MBS fired back at Biden with US controversies after confrontation over Khashoggi’s murder, says report

The Saudi crown prince brought up the death of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and incidents where US soldiers abused Iraqi prisoners

Rachel Sharp
Saturday 16 July 2022 20:39 BST
Biden says he raised Khashoggi murder with MBS
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Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman fired back at Joe Biden with America’s own controversies when the US president confronted him over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, it has been revealed.

A source familiar with Friday’s controversial meeting between the two leaders told CNN that the crown prince, known as MBS, responded by bringing up the death of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and incidents where US soldiers abused prisoners at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib detention centre.

The source said that MBS told Mr Biden that the two incidents reflected badly on the US.

Abu Akleh was shot and killed in May while covering an Israeli military operation in the West Bank. The US has come under fire for its response to her death, with the journalist’s family and Palestinian authorities urging American officials to hold Israel to account.

On Friday, Mr Biden visited the West Bank alongside Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas where he insisted that the US was committed to getting “full and transparent accounting” of her killing.

MBS also referenced the US military’s abuse of prisoners during the start of America’s invasion of Iraq.

Back in 2004, graphic photos emerged from the Abu Ghraib prison showing US military personnel torturing and sexually abusing Iraqi prisoners who they had captured and were holding there.

The photos eventually led to the conviction of 11 US soldiers.

The Saudi crown prince raised the two controversies after Mr Biden told him he believes he is responsible for ordering the murder of Khashoggi – something that US intelligence has concluded.

On 2 October 2018, Jamal Khashoggi – a Washington Post journalist and outspoken critic of the Saudi government – was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by a team of intelligence operatives with ties to MBS.

Khashoggi’s body was then brutally dismembered with a bone saw.

The Saudi Arabian government initially denied any involvement in the killing before going on to claim that the operatives killed him accidentally while trying to extradite him to Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaking to US President Joe Biden during the Jeddah Security and Development Summit on Saturday

US intelligence agencies later concluded that MBS had ordered the hit.

MBS continues to deny all responsibility for the brutal slaying, doubling down on his innocence when he came face to face with Mr Biden on Friday.

Following the meeting, Mr Biden told reporters that he had pressed MBS about Khashoggi’s “outrageous” murder.

“I made my view crystal clear... for an American president to be silent on an issue of human rights is inconsistent with who we are and with who I am,” he said.

The Biden administration has been forced to defend his decision to visit Saudi Arabia and meet MBS, particularly given Mr Biden’s statements during his 2020 White House run that he would make Saudi Arabia a “pariah”.

The president sparked further backlash when he greeted MBS with a friendly fist-bump at the start of Friday’s meeting.

Mr Biden met with several Middle East leaders during his four-day trip to the region which was in part aimed at reaching agreements with oil-rich nations and, ultimately, easing the pain on Americans caused by the current sky-high gas prices.

During the visit, it also emerged that an American lawyer, who had previously defended Khashoggi, was detained in the UAE on Thursday while travelling to Istanbul for a family wedding.

Human rights group Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) said Mr Ghafoor is being held in a detention facility in Abu Dhabi on charges related to an in absentia conviction for money-laundering.

The US citizen and civil rights attorney from Virginia who previously worked as an attorney for Khashoggi, had no prior knowledge of any conviction, DAWN said.

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