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For Biden, Deliberation and Caution, Maybe Overcaution, on the World Stage

The most telling of his decisions centers on Saudi Arabia. After banning the arms sales to halt what he called a “catastrophic” war in Yemen, Mr. Biden released an intelligence report about Prince Mohammed’s role in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, the dissident journalist, and imposed new penalties on the crown prince’s personal royal guard, the so-called Rapid Intervention Force. But Mr. Biden stopped at the next step — barring travel by or threatening criminal prosecution of the 35-year-old crown prince.

The president had not told his staff in advance whether he favored direct action, even though he said in the campaign that the Saudi leadership had “no redeeming social value.”

Mr. Sullivan said he and his staff went to Mr. Biden with “a broad-based recommendation that a recalibration of the relationship, rather than a rupture of the relationship, was the right course of action.”

Mr. Biden, Mr. Sullivan said, “pressed us on our assumptions as he worked through the pros and cons of every aspect of the policy,” including the staff’s conclusion that keeping a channel open to the crown prince was the best path to “resolving the war in Yemen.”

But the final decision was a reminder, other aides said, that Mr. Biden emerged from his three decades in the Senate with both a belief in nurturing even the most difficult of alliances — and a dose of realism that the United States could not prevent the crown prince from becoming the next king.

“We deal, unfortunately, every single day with leaders of countries who are responsible for actions we find either objectionable or abhorrent, whether it’s Vladimir Putin, whether it’s Xi Jinping,” Antony J. Blinken, the secretary of state and Mr. Biden’s longest-serving foreign policy adviser, said on Wednesday on “PBS NewsHour.”

“But we find ways to deal with them,” Mr. Blinken said.

Mr. Sullivan asserted that the message to the Saudis was clear: “M.B.S. will not have the same kind of relationship and access with this administration that he had with the last,” using Prince Mohammed’s initials.

Source : New York Times

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