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Some Media Won’t Tell You When The Saudis Snub Biden

Above Photo: Future Investment Initiative (FII) also known as Davos in the Desert.

Last week the Saudis publicly snubbed the Biden administration. Several outlet picked up on that.

From the last one:

The CEO of the Future Investment Initiative (FII), the organiser of the “Davos of the Desert” Saudi investment conference said on Monday that US government officials will not be invited to attend the event at the end of this month. The reason, added Richard Attias, is so that the event does not turn into a “political platform”.The decision not to invite US officials, unlike previous years, comes amid rising tension between Washington and Riyadh over the recent decision by the Saudi-led OPEC+ group to reduce oil output by 2 million barrels per day, starting in November.

“We are not inviting too many politicians,” explained Attias, “because I realised that when you have political leaders on stage, the attention of the media, let’s be very frank, is diverted to the political agenda, and we don’t want the FII to become a political platform.”

However, in an earlier press conference, the initiative’s CEO said that at least “12 ministers of economy and finance” will attend this year’s programme, with the possibility of inviting heads of state. “We will know in a few days who are the heads of state who are 100 per cent sure to attend.”

The snub is significant. While lots of top U.S. bankers will take part the Biden administration will be given no chance to influence the Saudi investment plans.

However, the Biden’s administration main propaganda outlet, the New York Times, won’t have any of that. It depicts the Saudi snub as one done by the uninvited the Biden administration. It is also lying about the Biden administration’s response:

U.S. Executives Are Flocking to Saudi Davos in the Desert – Oct 24, 2022 – New York Times
Some top American business leaders area headed to the Saudi business conference. But Biden administration officials, angry over the kingdom’s stance on oil production and ties with Russia, are staying away.

LONDON — The Biden administration’s message to corporate America was clear: Consider the reputation of the countries you do business with. The remark came from the White House press secretary at a briefing last week, just as some top American executives were preparing to attend a major Saudi business conference, along with thousands of other investors, businesspeople and politicians.

The three-day gathering — the Future Investment Initiative, nicknamed Davos in the Desert — is set to open on Tuesday. But U.S. government officials will be notably absent, weeks after an intense and public trading of accusations between the U.S. and Saudi governments over an Oct. 5 production cut by the oil cartel OPEC Plus, co-led by Saudi Arabia and Russia.

Last week, the White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, reminded American companies to take into account “reputational concerns that can arise from public policy choices made by host countries” when making decisions about where to invest.

Richard Attias, the organizer of the Saudi conference, made a point of telling reporters in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, last week that he had received so many requests from Americans to attend the event that his team had begun turning them down for lack of space.

At the same time, Mr. Biden’s plan for meting out the threatened consequences against Saudi Arabia has remained vague in the weeks since he delivered the warning.

That Attias, the organizer, explicitly said that the U.S. government was not invited is not mentioned in the NYT piece. Its readers are left to believe that it is the Biden administration that snubs Saudi Arabia instead of the other way around.

A White House briefing on October 18 mentions reputational concerns. But it does not do so as a message to the companies but as a general description of their behaviors:

Q Thanks very much. Sort of following up on that, are any Biden administration officials planning to go to the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, later this month?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We don’t have anything to preview or announce at this time on any travel.

Q And do you think it’s appropriate for U.S. businesses to continue their engagement or investment in the Kingdom in light of what happened recently?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, as they do in every part of the world, American companies will make their own decisions about their presence and where to invest, taking into account a range of factors including legal constraints, the business environment, and reputational concerns that can arise from public policy choices made by host countries.

In a briefing on the October 20 spokesman John Kirby denied that the Biden administration is trying to influence the companies’ decision. The NYT is lying when it claims otherwise.

Kirby’s briefing had these passage referring Saudi Arabia.

Q Hey, John, what’s the status of the review of Saudi Arabia and the consequences for their oil output cut? What — I haven’t heard anything about this all week. What’s — what’s happening there?

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, it’s ongoing, Steve, and it has been since the President made the decision that we’re going to do it.

Thus far, most of the process of reviewing the relationship and looking at options going forward is internal here to the national security team and inside the interagency. But we expect to be able to broaden that out to include members of Congress, you know, when they come back to town.

So we’re not going to rush this. I don’t have a timeline for you. I’m certainly not going to speak to ongoing deliberations. But I can assure you that that process of review has begun and we’re working it internally.

But again, we look forward to being able to have conversations with members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, quite frankly, at the earliest opportunity.

Q Just following up on the question about the Saudis, this Saudi-sponsored business conference next week that people call “Davos in the Desert,” I’m wondering if you’re asking or encouraging American companies not to attend as part of your reevaluation of the Saudi relationship. [..]

MR. KIRBY: [..] No, we are not talking to U.S. companies in advising or discouraging them to not attend the “Davos in the Desert.” We are not — we are not doing that. These are decisions that, as private companies, they can make for themselves.

Kirby denies taking influence on companies or messaging something to them. Throughout the various White House briefings the non-invitation by the Saudis is not mentioned at all.

So again:

  • The NYT is not reporting the Saudi snub but claims that it is the Biden administration that is tough on the Saudis, even as it is obviously not.
  • The NYT is falsely claiming that the White House has discouraged U.S. companies from taking part even as Kirby had directly denied that.

It is another reminder that organs like the NYT are no longer news site but spin machine in the service of politics and politicians their owners like.

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