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Biden Administration Launches Reset in Relations with Saudi Arabia, Withdraws Support for Saudi-Led War in Yemen

Author: Editorial Staff

Affiliation: American Journal of International Law 

Organization/Publisher: American Journal of International Law, Cambridge University Press

Date/Place: Summer 2021/USA

Type of Literature: Academic Journal article

Number of Pages: 9


Keywords: Saudi-US Relations, MBS, Yemen War, Khashoggi 


This article reviews the Biden administration’s shift in policy towards the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The article contrasts the current administration’s policies towards the Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman who enjoyed close relations with the Trump administration despite being implicated in the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. The Biden administration has shifted its diplomatic contact between the two states through Muhammad bin Salman’s father. It also released an unclassified annex to the CIA report which publicly acknowledged Muhammed bin Salman’s role in the murder. On the same day, the US sanctioned 76 Saudi nationals, many of whom were close to the Crown Prince. When pressed why the administration did not go after the Crown Prince himself, even though it acknowledged his role in the murder, the White House claimed that further actions would harm the US-Saudi relationship and harm the US’s ability to counter Iran or fight terror. The Crown Prince faced two court cases in US courts for various crimes against dissidents, and the State Department has not supported the Crown Prince’s legal argument that he should enjoy immunity as a head-of-state. The Biden administration has also paused or curtailed the sale of arms to the Kingdom and decreased its support for the war in Yemen. Furthermore, the Biden administration also cancelled the listing of Houthi rebels as terrorists on humanitarian grounds. The above moves were not a radical shift towards Saudi Arabia but a clear message to the Kingdom that they do not have a “blank check” to do what they want in the region.

By: Üveys Han, CIGA Senior Research Associate



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