Politico

Senators hope for more Saudi sanctions in wake of Khashoggi report


Lawmakers of both parties on Sunday expressed a desire for the Biden administration to go further in sanctioning Saudi Arabia — and particularly Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — in the wake of the release of an intelligence report directly implicating him in the assassination of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

“No, I don’t think he does go far enough, although you have to give him credit because he’s actually increased sanctions and he’s increased the travel bans on those individuals who were directly responsible,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) told host George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week.”

The Biden administration on Friday released a long-secret intelligence report in which U.S. officials for the first time directly implicated the crown prince in the brutal murder of Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. President Joe Biden stopped short of sanctioning Salman himself, though the Treasury Department unveiled sanctions against others directly involved in the killing and the State Department announced a policy allowing the U.S. to restrict visas to those who target journalists.

“I don’t think anybody thinks that the crown prince was not responsible, in other words, that he knew about it and that he approved of it,” Portman continued. “So I do think there ought to be something additional that focuses on him.”

Portman said that could come in the form of sanctions or travel restrictions, as was the case for others implicated in the plot.

“[Biden] is reassessing our relationship with Saudi Arabia, which is an ally, and I don’t think that the chapter is closed on the outcome of the disclosure of this report,” Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) said earlier in the program. “That’s my hope.”

Pressed on what Biden could be doing in addition to the sanctions unveiled last week, the senators noted that Saudi Arabia has been a close U.S. ally in its ongoing conflict with Iran, highlighting the delicate situation the Biden administration is in.

“I know this is tough because the Saudis are pushing back right now on Iran,” Portman said. “That’s very important. We’ve seen what the Iranians are doing most recently with the rocket attacks … through Iranian-backed militias in Iraq. So it’s a delicate area.”

“Saudi Arabia is an ally,” Hirono said. “And so yes, there are calls to do more, and I await the reassessment that Joe Biden is going to engage in regarding Saudi Arabia.”

The Trump administration treated Saudi Arabia as a close ally even after the Khashoggi slaying and other human rights abuses. White House press secretary Jen Psaki in an interview on “Fox News Sunday” said that “behind the scenes [there are] a range of diplomatic conversations that make absolutely clear to the Saudis and to others around the world [that] this is going to be a different kind of relationship.”

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