Biden’s national security advisor meets with Saudi leader MBS days before anniversary of Khashoggi’s murder

Mohammed bin salman mbs
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends a session of the Shura Council in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on November 20, 2019. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via Reuters
  • Jake Sullivan traveled to Saudi Arabia on Monday to meet with Saudi Crown Prince MBS.
  • This came just days before the anniversary of Jamal Khashoggi’s brutal murder.
  • The Biden administration is pushing for a ceasefire in the devastating Yemen conflict, which MBS is the architect of.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

National security advisor Jake Sullivan traveled to Saudi Arabia on Monday to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, often referred to as MBS, just days before the anniversary of the brutal murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Sullivan traveled to Saudi Arabia as the Biden administration pushes for a ceasefire in the Yemen conflict, a devastating war that Prince Mohammed is the architect of.

The national security advisor, who will also visit the UAE this week, was joined on the trip by National Security Council Middle East and North Africa Coordinator Brett McGurk and US special envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking.

“Security cooperation, mutual support for a comprehensive ceasefire in Yemen and the need for immediate steps to mitigate Yemen’s humanitarian crisis” will be among the topics Sullivan covers during his meetings in the Middle East, a senior administration official told NatSec Daily.

Khashoggi was murdered by agents of his own government in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018. The Saudi journalist had entered the consulate in order to obtain documents necessary to marry his fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, a Turkish citizen. Khashoggi, who was a columnist at the Washington Post at the time, was often critical of the Saudi royal family in his writing.

Though it was widely agreed upon that Prince Mohammed had ordered Khashoggi’s murder, President Donald Trump pushed against efforts by congressional lawmakers in Washington to punish the Saudi government. Trump touted the importance of arms sales to the Saudis as he rejected attempts in Congress to end US support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

President Joe Biden on the campaign trail pledged that Saudi Arabia would be made a pariah over Khashoggi’s killing, and vowed to reassess the US relationship with Riyadh. Not long after Biden came into office, the White House announced the president’s official communications with the Saudis would involve King Salman and not the crown prince – the kingdom’s de facto ruler. It was a significant diplomatic snub.

In February, the Biden administration released a declassified US intelligence report that explicitly implicated Prince Mohammed in Khashoggi’s killing.

“We assess that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” the report said. “The Crown Prince viewed Khashoggi as a threat to the Kingdom and broadly supported using violent measures if necessary to silence him.”

Biden faced criticism for ultimately declining to sanction Prince Mohammed despite the damning details in that report.

The president in February also announced that the US would move to end support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, but critics say Biden hasn’t shown much progress on this front.

Meanwhile, congressional lawmakers continue to push for an end to US support for the Saudis in Yemen.

Last week, a bill introduced by Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna to stop US logistical and intelligence support to Saudi Arabia in Yemen passed in the House.

The UN has referred to the situation in Yemen as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.