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With the war in Ukraine sending energy prices higher and China cementing more alliances in the Middle East, Mr. Biden is traveling thousands of miles to attempt to repair a relationship that has reached a nadir in its year history — arguably even worse than after the Sept. Yet no justification for his visit to the kingdom this week can erase the truth: It is a defeat for Mr.

But it does not have to be a defeat for the U. A change in Mr. The question is: What will Mr. Biden choose to make of this renewed opportunity to reset the relationship? So the Biden administration had to come up with a solution to its Saudi problem, especially in a critical election year, as Mr. The Biden administration has shied away from previewing desired results for this meeting. But returning home with only vague pledges on oil and Israel — and no concrete concessions from Saudi Arabia on human rights — would be a defeat not just for Mr.

Biden but for the United States. Realpolitik policymakers like to wave away human rights as having any place in pragmatic policymaking, but there is an opportunity for Mr. Biden to make human rights part of a revamped strategy with Saudi Arabia that the kingdom could accept, even if not enthusiastically.

Saudi Arabia will not become a democracy soon. But the United States can still engage with the monarchy constructively to make some gains on human rights, defend against authoritarianism and promote regional integration. The United States needs to demonstrate consistency in support of its values alongside its strategic goals. It is easy for Saudi leaders to dismiss Mr. Failing to raise the issue of Ms. At the same time, the country has become a case study in digital authoritarianism.

But it should also find ways to collaborate with Saudi Arabia on the institutional and legal frameworks that regulate the technological environment in the kingdom. The Biden administration also needs to continue targeting Saudi enablers of authoritarian behavior through coercive diplomacy.

The Khashoggi ban , a visa restriction policy instituted by the State Department in response to the murder of Mr. Khashoggi, is a good start that should continue. Individuals acting on behalf of the Saudi government who are involved in the repression of Saudi nationals at home and abroad must pay a price. Similarly, the regulation of relevant Saudi intelligence and paramilitary training must continue. In , The Washington Post revealed that the State Department had refused a proposal to train the Saudi intelligence service because of insufficient safeguards by the Saudis to prevent lawless operations against political dissidents.

To go further, the United States could apply more scrutiny to training that former military and law enforcement officials offer the kingdom privately. By making space for values in the bilateral relationship, Saudi leaders would be helping themselves. Without an improved values record, Saudi Arabia will continue to face obstacles from Congress and the U.

The same goes for business. Even if Mr. Despite progress, the weakness of the rule of law and lack of participatory decision making in the kingdom require investors to think twice and have complicated existing relationships.

It also gives the United States leverage in the success of Vision None of these paths are easy to take. They require both Saudi and American leaders to plan strategically and not according to election dates and oil prices. They also require Mr. Biden to deliver a clear message: For a long time, Saudi leaders counted on U. But they should also realize that having a minimum of shared values builds more consequential relationships than oil and arms.

Your email address will not be published. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. Bashing Saudi Arabia during a presidential election season is almost a tradition in the United States, and President Biden made no exception. Emboldened by domestic outrage over the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, Mr.

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One book recounts the story of a Saudi man who studied in New York in the s and rose to prominence in civic life back in his homeland. Four years after Khashoggi’s killing, Saudi’s brutal crown prince has a new tactic for The Saudi PIF, according to the New York Times. In honor of Thomas Friedman’s latest love letter to the ruling dynasty in Saudi Arabia, here is seventy years worth of the New York Times.


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