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Biden's Trip to Saudi Arabia is About More Than Pumping Oil | US Politics In :60 | GZERO Media

Biden's trip to Saudi Arabia is about more than pumping oil

Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares his perspective on US politics:

What is President Biden hoping to achieve by visiting Saudi Arabia?

This week the White House announced that President Joe Biden would make a visit to the Middle East. The most important part of the trip will be a stop in Saudi Arabia and a visit with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The President came into office saying he wanted to make the Saudis pariahs for their history of human rights abuses, including the kingdom's involvement in the 9/11 attacks, the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and an ongoing war in Yemen that has resulted in tens of thousands of civilian casualties. But unfortunately for President Biden, his Middle East strategy has followed the Mike Tyson maxim that everyone has a plan until they're punched in the mouth.

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Will Biden say sorry to MBS?

Bizarre marriages of convenience dominate the geopolitical landscape: Russia and China; Iran and Venezuela; Israel and Turkey. The list goes on.

When President Biden came into office, he said he wouldn’t give a “blank check” to the world’s autocrats, including those associated with longtime US allies.

As part of his human-rights focused foreign policy, Biden rejected any dialogue with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), the 36-year-old de facto Saudi leader who’s credited with big reforms like allowing Saudi women to drive. He’s also overseen acts of incredible brutality, including the murder of dissident-journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the scorched-earth military campaign in Yemen.

But two years in and ample crises later, Biden is ready to sit down for a face-to-face with MBS next month in Riyadh. Why the massive about-face?

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A vigil is held at the Saudi embassy in Washington for journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger

What We're Watching: Saudis brace for Khashoggi report, Sri Lanka blasts UN, political unrest in Niger

US to release Khashoggi report: The Biden administration's intel chief is expected to release on Thursday a report on the murder of Saudi dissident journalist — and US resident — Jamal Khashoggi. In line with previously reported findings, the assessment will say that Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman was involved in the plot to kill and dismember Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018. Aside from a sprinkling of new details, we don't expect much from the report itself, but we are keen to see how it shapes US-Saudi relations under Joe Biden, who has promised to take a harder line with Riyadh over human rights and security issues than his predecessor did. Part of that new approach is that the US president will no longer speak directly to the Crown Prince himself as Trump did — from now on, only his dad, King Salman, gets calls from the White House.

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Podcast: Breathing While Black with WaPo's Karen Attiah


In the latest episode of GZERO World, Ian Bremmer explores international reaction to the murder of George Floyd and global protests against police brutality and racism. Karen Attiah, Global Opinions Editor of The Washington Post, explains her view that, on issues of race and inequality, the U.S. is a "developing country," and while this moment of uprising offers hope for real change there is still much work to be done. Attiah discusses protestors taking to the streets despite fears of the COVID pandemic, and the centuries-long struggle black Americans have faced on the road to equality. Attiah also reflects on the 2018 murder of her Washington Post colleague Jamal Khashoggi, killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Breathing While Black | Karen Attiah, Washington Post | GZERO World with Ian Bremmer

Breathing while Black: WaPo's Karen Attiah on racial injustice

In the latest episode of GZERO World, Ian Bremmer explores international reaction to the murder of George Floyd and global protests against police brutality and racism. Karen Attiah, Global Opinions Editor of The Washington Post, explains her view that, on issues of race and inequality, the U.S. is a "developing country," and while this moment of uprising offers hope for real change there is still much work to be done.

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What We’re Watching: It’s a Kim Jong-un Christmas!

North Koreans bearing gifts? – What kind of present will North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un leave under the tree for President Trump this year? US spooks are worried it could be a missile test: Talks over the North's nuclear arsenal have stalled since a summit between the two leaders broke down in February, leaving Pyongyang chafing under US sanctions. Testing a new ICBM that could reach the US would be one way for Kim to get Trump's attention, but it might provoke the US to seek even tighter financial curbs against the North. China, South Korea, and Japan have engaged in a flurry of diplomacy in recent days to try to tamp down rising tensions.

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