(Bloomberg) — President Joe Biden intends to “recalibrate” the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia and will emphasize outreach to King Salman, in a move that signals a downgrade in ties with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, the country’s de facto ruler.
It is the latest sign Biden’s team is taking a different track from former President Donald Trump toward the world’s largest oil exporter. Trump established close ties with Prince Mohammed and made Saudi Arabia the centerpiece of his strategy toward the Middle East after taking his first trip abroad as president there.
That’s all being scaled back. In Biden’s first few days, the U.S. put a hold on some key weapons sales to the kingdom and announced new efforts to bring an end to the Saudi-led war in Yemen. Biden has also called on Saudi Arabia to improve its human rights record.
“We’re going to recalibrate our relationship with Saudi Arabia,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday. “Part of that is going back to engagement counterpart-to-counterpart. The president’s counterpart is King Salman.”
Instead of engaging primarily with Biden, the crown prince’s most appropriate counterpart is Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, according to a person familiar. While Prince Mohammed’s official role is deputy prime minister and defense minister, he has a vast range of responsibilities as heir to the throne his father, 85, has held since 2015.
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