Unlike the Trump administration which had withheld an important document from public revelation, containing proofs that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman was responsible for Jamal Khashoggi's October 2018 murder inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the Biden administration last week acted in a very impartial manner and out rightly claiming "that the rules are changing" in the kingdom's relationship with the United States as "we're going to be announcing significant changes today and on Monday."
Experts have raised concerns that even though such a statement against a powerful ally of the States was unthinkable earlier, but Biden's critical stance, keeping in view the Saudi track record on human rights, particularly since King Salman, MBS's father, came to power in 2015, could have implications for relations between the US and Saudi Arabia.
Direct talks with the Saudi King
The report, released on Friday, said "We assess that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey, to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi."
"We immediately, when I got in, filed the report, read it, got it, and released it today," Biden said in an interview with Univision News.
"And it is outrageous what happened," he added.
"I spoke yesterday with the King, not the prince. Made it clear to him that the rules are changing and we're going to be announcing significant changes today and on Monday" to hold the Saudis accountable. "It is outrageous what happened," he told Univision News further.
Shortly after the report was released, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced sanctions against 76 Saudi individuals under what he called a new "Khashoggi Ban" policy.
Under that authority, the Biden administration said it will single out anyone who, acting for a foreign government, engages in "counter-dissident activities" beyond the country's borders.
"While the United States remains invested in its relationship with Saudi Arabia, President Biden has made clear that partnership must reflect U.S. values," Blinken said.
"To that end, we have made absolutely clear that extraterritorial threats and assaults by Saudi Arabia against activists, dissidents, and journalists must end," he added.
How Trump boasted he protected MBS
However, the allegations have been repeatedly rejected by the Kingdom. In a statement, the foreign ministry said, "The government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia completely rejects the negative, false and unacceptable assessment in the report pertaining to the Kingdom's leadership, and notes that the report contained inaccurate information and conclusions."
Even Prince Mohammed has denied his involvement in the killing while blaming rogue agents for the prosecution.
Being the world's largest oil producer, Trump, during his tenure, had bypassed Congress to sell nearly USD8 billion in precision-guided missiles and other high-tech weapons to Saudi Arabia as well as the United Arab Emirates, despite an outrage among US legislators over Khashoggi's death.
"I saved his a**," Trump had said, according to Business Insider, quoting from a copy of Bob Woodward's book. "I was able to get Congress to leave him alone. I was able to get them to stop."
Various risks involved
Karen Elliott House, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former editor for The Wall Street Journal, discussed in a paper published by The Harvard Gazette how Biden is likely to approach U.S.-Saudi relations, and what that could mean for the region.
Now, the fact that the CIA implicated the Crown Prince is known to all but what else did we learn that was significant or surprising in the report?
Elliott is of the view that Biden wants to humiliate the crown prince anew by releasing the report at Congress' insistence.
"Democrat activists in Congress who despise the abrasive crown prince in large part because he was close to Donald Trump will undoubtedly push President Biden to take more punishing actions against the crown prince and Saudi Arabia than merely releasing old news blaming him for Jamal Khashoggi's murder," he said in the report.
Elliott says that Biden's actions may potentially be very dangerous, as the US President will likely find himself dealing with the 35-year-old prince "because his ailing father, King Salman, seems unlikely to survive the next four years".
However, as soon as he released the report, Biden's leaked to The New York Times that he isn't going to punish Prince Salman because the "diplomatic cost" is "too high."
As a matter of fact, the Biden administration should be aware of the unintended consequences of these actions. While the release of this report is entirely political, it could spiral into actions and reactions that damage US interests in the Middle East.