Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman scolded President Biden for America’s past treatment of Iraqi prisoners during their private meeting — minutes after the two leaders fist-bumped for the cameras in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
The kingdom’s de facto leader, known as MBS, rebuked Biden Friday over the brutal abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison camp in 2004 in response to the president’s mention of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist murdered in 2018, a Saudi official said Saturday.
“His Royal Highness mentioned to the President that mistakes like this happen in other countries,” said Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir. “And we saw a mistake like this being committed by the United States in Abu Ghraib.”
Scores of Iraqi prisoners were tortured and abused by members of the US military at the Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad under the Bush Administration during the Iraq War. Horrifying pictures of naked and hooded Iraqis, some forced to assume sexual positions, caused international outcry when they emerged in 2004.
MBS has been under fire from human rights advocates ever since Khashoggi, a fierce critic of the prince’s regime, was killed and dismembered in Istanbul in 2018. US intelligence later found that the crown prince personally approved Khashoggi’s murder — leading Biden to vow that, as president, he would make Saudi leaders “the pariah that they are.”
The comment chilled the relationship between the US and the Middle East’s largest oil producer — a state that Biden sought to thaw with his visit.
But the president has faced sharp criticism for his willingness to mend fences.
In their meeting, MBS told Biden that he regretted Khashoggi’s death, al-Jubeir said — but did not take personal responsibility for it.
“The crown prince responded that this was a painful episode for Saudi Arabia and that it was a terrible mistake,” al-Jubeir said.
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