Biden must 'recalibrate' US ties with Saudi Arabia, House Democrats say

"Saudi Arabia’s refusal to stabilize global energy markets is helping bankroll Vladimir Putin’s war crimes in Ukraine," A group of senior House Democrats wrote.

 US SECRETARY of State Antony Blinken and Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud deliver remarks to reporters before meeting at the State Department, in October. (photo credit: JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS)
US SECRETARY of State Antony Blinken and Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud deliver remarks to reporters before meeting at the State Department, in October.
(photo credit: JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS)

WASHINGTON – A group of senior House Democrats sent a letter to President Joe Biden, urging him to “further recalibrate the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia.”

The letter comes as Washington and Riyadh are trying to coordinate a date for Biden’s visit to the kingdom later this summer.

The letter was signed by House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Gregory Meeks (D-New York), House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence chairman Adam Schiff (D-California), House Homeland Security Committee chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Mississippi), House Committee on Oversight and Reform chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-New York), House Armed Services Committee chairman Adam Smith (D-Washington) and Stephen Lynch (D-Massachusetts), chairman of the National Security Subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

A recalibrated US-Saudi relationship

“The Kingdom has long been an important US partner, and we seek to further cooperate with it on regional, counterterrorism, energy and other priorities,” they wrote. “However, since 2015, its leadership has repeatedly acted in ways at odds with US policy and values.

“Of most immediate relevance, Saudi Arabia’s refusal to stabilize global energy markets is helping bankroll [Russian President] Vladimir Putin’s war crimes in Ukraine, while inflicting economic pain on everyday Americans,” they added.

“Additionally, the prolonged Saudi-led war in Yemen has not reduced Iran’s malign influence but instead created an unprecedented humanitarian disaster that will fuel regional instability. Finally, recent mass executions and Saudi pressure on Turkey to cease the trial for Jamal Khashoggi’s brutal murder bely claims that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is pursuing genuine reforms.”

 Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Khalid Bin Salman await ahead of their meeting with the US Secretary of State at Irqah Palace in Riyadh on February 20, 2020.  (credit: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images) Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Khalid Bin Salman await ahead of their meeting with the US Secretary of State at Irqah Palace in Riyadh on February 20, 2020. (credit: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Until Saudi Arabia “shows signs of charting a different course, and in light of deliberations regarding a potential visit to the Kingdom during which you may have an opportunity to meet with King Salman and other regional heads of state, we encourage you to redouble your efforts to recalibrate the US-Saudi relationship,” they wrote.

They asked that Biden prioritize securing further Saudi commitments to stabilize global energy markets “and definitively abandon its Trump-era oil production deal with Russia.”

Regarding the Saudi-led war in Yemen, they asked for continuing the suspension of offensive US military support.

They also urged Biden to prioritize “ending the Kingdom’s arbitrary detention of human rights defenders, as well as other human rights abuses.”

“We stand ready to work with you on advancing this agenda and request that senior members of your national security team brief Congress on these issues ahead of and following your trip,” they wrote. “Pursuing these straightforward measures would achieve your goal of a recalibrated US-Saudi relationship that serves both US interests and values.”

House of Representatives Democrats