Saudi Arabia, which may have more to lose from Joe Biden’s U.S. election victory than other Arab states, has taken its time to comment after the defeat of Donald Trump whose Middle East policies and staunch opposition to Iran had Riyadh’s backing.
As other Arab states raced to congratulate the Democrat challenger, the kingdom’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman remained silent on the U.S. vote for hours even as he sent warm words to the president of Tanzania on his re-election.
Prince Mohammed’s close personal ties with Trump had provided a vital buffer against a tide of international criticism over Riyadh’s rights record sparked by the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Riyadh’s role in Yemen’s war and the detention of women activists.
Those areas may now become points of friction between Biden and Saudi Arabia, a major oil exporter and buyer of U.S. arms.
The former U.S. vice president pledged in his campaign to reassess ties with the kingdom, demanding more accountability over Khashoggi’s killing in Riyadh’s Istanbul consulate and calling for an end to U.S. support for the Yemen war.
“The only thing worse than COVID-19 would be BIDEN-20,” wrote Saudi Twitter user Dr Muna, while many other Saudi users of the social media platform simply ignored the result in the initial hours after U.S. networks called the election for Biden.