WASHINGTON (AN) — Saudis working at or visiting their country’s embassy in the U.S. capital now have a daily reminder of the unconscionable brutality that prompted President Joe Biden to label Saudi Arabia a “pariah” nation.
The stretch of downtown New Hampshire Avenue where the Saudi Embassy is located was christened Jamal Khashoggi Way on Wednesday, honoring the Washington Post columnist and social critic assassinated by the Saudis because of his writings about the repressive regime.
Khashoggi, according to the findings of U.N. and CIA investigations, was murdered and dismembered on October 2, 2018, by Saudi agents inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul at the behest of Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Khashoggi’s remains were never recovered.
Renaming the street in front of the Saudi embassy “honors the courage and sacrifice of a man who stood up to the tyranny of a brutal dictator and will remind the Saudi government every hour of every day that we hold it responsible for his horrible murder," said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Democracy for the Arab World Now, or DAWN, the human rights organization founded by Khashoggi.
When he was seeking the U.S. presidency, Biden called Saudi Arabia a “pariah” and vowed to make it “pay the price” for Khashoggi’s murder.
Now, with inflation raging and gasoline prices soaring, Biden finds himself under immense political pressure to do something. OPEC Plus, the energy cartel headed by Saudi Arabia, says it will increase crude oil supply over the next few months, but it’s unclear what, if any, effect it will have on prices at the fuel pump.
Not an 'isolated event'
Just a day before the new street sign for Jamal Khashoggi Way was unveiled, the White House announced Biden will travel to the Middle East and Saudi Arabia next month and will meet with Crown Prince Salman.
The White House says Biden’s visit to Jeddah is about more than energy and Saudi oil production. U.S. officials point to an agenda that includes reviving a nuclear pact with Iran and maintaining a truce in Yemen between a Saudi-led coalition and Houthi rebels backed by Iran.
Walking back Biden’s comment while a candidate, a senior White House official speaking on background said the U.S. is seeking to recalibrate, not rupture, long-standing ties with Saudi Arabia.
Diplomatic niceties aside, a current report by Washington-based Freedom House says the “Saudi Arabian government is perhaps the best known in the world for targeting its nationals abroad.”
Freedom House investigators found Khashoggi's assassination in Turkey was not an “isolated event but rather the outcome of an increasingly physical, targeted campaign against critics and former insiders, including members of the royal family.”
This campaign to silence critics only increased with Crown Prince Salman’s rise to power. Saudi Arabia’s targeting of its nationals living abroad “has included extensive use of spyware, proxy punishment, detentions, assaults, and renditions in nine countries spanning the Middle East, Europe, North America, and Asia,” the report found.
The Saudi government conducted a secret trial for several low-level Saudi agents in an attempt to recast Khashoggi’s assassination as a rogue operation. Legal proceedings in Turkey never went anywhere.