Some activists think that the headline and picture combination used in a deleted story about President-elect Joe Biden’s pet dogs was a coded insult, others say opponents of Riyadh are getting carried away.
Two Saudi controlled news outlets have caused a bit of a stir on social media for their choice of headline for stories about US President-elect Joe Biden’s pet dogs.
One shared by Al Arabiyah carried the headline ‘the dogs return to the White House,’ featuring Biden and one of his dogs, with the former appearing more prominently.
Another article by Al Sharq Al Awsat read: ‘The dogs return to the White House after a four year absence’. The accompanying image showed Biden and his wife Jill with a single dog.
The articles could have been innocent editorial decisions, but many online saw the hallmarks of something more sinister. Especially as the possessive case ‘Biden’s dogs’ was not used in both instances.
“Obviously the Saudis are doing this (on) purpose,” wrote one observer on Twitter but others came out in defence of the media outlets, accusing those who saw something untowards of reading too much into the incident.
“Saudis did not insult anyone, stop being biased,” said one Saudi Twitter user.
The debate in itself is a minor controversy but reveals an increased focus on how the Saudis will react to a Biden presidency.
“Dogs are back to the White House “, the saudi channel captioned this picture of Biden.— Ouarda وردة (@Ouardaiqbal) November 9, 2020
The interpretations are wild.. pic.twitter.com/PULUDKP7DU
Reason to worry?
For the last four years the Saudis have benefited from their strong partnership with Donald Trump, who has personally intervened to contain the fallout from a number of high-level controversies, such as the Khashoggi killing and the ongoing war in Yemen.
In 2019, after US lawmakers had passed a measure calling on the US to end its involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen, Trump used his presidential veto to ensure such help would continue.
The US president has also gone against lawmakers and his own intelligence services, to ensure that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman faces no repercussions for his apparent role in the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.
Western and Turkish intelligence officials believe that the crown prince was directly involved in the plot’s chain of command.
Biden on the other hand has launched strong verbal attacks on Riyadh and senior Saudi royals since the Khashoggi killing.
“We were going to in fact make them pay the price, and make them in fact the pariah that they are,” Biden said shortly after Khashoggi’s death, further promising to end the sale of armaments to the Saudis.
However, such comments have been made without the realpolitik pressures of a high political office, and it remains to be seen how Biden will act once in the Oval Office.
Nevertheless for the Saudis, the former vice president remains an unknown number, and senior officials will have to come to terms with the reality that the Democratic party leader is unlikely to be as obliging towards the kingdom as his predecessor.
Saudi and Emirate controlled media say that the Bidens are “The Dogs Return to The White House”. That’s low. The question is will Biden scale back weapons sales and military logistical support for these regimes or take the Obama route meaning tough rhetoric with opposite actions. https://t.co/4iGp9XHuC2— Dawud Walid (@DawudWalid) November 8, 2020