In Saudi Arabia, it took less than 24 hours to undermine the image that US President Joe Biden had cultivated over the years, the image of a fierce advocate of human rights.

The life of a politician is dotted with campaign pledges that ultimately backfire. For Biden, the list includes his 2019 vow to make the desert kingdom a “paria” of human rights records.

Similarly, his solemn account, released last year on Independence Day, is that “we stand as a sign to the world” about Washington’s role on the world stage.

For many, it was difficult to match these words with the most scorching image of Biden’s first visit to the Middle East, the fist bump with Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman.

US intelligence officials believe that Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader, the Crown Prince, has “approved” the 2018 operation that led to the killing and dismantling of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Images of fist bumps taken outside the palace of the Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah were immediately distributed by the official Saudi Arabian press before the round on social media.

It finally landed on the top page of the Washington Post, where Khashoggi was a contributor columnist.


Before Biden arrived in Jeddah, the White House took some steps to try to mitigate blowbacks from encounters that knew it was coming.

Biden said, “I want to strengthen my strategic partnership,” while claiming that “basic freedom is always on the agenda when traveling abroad,” and posted a column explaining why he traveled. Posted in.

At the beginning of the tour that took him to Jerusalem and Bethlehem before Jeddah, his communications team said he would limit physical contact with the people Biden met because of concerns about the coronavirus.

Some journalists quickly speculated that the measures Biden did not fully comply with were not due to public health, but to fear of troublesome photography with Prince Mohammed.

In the end, the first bump in Jeddah was “worse than a handshake-it was shameful,” Post CEO Fred Ryan said in a statement.

“It predicted the level of intimacy and comfort that would provide MBS with the unjustified reimbursement he was desperately seeking.”

There were no reporters on the move. By the time they arrived at Jeddah’s palace, the two leaders were already inside.

But soon, “fist bumps” became inevitable and were broadcast in seemingly constant loops by state media and Saudi Arabian government social media accounts.

White House-certified journalists faced further restrictions as Biden met with Saudi Arabian leaders.

They were only temporarily allowed for a meeting of US and Saudi Arabian government delegations, keeping some distance from the negotiating table.

The brief remarks of Biden and Prince Mohammed were no longer heard because the boom microphone was not allowed.

-“The dictator is laughing”-

After the meeting with the Saudi royal family ended on Friday night, the White House hurriedly arranged for Biden to make a brief statement and ask some questions.

Biden told journalists that he had raised the Khashoggi case “at the top” of the meeting with Prince Mohammed, adding that he had revealed “what I was thinking at the time and what I am thinking now.”

On Saturday, Biden told leaders from nine Arab countries at the summit, “In the future, we will be won by countries that maximize the potential of our people … Citizens are not afraid of retaliation. You can ask and criticize. “

However, fist bumps are already the decisive shot of the tour.

Earlier in Israel, Biden explained his decision to go to Saudi Arabia by making it appear to imply the political compromise it represents.

“My view of Khashoggi was absolutely positive and clear, and I was never quiet about talking about human rights,” he said at a press conference.

But Biden said the trip, beyond human rights, is intended to “promote the interests of the United States.” Term election.

Biden, who returned to the United States, did not sympathize with human rights activists.

“The dictators of the world are smiling,” Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said on Twitter.

“Biden’s support for human rights can be sold for a small amount of oil.”

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