Says instead, oil firms must 'stop ripping off' Americans

Sanders slams Biden for visiting Saudi Arabia despite its human rights record

Independent senator says US president should not have rewarded kingdom with trip in light of 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist, country’s attitude to democratic values

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermontt,  during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing, on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 16, 2022. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermontt, during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing, on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 16, 2022. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

US Senator Bernie Sanders criticized Joe Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia last week as part of a regional trip that included a stop in Israel, saying the president should not have rewarded the kingdom and its de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, due to its human rights record and the 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Biden had once pledged to shun as a “pariah” the prince, who is believed to have approved the murder, and the kingdom over human rights violations, but shared a fist bump with the heir to the throne on Friday as he tried to reset an important diplomatic relationship, bolster Mideast security, and increase the global flow of oil.

Speaking on Sunday on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Sanders said Biden should not have made the visit.

“You have a leader of the country who was involved in the murder of a Washington Post journalist. I don’t think that type of government should be rewarded with a visit by the president of the United States,” Sanders said.

“Look, you got a family that is worth $100 billion, which questions democracy, which treats women as third-class citizens, which murderers and imprisons its opponents,” he said in reference to the Saudi royal family.

“If this country believes in anything, we believe in human rights, we believe in democracy, and I just don’t believe that we should be maintaining a warm relationship with a dictatorship like that,” Sanders said.

Western nations are searching for solutions to counter the impact on oil supplies from sanctions imposed on Russia over its ongoing invasion of Ukraine, launched in February. Gasoline prices in the US have reached record highs.

Sanders, a Jewish independent senator who caucuses with the Democratic Party, suggested there was another way to solve the global oil crisis.

“I happen to believe that we’ve got to tell the oil companies to stop ripping off the American people,” he said. “And if they don’t, we should impose a windfall profits tax on them.”

Biden, who defeated Sanders in the 2020 Democratic Party presidential primary, has said that he brought up the Khashoggi murder during his talks with the crown prince, known by the acronym MBS.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, welcomes US President Joe Biden upon his arrival at Al-Salam palace in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, July 15, 2022. (Bandar Aljaloud/Saudi Royal Palace via AP)

Biden said after the meeting that he “made it clear what I thought of [the Khashoggi killing] at the time and what I think of it now.”

An official familiar with the matter told The Times of Israel that MBS responded by raising the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was shot dead in unclear circumstances during a raid by Israeli forces into the West Bank Palestinian city of Jenin.

The official characterized bin Salman’s comment as a retort to Biden after the latter opened their meeting by confronting him about the murder of the Washington Post journalist.

A CIA report presented to Biden found that the crown prince had ordered the hit on Khashoggi, in which Saudi operatives killed the journalist and dismembered his body after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

Jacob Magid and Agencies contributed to this report.

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