Biden confronts difficult Saudi choices over a barrel: Joe Biden has threatened Saudi Arabia over its massive oil production cut. But like past US presidents, he may face limits as he weighs his choices.
At home, Biden was criticized for visiting Saudi Arabia in June and fist-bumping Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after threatening to make him a human rights pariah.
However, Saudi Arabia’s OPEC+ oil cartel decreased output by two million barrels a day, generating money for Russia while threatening Ukraine and raising US consumer prices weeks before congressional elections.
The Biden administration has welcomed congressional retaliation by outraged Democrats.
Senator Chris Murphy, a longtime opponent of Saudi Arabia for its deadly war in Yemen, said the US should block supplies of medium-range air-to-air missiles to the kingdom and transfer them to Ukraine and redeploy Patriot missile shields to Ukraine or NATO partners.
“These two moves would right-size our relationship with Saudi Arabia AND assist Ukraine,” he tweeted.
Saudi Arabia’s supporters worry that the US would push it toward Russia or China. But experts doubt the monarchy could do so after eight decades of cooperation.
On Sunday, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told CNN that Biden would “go cautiously, thoughtfully” in reassessing US-Saudi relations and had “no ambitions” to see the crown prince at a November G20 summit in Indonesia.
Michigan State University Middle East specialist Russell Lucas said the Biden administration might restrict military shipments, mainly Saudi hardware resupplies.
“These cannot soon be supplanted,” he remarked.
Oil has thwarted earlier efforts to remove the US from Saudi Arabia, particularly after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Despite climate change action, the US is decades from becoming oil price-proof.
US authorities like to point out that the US now produces more oil than Saudi Arabia. However, private corporations control US production, and fat from shale. The source of the US energy boom, is harder to expand.
“This assumption that merely scaling up American capacity will safeguard us from these choices of oil producers overseas is obviously incorrect,” said Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft research fellow Annelle Sheline, who favors a more assertive stance with the Saudis.
“As long as we’re reliant on oil,” she remarked.
She noted that Saudi Arabia was harming itself by not being America’s “predictable” energy supplier.
Saudi Arabia claims the OPEC+ decision was economic and that US arms sales benefit both nations.
Wednesday’s UN resolution condemned Russia’s takeover of Ukrainian land.
However, Bruce Riedel, a senior scholar at the Brookings Institution, said the oil spike was a blatant act of political interference by MBS in favor of Donald Trump’s Republican Party.
After US intelligence discovered that MBS ordered the murder and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi, the previous president boasted of rescuing him.
Riedel stated of the oil move that MBS was copying Trump.
Riedel suggested the Saudis relax Yemen pressure or make human rights steps to repair ties.
However, lifting oil restrictions on Saudi foe, Iran seems improbable.
The Biden administration is likely to be cautious as it clamps down on widespread demonstrations spurred by the murder of a young lady apprehended by the morality police. As a result, months of efforts to salvage a 2015 nuclear agreement have stalled.
According to Council on Foreign Relations senior Steven Cook. The US should embrace a “realist rapprochement” with Saudi Arabia that recognizes the relationship is transactional.
“The US needs the Saudis, no matter how disgusting,” he stated.
“US has to get serious about an energy strategy. If we had one over the previous 40 or so years, we wouldn’t be in this situation.”