'President Biden choked': NYT columnist slams White House for 'letting a murderer walk'
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman AFP/File / FAYEZ NURELDINE

President Joe Biden received harsh criticism on Friday for refusing to impose sanctions on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

"The United States government publicly identified Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia as the murderer of an American resident, and then President Biden choked," Nicholas Kristof wrote. "Instead of imposing sanctions on M.B.S., Biden appears ready to let the murderer walk. The weak message to other thuggish dictators considering such a murder is: Please don't do it, but we'll still work with you if we have to. The message to Saudi Arabia is: Go ahead and elevate M.B.S. to be the country's next king if you must."

"All this is a betrayal of my friend Jamal Khashoggi and of his values and ours. But even through the lens of realpolitik it's a missed opportunity to help Saudi Arabia understand that its own interest lies in finding a new crown prince who isn't reckless and doesn't kill and dismember journalists," he explained.

Kristof described the assassination as part of a pattern by MBS.

"Perhaps I'm biased because I knew Jamal. Some may think: It's too bad about the murder, but other leaders have killed people, too. True, but M.B.S. poisons everything he touches. He kidnapped Lebanon's prime minister. He oversaw a feud with Qatar. He caused the world's worst humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen. He imprisoned women's rights activists. He has tarnished his country's reputation far more effectively than Iran ever could," he wrote. "So, Mr. Biden, it's not a human rights "gesture" to sanction M.B.S. Jamal was a practical man who didn't believe in mushy gestures — but he did dream of a more democratic Arab world that would benefit Arabs and Americans alike. And by letting a murderer walk, you betray that vision."