announced sanctions and visa bans on Friday targeting Saudi Arabian citizens over the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but stopped short of imposing sanctions on Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman himself.
US President Joe Biden’s actions in the first weeks of his administration appear aimed at fulfilling campaign promises to realign Saudi ties after critics accused his predecessor, Donald Trump, of giving the Arab ally and major oil producer a pass on gross human rights violations.
Relations have been severely strained for years by the war in Yemen and the killing inside a Saudi consulate of Khashoggi, a US resident who wrote columns for the Washington Post critical of the crown prince’s policies.
Importantly, the decisions appear designed to preserve a working relationship with the crown prince, the kingdom’s de facto leader, even though US intelligence concluded that he approved the operation to capture or kill Khashoggi.
“The aim is a recalibration (in ties) – not a rupture. That’s because of the important interests that we do share,” the senior Biden administration official said.
The 59-year old Saudi journalist was lured to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct 2, 2018 and killed by a team of operatives linked to the crown prince. They then dismembered his body. His remains have never been found.