Democratic lawmakers urge Biden to ensure Saudi ties serve US

WASHINGTON — Several Democratic lawmakers in the House have signed a letter urging President Biden to take a more cautious approach towa...


WASHINGTON — Several Democratic lawmakers in the House have signed a letter urging President Biden to take a more cautious approach toward Saudi Arabia and caution the kingdom against pursuing more strategic cooperation with China on ballistic missiles. .

The letter comes as Mr. Biden plans to visit Saudi Arabia this summer, a trip that some leading Democrats have criticized. Rep. Adam B. Schiff, a California Democrat and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who led the drafting of the letter, said Sunday that Mr. Biden should not travel to Saudi Arabia, citing the role of the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the murder. by Jamal Khashoggi, journalist for the Washington Post.

The letter, from Mr. Schiff and five other House members, does not urge Mr. Biden to cancel his trip, but it does say engagement with the kingdom should aim to “recalibrate this relationship to serve national interests. from America”.

Lawmakers raise six issues for the administration to focus on with the Saudis: global oil markets, the war in Yemen, the detention of human rights activists, the investigation into the murder of Mr. Khashoggi, efforts to acquire civilian nuclear technology and military cooperation with China.

China is helping Saudi Arabia build ballistic missiles and acquire more capable ones, US officials say. The letter is the first time U.S. lawmakers have publicly raised the missile issue with the White House and urged action on it.

Saudi Arabia has been buying short-range ballistic missiles from China for years. But over the past two years, that relationship has intensified, even as the United States and China have become more antagonistic. The Saudis are now buying more capable missiles that can travel farther, and they are acquiring the technology to create their own components, set up production facilities and conduct test launches, according to US officials, with the apparent aim of to be able to produce their own missiles in the future.

In December, CNN reported that US intelligence officials had estimated that China had shared important ballistic missile technology with Saudi Arabia.

“The missile issue is separate from nuclear concerns in the region,” said Dalia Dassa Kaye, a Middle East expert at the Burkle Center for International Relations at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Now there are fears that Saudi Arabia will create indigenous missile-building capabilities.”

US officials also fear that Saudi Arabia could attempt to build nuclear weapons if Iran develops one. Iran has a civilian nuclear program that the United States and other nations are trying to limit so that its leaders cannot turn it into a weapons program. But the Biden administration’s strategy to get there – by forcing Iran to abide by the terms of a nuclear deal from which the Trump administration withdrew – is collapsing.

Saudi Arabia is a close partner of the United States and a major buyer of American military equipment. But as the kingdom and Prince Mohammed came under growing criticism after Mr Khashoggi’s death, Saudi Arabia has stepped up its collaboration with China, which is a major buyer of Saudi oil and has growing military interests. in the Indo-Pacific region.

Saudi Arabia has pushed to improve its missile capabilities while Iran, its main rival, has done the same. Iran has short and medium range ballistic missiles capable of striking any part of the Middle East and southern Europe. Its most sophisticated missile is the Shahab-3which can travel more than 800 miles.

Saudi Arabia remains heavily dependent on US military training and equipment, giving leverage to the Biden administration. And in their letter, the Democratic lawmakers urged Mr. Biden to use that leverage.

“Public reports indicate that Saudi Arabia is pursuing greater strategic cooperation with China, including further ballistic missile acquisitions,” the letter said. “We urge you to make it clear that partnering with China in a way that undermines U.S. national security interests will have a lasting negative impact on U.S.-Saudi relations.”

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said during a online event last week that Mr. Biden took office with the intention of ensuring that the United States’ relationship with Saudi Arabia “served our own interests, as well as our values, as we move forward”.

“But also preserve it,” Mr. Blinken added, “because it also helps us accomplish many important things.”

He said the administration had tried to remedy the killing of Mr Khashoggi and urged the Saudis to help end the war in Yemen and end human rights abuses in their own country. But he did not mention Saudi Arabia’s growing military and security ties with China, which he and Mr Biden say are the biggest long-term challenger to the United States.

“What I mean is that we want to make sure that through the relationship, we address all of our interests in that relationship,” Blinken said of US-Saudi relations. “We’re trying to bring it all together and take a holistic approach to Saudi Arabia, like we do with any other country.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Democratic lawmakers urge Biden to ensure Saudi ties serve US
Democratic lawmakers urge Biden to ensure Saudi ties serve US
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