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Dissidents warn Biden's refusal for direct sanctions against MbS puts them in 'grave danger'

Dissidents have expressed disappointment at the Biden administration's decision [Getty]

Date of publication: 4 March, 2021

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Exiled Arab dissidents say they are fearful for their lives after Biden refuses to put direct sanctions on Prince Salman.

Saudi exiles and dissidents living abroad have expressed elevated concerns over the United States' decision not to sanction Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The US State Department imposed sanctions and travel bans on dozens of Saudi nationals but the Biden administration has avoided reprimanding Prince Mohammed in order to not to "rupture" Washington's strategic relationship with Riyadh.

This comes after a previously classified intelligence report released last week found the Saudi crown prince had approved the killing of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and regime critic who was a US resident at the time of his death.

Saudi dissidents say Washington's acknowledgement of the prince's role in Khashoggi’s death and its refusal to sanction him puts them in more danger.

"The Biden administration’s release of the ODNI report [into Jamal Khashoggi’s murder] is welcomed transparency, but the lack of direct accountability will give MbS permanent impunity, rendering him more dangerous," Khalid Aljabri, the son of a former senior Saudi official who is living in exile in Canada told the Guardian. His two siblings are currently in prison in Saudi Arabia.

"He is probably thinking he can get away with future assassinations as long as he doesn’t leave fingerprints," he added.

Norway-based pro-democracy advocate Iyad el-Baghdadi, who had been moved from a safe location in April 2019 after CIA warned of a potential threat from Riyadh, argues he is "less safe now".

"In my mind, this cannot be it. It seems that people in the White House are thinking about conventional foreign policy and they need to wake the fuck up. They are bringing a knife to a gunfight," Baghdadi said.

Omar Abdulaziz, an associate of the late Khashoggi warns that "No one is going to stop him [Prince Mohammed], no one is going to punish me."

The MbS Act

Despite the Biden administration’s refusal to impose direct sanctions on the crown prince, also known as MbS, Somali-American Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has introduced a bill called the MbS Act.

The bill would ban the de-facto leader of Saudi Arabia from traveling to the US with the exception of attending the United Nations headquarters in New York.

It would also freeze any of his US assets and prohibit any transactions related to the US.

"This bill is not without precedent. From Iran to Russia, the United States regularly sanctions foreign leaders who commit destabilising or violent acts. We must treat the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince no differently," Omar said.

A separate proposal was introduced on Monday by Democratic Congressmen Tom Malinowski, Jim McGovern and Andy Kim.

The Saudi Arabia Accountability for Gross Violations of Human Rights Act would prohibit MbS from traveling to the US.

The bill does not propose economic sanctions against the crown prince but does propose that the State Department regularly assess "whether Saudi government actions trigger an existing statutory prohibition on arms sales to countries that harass and intimidate people in the US".

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