This interview with Prince Khaled bin Salman, the new Saudi ambassador to the U.S., is a frustrating example of how little scrutiny and criticism the Saudis tend to face in Western media. The ambassador is naturally going to recite his government’s talking points, and no one expects anything else, so it is up to the interviewer to press him on the subjects where he dissembles or misleads the audience. On the whole, that never happens, and the Post‘s readership isn’t much more informed than they were at the beginning.
For instance, when the ambassador refers repeatedly to Iranian “expansionism” in the region, it would have been fair for the interviewer to ask for examples of said expansionism or to point out that it is his government that is waging a war against one of its neighbors in a transparent bid to install a puppet ruler. Khaled bin Salman criticizes Iran’s support for terrorism, but he doesn’t face any questions about the role that the Saudi-led war on Yemen has had in strengthening Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) or the collaboration between AQAP forces and the coalition during the war.
The war on Yemen is addressed briefly, but it is discussed in a way that allows the ambassador to recite the Saudi propaganda version of the war without challenge. The ambassador asserts that the Houthis must “become part of Yemen, not part of Iran.” Instead of pushing back on this obvious bit of nonsense by observing that Iran’s role in the conflict has been negligible or that the Houthis aren’t actually Iranian proxies, the interviewer just moves on to the next question. The coalition blockade led by the Saudis and the enormous humanitarian catastrophe that the ambassador’s government has helped to create go entirely unmentioned. The words famine and cholera are nowhere to be found in the excerpts, and the indiscriminate bombing campaign likewise doesn’t rate a question.
That kid-gloves approach may have been a condition of being granted the interview, or maybe it wasn’t, but either way the ambassador wasn’t forced to answer for his government’s outrageous policies. The result is that the Saudi ambassador is given a prominent platform to spread misinformation without any real accountability, and that makes it that much easier for his government to get away with their appalling treatment of Yemen.