Salman Al-Dossary
Salman Al-Dossary is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

What Does Biden Have to Understand?

As a rule, politicians- especially while they are waging an electoral campaign- are inclined to say things that help them with their races or tickle the sentiments of their voters and parties. We journalists have become very used to seeing it. These statements only toy with peoples’ emotions and cause a media stir. They do not address facts in any sense. Our role as journalists and opinionated thinkers is to stand up for the truth; this is journalism’s eternal mission.

During his visit to the Kingdom, US President Joe Biden tried to explain things from his perspective rather than precisely repeating what had been said during closed-door meetings. This circumspection obfuscates the context, and it certainly obfuscates the truth, which we ought to accept without adding anything to it or concealing any of the details before analyzing the facts and building on them. Thus, I thought it important, as a journalist, to document some of the recent developments, as they had been relayed to the media by officials, that unfolded within the context of Biden’s recent visit.

First: How did Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman reply when President Biden briefly mentioned Jamal Khashoggi?

A Saudi official told Al Arabiya about the conversation. “What happened is regrettable. Here in the Kingdom, we took all the legal steps available to us, conducting an investigation and holding a trial, the verdicts of which have been issued and implemented. The Kingdom has also put frameworks in place to prevent such mistakes from recurring in the future.” Moreover, the Crown Prince has said that such incidents happen everywhere in the world and that in the same year in which this unfortunate incident occurred, other journalists were killed in other places around the world. Furthermore, he added that the United States has also made mistakes, like those perpetrated in Abu Ghraib in Iraq, among others. What all these countries need to do is address these mistakes and take the steps needed to prevent them from happening again.

Second: How did Saudi Arabia respond when President Biden touched on the question of shared values? I believe this issue is more significant because it is more foundational for the future.

The Saudi source gave the following answer: “Every country in the world- the United States and the Kingdom in particular- have many values that they share and others that they do not. Nonetheless, correct and proper values and principles always end up influencing the people of other countries. Trying to impose these values by force, on the other hand, is extremely counterproductive, as demonstrated by the United States’ failed attempts to do so in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thus, it is important to accept that countries have divergent values and that these values must be respected.”

In my personal opinion, focusing on shared values and rendering them pillars of balanced relations and partnerships should be prioritized today. Some may find this blunt assessment unsettling, but taking the gloves off is crucial, as we cannot hide from misconceptions that hinder the emergence of any real and serious ties. As we have already mentioned, the Kingdom’s message to the world is that it is a “reliable ally,” but that certainly does not imply that it is anyone’s “subordinate.”

This is true for principles, politics, and values, and US President Joe Biden’s administration has understood this well after its discussions with the Saudi leadership on how to achieve the primary goal of his visit, building an effective partnership between the Kingdom and the United States.

During the Jeddah Security and Development Summit yesterday, the Crown Prince made noteworthy remarks about the importance of the world respecting the values we take pride in and will not abandon, just as we must respect divergent values, thereby making our partnerships more robust and benefiting our region and the world as a whole.

I conclude with Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa’s comments during the Summit on Saudi Arabia’s role in aligning divergent points of view by emphasizing shared values. He discussed the “effective and crucial” role the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been playing at the regional and international levels, as well as its consistent, genuine efforts to deepen ties of cooperation between allies and friendly states as it constantly strives to fortify security, stability, and peace in the region and the world as a whole,” concluding by saying that he hopes this Summit will be “an important step to achieving the aspirations of our countries and peoples for peace, progress, and prosperity.”

All the facts mentioned above serve as a badly needed archive for the history books that explain the Saudi point of view regarding these matters and emphasize the importance of replaying the facts accurately for building upon them. As journalists, we have become used to circumspection in presenting the news that leads to distorted analysis, and unfortunately, the first lie remains forever.