Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman apparently yelled at President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, when he asked about the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday. The incident happened when the pair first met at the 36 year old prince’s seaside palace last September. Details were mentioned in an article about how US-Saudi relations have reached “breaking point”.
Although the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia appeared to strike a relaxed tone by wearing shorts during the meeting, he “ended up shouting at Mr Sullivan after he raised the 2018 killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” the newspaper reported. “The prince told Mr Sullivan he never wanted to discuss the matter again.”
People familiar with the discussion were cited by the Wall Street Journal. Bin Salman, it said, added that the US “could forget about its request to boost oil production.”
The incident underscores the breakdown in the relationship between Washington and Riyadh since Bin Salman was appointed as Crown Prince in 2017. The early optimism and positive relations which he enjoyed during the administration of the then US President Donald Trump faded following the killing of Khashoggi in 2018 at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
Biden has since taken a tougher stance on the Kingdom’s human rights record and the Yemen war in which a Saudi-led coalition has been engaged since March 2015.
Bin Salman hinted at the breakdown in relations with Washington last month in an interview with The Atlantic. He warned the US not to interfere in the internal affairs of the absolute monarchy. When asked whether Biden misunderstood things about him he said: “Simply, I do not care. [It is up to Biden] to think about the interests of America.”
Commenting on the Wall Street Journal article, pro-Saudi regime commentator Ali Shihabi admitted that there is tension between the two allies but rejected the claim that Riyadh’s insistence that Biden should acknowledge Bin Salman as heir to the throne is the cause. “There are tensions between the US and Saudi but a demand for acknowledgment by Biden of [Bin Salman’s] ‘claim to inherit the throne’ is certainly NOT one of them,” tweeted Shihabi. “[Bin Salman] is the legally designated successor who will inherit the throne and the US has zero input into that.”
The idea that the US has any influence on the succession in Saudi Arabia is “ridiculous,” insisted Shihabi. He also dismissed the claim that the overthrow of Bin Salman’s predecessor as Crown Prince, Muhammed Bin Nayef, who he admits is Washington’s preferred choice, has any relevance.
Bin Nayef was passed over and replaced in 2017 by Bin Salman during what some commentators described was a “soft coup”. He was put under house arrest. Parliamentarians and human rights groups have raised concerns over his health and safety.