The fact that the first chat between Biden and the monarch took this long tells its own story. As does the President’s decision to end support for Saudi operations in the Yemen war. His willingness to engage on the Iran nuclear deal is also a disappointment for Riyadh.
Atrocities like the killing of Khashoggi are incompatible not just with human decency, but also with the Biden administration’s focus on democracy. The new White House also has no intention of emulating former President Donald Trump by anchoring its Middle East policy on Saudi Arabia and right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — who also had to sweat for weeks before his Biden call.
Snubbing MBS is a public signal that the US is looking for a behavioral change. Avoiding the crown prince will be sustainable for only so long: He is already the driving force in Riyadh, the King is 85 and Saudi Arabia’s petroleum riches and strategic position mean it will remain an important US ally.