WASHINGTON (Dispatches) – U.S. President Joe Biden should not visit Saudi Arabia or meet its Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who approved an operation to capture or kill murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to U.S. intelligence, a leading American Democratic lawmaker says.
Khashoggi, a U.S.-based dissident journalist who wrote opinion columns for the Washington Post that were critical of the prince’s policies, was killed and dismembered in 2018 by operatives linked to the prince in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.
Asked if Biden, who on Friday acknowledged the possibility he may visit Saudi Arabia soon, should go to the oil exporter and meet the crown prince, its de facto ruler, Representative Adam Schiff said: “In my view, no.”
“I wouldn’t go. I wouldn’t shake his hand. This is someone who butchered an American resident, cut him up into pieces and in the most terrible and premeditated way,” Schiff, who chairs the House of Representatives intelligence committee, told CBS’s “Face the Nation” program.
Saudi Arabia has denied any involvement by the crown prince in the murder and rejected a U.S. intelligence report that assessed that MBS “approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill” Khashoggi.
“Until Saudi Arabia makes a radical change in terms of (its) human rights, I wouldn’t want anything to do with him,” Schiff said of the crown prince.
Schiff also dismissed arguments that Biden should visit the kingdom to try to get it to increase oil production and lower American gasoline prices.
The price for a gallon has doubled since Biden took office in January last year, but that same gallon costs $4.81 on Saturday morning, according to data from the non-profit American Automobile Association (AAA). The association said the average gallon of gas cost only $2.39 during the first week of Biden’s presidency.
The gasoline prices are a problem for Biden and his fellow Democrats ahead of the November midterm congressional elections.
Schiff said the United States should wean itself off oil “so we don’t have despots and murderers calling the shots.”
Several officials told NBC News on Friday that Biden’s planned visits to Saudi Arabia and the Israeli-occupied territories later this month have been postponed until July.
Sources added that the White House is now planning a more comprehensive trip to the Middle East next month.