Biden Admin Scrambles as Saudi Arabia Reduces Oil Production
(WatchDogReport.org) – The United States and Saudi Arabia have a long-standing relationship that benefits not only the two countries, but the entire Middle East. With aligned economic and military interests, cooperation with the kingdom is a key element to maintaining peace and world energy security. Unfortunately, President Joe Biden dropped the ball, sending the Saudis in search of new policies free from Washington’s influence. Now, the administration is scrambling to figure out what to do to clean up the mess after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) decided to ignore the White House’s pleas and slash crude oil production.
Where It Went Wrong
The trouble didn’t begin with Biden. The killing of journalist and American citizen Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 pointed directly to the royal family, which didn’t play well with US lawmakers or the public. Still, the relationship continued. Biden’s visit to Riyadh in August, however, seemed to only make things worse. While there was a nice fist-bump moment and a promise of an increase in crude production publicly, behind the scenes, MBS remained critical of the Biden administration.
The prince was unhappy with the American president’s private remarks about Khashoggi going public. The order to increase oil output by 500,000 barrels per day he issued while Biden was in town dropped to 100,000 the day after he left. Biden’s response was an angry email to the Saudi energy minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, accusing the country of breaking its word to the US. The minister didn’t like the tone of the email, prompting him to begin seeking energy policies independent from American interests.
As a result, OPEC+ will now reduce production by 2 million barrels per day, which is likely to spike gas prices and heating oil costs for the winter going into the midterms. Biden responded by asking Riyadh to delay the move for a month — conveniently, after the election — and going so far as to offer to buy oil for the strategic reserves he depleted if prices fell to $75 per barrel. Prince Mohammed declined.
As relations weakened, Congress made preparations to act. A bill to halt weapons sales could put $100 million in active contracts in jeopardy, and some members want to go much further. Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), vowed to use his position to block any further military sales to Saudi Arabia.
There are also calls to remove US troops from the kingdom. There are about 3,000 Americans stationed in the country, not including others there to train and operate weapons systems, fighter wings, and other specialized ops.
Members see Saudi Arabia’s move as a direct alignment with Russia. The embattled nation currently invading Ukraine lobbied for the production cut to further its own interests. The kingdom’s willingness to follow along isn’t going over well.
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