Pompeo urges Biden to rebuild US-Saudi relations

Former Trump secretary of state calls kingdom 'an important US ally, key to world security'

In this handout photo by the Saudi Roayal Palace, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) is greeted by Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah on September 18, 2019. Pompeo denounced strikes on Saudi Arabia's oil infrastructure as an "act of war" on, as Riyadh unveiled new evidence it said showed the assault was "unquestionably" sponsored by arch-foe Iran. - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / SAUDI ROYAL PALACE / BANDAR AL-JALOUD" - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
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President Joe Biden needs to rebuild America’s relationship with Saudi Arabia so the kingdom again becomes a vital “security partner”, a former US secretary of state has said.

The US president is this month travelling to Saudi Arabia, partly to encourage the world’s biggest oil producers to reduce prices that have spiralled upwards since Russia invaded Ukraine.

But Mike Pompeo, who was secretary of state under Donald Trump, drew attention to previous comments in which Mr Biden had criticised the kingdom.

“For the United States to make them a pariah state is danger­ous for the world,” Mr Pompeo told the London-based Policy Exchange think tank yesterday.

"And the reality came and hit the Biden administration in the face and they're going to go and make it better and I hope that they do.

"I hope the president has a very constructive conversation that is useful and productive and delivers good outcomes for the things that matter to all of us this coming winter.”

Mr Biden, who had made the comments after journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in 2018, is looking to reset the relationship in a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a trip to the Middle East starting on July 13 in Israel.

Mr Pompeo praised the significant improvement made in links between Israel and the Gulf region since the signing of the Abraham Accords in 2020.

“I'm glad President Biden is travelling to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” he told an online seminar in London.

Highlighting the changes that have occurred under Crown Prince Mohammed, Mr Pompeo said: “There’s a massive amount of reform taking place in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

"If you're a young woman in Saudi Arabia today, you have a lot more opportunities than you did four or five years ago.”

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, welcoming Joe Biden to the UAE in 2016 when the current US President was vice president. Mr Biden will visit the Middle East next week. AP

Mr Biden, who is making his first trip to the Middle East as president, is keen to reassert US security commitments and influence in the region, which his predecessor Mr Trump was regarded as having neglected.

But Mr Pompeo, 58, defended the former US administration’s use of the “maximum pressure” sanction campaign that he claimed forced Iran’s foreign reserves to drop from $96 billion to only $4bn.

He claimed that the partial lifting of sanctions had already seen the Iranian economy grow by 7 per cent, while Tehran was also developing enough uranium for a nuclear bomb.

Mr Pompeo, who suggested he might "enter politics again” in a potential Republican administration, was critical of Mr Biden’s decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan last year.

He claimed the Trump administration would have left “sufficient support” so that Afghan security forces could have maintained control.

Former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo at a rally in Pennsylvania. He has called Saudi Arabia an important security partner with whom President Joe Biden needs to strengthen ties. AFP

“President Biden came in and made a decision that was different, I'm convinced against all military advice," he said. "That's his prerogative, he’s the commander-in-chief.

"His military advisers told him precisely what would happen but he made a decision to pick a certain date, and largely what they had suggested was a high probability actually occurred.

"It not only had a devastating outcome on Afghans, but America is now less credible than it was before.”

He said the subsequent extremist takeover was a “tragedy” and described the Taliban as “nasty, evil and liars”.

Updated: July 04, 2022, 8:11 PM