Despite past threats, Biden unlikely to downgrade ties with Saudis
Despite a pledge by US President-elect Joe Biden to reassess US ties with Saudi Arabia and make the regime a "pariah" state, observers say the decades-old military and economic relations between the two nations are unlikely to be upended.
During one of the Democratic Party presidential debates in November, 2019, Biden said if he is elected, he would downgrade ties with Saudi Arabia over the killing of US-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the Saudi war against Yemen.
Biden also said during the debate that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) ordered the assassination of Khashoggi and said he would not sell weapons to Saudi Arabia if he was elected president.
But Saudi experts dismiss Biden's campaign speeches about the kingdom as bluster, pointing out that outgoing President Donald Trump also struck a hostile note in his 2016 campaign before warming up to its rulers.
Biden's pledge to suspend US arms sales to the Saudis over the Yemen war is contrary to his past record.
When Biden was vice president during Barack Obama’s presidency, the US offered Riyadh not just logistical and intelligence support, but also weapons worth over $115 billion, more than any other previous US administration.
Observers also say Bin Salman, the country’s de facto ruler, could use Saudi Arabia's possible future normalisation with Israel as a negotiating tool with Biden.
"Many in Riyadh believe that a normalisation deal with Israel would put Prince Mohammed in a much better position with a Biden administration," Cinzia Bianco, a research fellow at the European Council for International Relations, told AFP.