March 31, 2023


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Biden re-evaluates the relationship with Saudi Arabia after cutting oil production

Biden re-evaluates the relationship with Saudi Arabia after cutting oil production

WASHINGTON – President Biden will reassess the relationship with Saudi Arabia after it cooperated with Russia to cut oil production in a move that has strengthened President Vladimir Putin’s government and could raise US gasoline prices ahead of the midterm elections. A House official said on Tuesday.

“Certainly in light of recent developments and the OPEC+ decision on oil production, the president thinks we should review the bilateral relationship with Saudi Arabia and take a look to see if that relationship is where it needs to be and that it serves us,” official John F. Kirby told reporters. In a conference call “National Security Interests”.

Kirby, the National Security Council’s strategic communications coordinator, indicated an openness to retaliatory measures proposed by Democratic congressional leaders who were outraged by Oil production cut announced last week By OPEC Plus, the international cartel. Among other things, top Democrats have proposed limiting security cooperation with Saudi Arabia, including arms sales, and stripping OPEC members of legal immunity so they can be prosecuted for violations of US antitrust laws.

“He is willing to discuss this relationship with members of Congress,” Kirby said of Biden. “He knows that many members have expressed concerns on both sides of the aisle.”

In a previous appearance on CNN, Mr. Kirby released an urgent note: “The schedule is now, and I think he’d be willing to start these conversations right away. I don’t think that’s something he’s going to have to wait or wait quite frankly for any longer.”

These statements came a day after Senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey and the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations, announced, attack Saudi Arabia To actively support Russia in its brutal invasion of Ukraine. The senator called for an immediate freeze “of all aspects of our cooperation with Saudi Arabia,” and pledged to use his power to prevent future arms sales.

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“There is simply no room to play on either side of this conflict — either the rest of the free world supports in trying to prevent a war criminal from wiping an entire country off the map, or it supports it,” Menendez said. “Saudi Arabia chose the latter in a shocking decision driven by economic self-interest.”

Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the second Democrat in the Senate, said Tuesday morning that Saudi Arabia clearly wants Russia to win the war in Ukraine. “Let’s be very frank about this,” he said on CNN. It is Putin and Saudi Arabia against the United States.

Mr. Biden’s willingness to consider retaliatory measures represents a Big turn of the head who have sought to improve relations with Saudi Arabia in recent months and reflected deep anger in the White House over the Saudi-led OPEC Plus decision last week to cut oil production by up to 2 million barrels per day.

However, it was not immediately clear how far Mr. Biden was willing to go, or whether he was using the public comments as a warning to Saudi Arabia or as an attempt to silence domestic critics who criticized him for his leniency with the kingdom. A special team of assistants has not been formed to conduct a formal review; No deadline has been set for the conclusion; No options were mentioned for consideration.

Some foreign policy veterans have warned Biden not to take tough action. Martin S. said: Indyk, a former diplomat in the Middle East and now a member of the Council on Foreign Relations: “The United States should seek a new strategic agreement with Saudi Arabia rather than a divorce.” We need more responsible Saudi leadership when it comes to oil production and regional behavior. They need a more reliable US security understanding to deal with the threats they face. We both have to step back from the brink.”

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Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who has also spent many years in government dealing with Middle Eastern affairs, said Mr. Biden needed to assess the potential flaws of breaking away from Saudi Arabia, a vital US ally. Countries in the fight against terrorism and confronting Iran in the region.

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Using the title of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, he said, “Biden will have to decide whether the goal is to punish Saudi Arabia to pre-empt domestic criticism or try to change Mohammed bin Salman’s behavior.” “The latter would be difficult, even if Biden moved to suspend all arms sales – a response that could affect US policy in the Gulf with respect to Iran.”

The president was harshly criticized for Visit Saudi Arabia in July And give a fist to Prince MohammedDespite the campaign’s promise to make the Kingdom an international country”forsakenFor the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The CIA decided that Prince Mohammed I ordered the operation This led to the 2018 murder and dismemberment of Khashoggi, who was a Washington Post columnist and US resident.

To overcome his own reservations, Biden has gone to the side of advisers who have said it was worth the political blow to restore relations with Saudi Arabia for several reasons, such as the need to strengthen energy markets given efforts to isolate Russia, one of the world’s largest oil producers. While no specific announcements were made during Mr. Biden’s visit to Jeddah in July, US officials said at the time that they had an understanding with Saudi Arabia that it would increase oil production in the fall and lower gasoline prices ahead of crucial congressional elections.

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The Saudi decision to do the opposite last week in defiance of American pleas was a slap in the face for Mr. Biden and opened it to further criticism even from fellow Democrats who argued that Saudi Arabia should be punished. Three House Democrats have announced legislation demanding the withdrawal of US forces and defense systems from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

After declining for more than three months, gas prices are back on the rise again. It rose by 12 cents a gallon on average over the past week to $3.92According to AAA. The White House was counting on lower gas prices to support Democrats’ efforts to gain control of the House and Senate.

Anger in Washington over Saudi Arabia has grown in the past two days Recent Russian strikes against civilian targets through Ukraine. The Saudi alignment with Russia came even as China and India did Put more distance Between them and Moscow because of the war in Ukraine.

Democrats have increasingly framed the conflict with Saudi Arabia in terms of the kingdom’s willingness to aid Mr. Putin’s aggression.

“This is not the time for business as usual with Mr. Putin or the Kremlin,” Kirby said.