Nicholas Kristof Calls Biden Not Sanctioning MBS a ‘Betrayal’: Sends a ‘Weak Message to Other Thuggish Dictators’


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New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof called out President Joe Biden in a blistering piece Friday titled “President Biden Lets a Saudi Murderer Walk.”

Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman — who a U.S. intel report said approved the murder of Jamal Khashoggi — is not facing any direct consequences, and there’s already a fair amount of backlash to the new administration’s decision. (There were sanctions announced in connection with Khashoggi’s murder, but none against MBS directly.)

Kristof wrote in no uncertain terms, “Instead of imposing sanctions on M.B.S., Biden appears ready to let the murderer walk.”

“The weak message to other thuggish dictators considering such a murder is: Please don’t do it, but we’ll still work with you if we have to. The message to Saudi Arabia is: Go ahead and elevate M.B.S. to be the country’s next king if you must,” he said.

The Biden administration reportedly decided against going after the crown prince directly because of how it would impact the U.S.’ relationship with Saudi Arabia. Kristof responded:

I agree that it’s often necessary to engage even rulers with blood on their hands. But in this great balancing of values and interests, the towering risk is that M.B.S., who is just 35, will become king upon the death of his aging father and rule recklessly for many years, creating chaos in the Gulf and a rupture in Saudi-American relations that would last decades.

In other words, it’s precisely because Saudi Arabia is so important that Biden should stand strong and send signals — now, while there is a window for change — that the kingdom is better off with a new crown prince who doesn’t dismember journalists.

Kristof directly concluded by telling Biden, “Jamal was a practical man who didn’t believe in mushy gestures — but he did dream of a more democratic Arab world that would benefit Arabs and Americans alike. And by letting a murderer walk, you betray that vision.”

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Josh Feldman is a Senior Editor at Mediaite. Email him here: Follow him on Twitter: @feldmaniac