Biden dismisses the Trump era: bin Salman targeted in favour of 'new balance' with Riyadh

First telephone call between the new president and King Salman. The White House now deals only with the monarch and relegates the crown prince to the background. Waiting for the declassified report on the Khashoggi murder, which would prove the responsibility of Mbs. Diplomacy to counter Iranian nuclear ambitions.

Washington (AsiaNews / Agencies) - US president Joe Biden has spoken for the first time since taking office on January 20 with Saudi King Salman.

The two leaders spoke on the phone confirming "strong and transparent" bilateral relations between Washington and Riyadh, directed towards a "rebalancing" between the parties, after the privileged relationships of Trump administration which, too often, overshadowed the respect for rights.

Biden confirmed the alliance between the two countries but, unlike his predecessor, not at the expense of rights and truth: above all, truth regarding the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. A report that will be declassified shortly, leads back to Mohammed bin Salman (Mbs).

There is great expectation for the document among international diplomacy, which could definitively sanction the Saudi crown prince, son of 85-year-old King Salman and strongman of the country, to his responsibilities (with accusations also confirmed by UN agencies). In recent years, the young leader has maintained a privileged relationship with Donald Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, who ruled the ranks of US diplomacy in the Middle East, in particular with Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Riyadh has always denied any implication of MBS who recently underwent a successful appendectomy. This is also why the United States wanted to postpone for a few days the dissemination of the declassified document, the publication of which is part of Biden's "rebalancing" policy towards the nations of the region and which would try to give the go-ahead from bin Salman himself to the operation.

In a note released at the end of the phone call between Biden and King Salman, the White House states that "the two leaders have affirmed the historical nature of the relationship" between the two countries and does not refer to the Khashoggi issue. The president then declared that the phone call, the first since the inauguration with the leader of the Saud family, was "good". Even the official Saudi agency mentions the phone call defining it as positive, stressing "the importance of a strategic partnership".

White House spokesman Jen Psaki stressed that, along with the "calibration" of relations, there will also be "areas in which we will express our concerns and leave the option of accountability open". And, in this sense, one must read the decision to make public the de-classified document on the death of the dissident journalist within the Saudi consulate in Turkey in 2018.

Another aspect of rupture with respect to Trump is Biden's decision to want to speak and deal only with King Salman, effectively excluding the successor MBS in a sort of unprecedented political and diplomatic de-legitimization for a crown prince, destined to succeed the monarch. to his death.

The choice has not gone unnoticed with more than one commentator speaking of "an absolute first for an American president who decides to cut off all personal contact with a hereditary prince, who still remains the de facto ruler" of the ranks of the Wahhabi monarchy. And Biden's defence secretary will negotiate with bin Salman "from counterpart to counterpart".

The new direction in relations with Riyadh also goes hand in hand with the decision to suspend the sale of arms to Saudis and Emirates engaged in the war against the Houthis in Yemen. In addition, Biden himself could soon overturn the choice of Trump, who in the last months of his mandate had declared the rebels supported by Iran as a "terrorist group".

 Compared to the past, however, the biggest break is represented by the decision to re-establish dialogue with Tehran to try to save the 2015 nuclear agreement (JCPOA) between the Islamic Republic and the world powers. The road seems narrow, the hawks in Tehran and Washington are pushing in the opposite direction towards the head-on clash while new contacts are recorded between Riyadh and Israel for a common line against the Shiite enemy, perhaps less isolated than in the past pending the presidential elections in June.