Joe Biden escalated his calls to end support for Saudi Arabia during Wednesday night’s Democratic primary debate, further separating himself from policies of former President Barack Obama’s administration, in which he served as vice president.
Asked how the United States should respond to the brutal murder of former Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi and Saudi Arabia’s ongoing war in Yemen, Biden said he would end arms supplies and turn the regime of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman into a global “pariah.”
“I would make it very clear we were not going to in fact sell war weapons to them,” Biden said in response to a question from moderator Andrea Mitchell. “We were going to in fact make them pay the price and make them in fact the pariah that they are.”
Biden said in May that he would end U.S. support for the Saudis’ war in Yemen, which has contributed to a massive humanitarian crisis in the country. The war has caused thousands of civilian deaths as well as widespread disease outbreaks and starvation epidemics across Yemen.
Scrutiny of Saudi Arabia further intensified after the U.S. intelligence community and Turkish officials deemed Salman’s regime responsible for Khashoggi’s murder last year. Khashoggi, who was born in Saudi Arabia and was a prominent critic of Salman, was killed and dismembered after entering the Saudi consulate in Turkey in October 2018.
President Donald Trump has continued supporting the regime’s war in Yemen, and he refused to condemn the Saudis for Khashoggi’s murder.
“There is very little social redeeming value in the present government in Saudi Arabia,” Biden said Wednesday. “And I would also ... end subsidies we have, end sale of material to the Saudis who were going in and murdering children and murdering innocent people. They have to be held accountable.”
Although it represented a break with Obama, Biden’s position is in line with those of congressional members of both parties, including the entire Senate Democratic caucus. The House and Senate have voted in favor of resolutions calling for an end to U.S. support for the war. Trump has blocked attempts to cut funding, and an effort to override his veto in May failed in the Senate.
The four senators on the stage with Biden ― Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) ― have all voted in favor of ending aid to the Saudi regime. Sanders, a longtime critic of the Yemen war, sponsored the original legislation meant to curtail Saudi assistance.