Biden’s “consequences” for Saudi Arabia are reaping quiet results


Despite his angry reaction to Saudi Arabia’s decision last month to cut oil production despite global shortages, and the threat of retaliation, the Biden administration is looking for signs that the fragile defense relationship can be salvaged, long decades between Washington and Riyadh.

Those alliances, and commitments to help defend its allies — especially against Iran — are an important part of U.S. security in the Middle East. After recent intelligence reports warned of Iran’s ballistic missiles and impending drone attacks on Saudi Arabia, US Central Command deployed warplanes based in the Persian Gulf region to Iran as part of a high-level alert. height of the US and Saudi forces.

The attack of the jets, sent as a show of strength and not previously reported, is the latest example of the strength and importance of relations between the government said it is now re-examining.

“There will be some consequences for what they did,” President Biden said when the Saudis agreed last month, at a meeting of the OPEC Plus energy cartel they oversee, to cut production by two million barrels per day. .

The cuts serve only to raise prices, the White House charged, and will benefit the Russian cartel at the same time the United States and its allies are trying to cut off Moscow’s oil revenues to slow down the war. with Ukraine.

In the days that followed, the Saudis publicly announced that the administration had requested a one-month reduction in the cuts, suggesting that Biden wanted to avoid rising gas prices before the upcoming US election. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters that the Saudis are trying to “spin” US concerns about Ukraine and global stability into a domestic political agenda, as well as deflecting criticism of Russia’s military posture.

Many lawmakers, some of whom have advocated cutting ties with the Saudis, reacted with greater respect, calling for the immediate withdrawal of thousands of US troops stationed in the kingdom and an end to the sale of weapons. all fights, among other punishments.

But the White House, as it considers how to make good on Biden’s “external” promise and despite his continued anger, is uneasy about the sharp reaction provoked by house. Instead of moving quickly to respond, he is playing for time, looking for a way to get the Saudis back in line and maintaining a strong second defense link.

“Are we ruining the relationship? No,” said the executive director, speaking on condition of anonymity about what has become a politically sensitive political situation. “We have a major conflict with the state of the oil market and the global economy, and we are investigating what happened.”

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“But we have an important interest in this relationship,” the official said.

Oil, and Saudi Arabia’s influence on the global market, is secondary to US strategic interests in the Persian Gulf, where the kingdom plays an important role, not least in countering Iranian aggression. The White House, which confirmed the Wall Street Journal’s report on the recent Iranian threat at a high level, declined to comment on the release of the US aircraft.

“Centcom is committed to our long-term military partnership with Saudi Arabia,” said command spokesman Joe Buccio. “We will not discuss the job description.” The United States maintains important air assets in the region, including F-22 fighter jets in Saudi Arabia, although the source of the air strikes is unclear.

Only about six percent of US oil imports now come from Saudi Arabia. China is a major trading empire, and trade relations with Russia have expanded. But security and intelligence ties are the nexus of the US-Saudi relationship, and security officials in Washington are unhappy about what the current crisis could mean.

A major U.S. deployment there ended after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and has been plagued by recurring problems in recent years, including human rights concerns over the Saudi-led war in Yemen, and the 2018 assassination of a Saudi diplomat who journalist and government critic Jamal Khashoggi. , a resident of the United States and a columnist for the Washington Post.

There are about 2,500 US troops currently in Saudi Arabia, many of whom are involved in high-level intelligence operations and training. The United States is the supplier of nearly three-quarters of the weapons used by the Saudi military, including much-needed parts, repairs and upgrades.

Selling the military to the empire has been the subject of frequent controversy in recent years, as many members of Congress have objected to them. While President Donald Trump, who boasted that the US could sell billions to the Saudis, rejected congressional efforts to stop some deals, Biden banned the purchase of US offensive weapons shortly after taking office.

Since then, there have been two major Saudi purchases, of air-to-air missiles, and replacement missiles for Patriot air defense batteries. Another order for 300 Patriot missiles – more than $ 3 million per unit – state officials approved in August, after Biden’s visit to the kingdom, where he said he supported the agreement with the president of the king not to reduce oil production .

Although Congress did not approve the new sale within the allotted 30-day window, there has been no public indication that another step in business – an agreement signed with the Department of Defense – has been taken. The Pentagon has “nothing to announce at this time” about the sale, spokesman Lt. Col. Cesar Santiago said on Friday.

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In light of the current congressional crisis, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said last month that all arms sales to Saudi Arabia should be stopped, and that any Patriot systems should be removed from there and sent to Ukraine. “If Saudi Arabia is not ready to support Ukraine and the US over Russia, why should we keep the Patriots in Saudi Arabia when Ukraine and our NATO members need them,” Murphy wrote on Twitter.

Although two US-controlled Patriot systems are still in Saudi Arabia to protect US personnel from missile attacks from Yemen’s Houthi rebels, and possibly from Iran, the Saudis have bought many of the systems in use that place years ago became of the kingdom.

Biden has said he wants to go to Congress for “consequences,” and despite strong statements by lawmakers to end his threats, the current congressional recess is giving the administration some breathing room. .

The strongest objection to business as usual in the kingdom comes from Democrats. Rep. Ro Khanna (Calif.) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) last month introduced a bill to freeze all U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia until they reconsider oil production cuts. “The Saudis need to come to their senses,” Blumenthal said in announcing the measure. “The only apparent purpose of this oil cut is to help the Russians and hurt the Americans.” A separate bill by three members of the Democratic House, led by Representative Tom Malinowski (NJ), would require the withdrawal of US troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Sen. Robert Menendez (DN.J.), the powerful chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued a statement last month saying that “the United States will immediately end all aspects of our cooperation with Saudi Arabia.” and promised that he will “It is not green to do anything with Riyadh until the kingdom reconsiders its position regarding the war in Ukraine.”

Many Republicans on the issue said that Biden should take advantage of the cuts to increase domestic oil production, even though the United States is pumping about a million barrels a day more than when Biden took office.

So far, the administration has not given anything for what, if any, the penalty measures it can consider during the investigation of the relationship, it does not mean that it is not urgent to decide. “We shouldn’t be in a hurry,” Kirby said last week. Meanwhile, government officials have emphasized the steps they say the Saudis have taken to ease US anger and show they are not dependent on Russia.

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“Our anger has already been expressed clearly and has already been felt,” the official said. “We have seen the Saudis react in a constructive way.”

In addition to the Saudi vote to support last month’s UN General Assembly resolution condemning Russia’s military intervention in four regions of Ukraine, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the ruler of the kingdom, called President Volodymyr Zelensky to inform him that Saudi Arabia will – give $ 400 million. and humanitarian aid in Ukraine, more than just its first donation of $10 million in April.

The Saudis are actively supporting the recent conflict in Yemen that was supported by the Biden administration. And after years of US efforts to convince the countries of the Persian Gulf to adopt a regional missile defense system against Iran, which the Saudis have long resisted, the administration believes it is finally on the way.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has indicated that is not enough. Speaking to Bloomberg News last week, he called the UN vote on Ukraine’s aid “a positive development,” even though “they don’t pay. [for] Decisions made by OPEC Plus on production.”

But as time passes, the chances are that Saudi Arabia will make things better and provoke any US response. A major tipping point will come next month, when the European Union imposes a ban on Russian offshore oil imports – followed by an embargo against Russian petroleum products two months later. – and the U.S.’s plan to impose tariffs. Russian oil.

Any market deficit those measures could create could be made up by Saudi Arabia’s expansion, officials believe. The Minister of Energy Saudi Abdulaziz bin Salma said last week in the statement of the conference of businessmen in Riyadh that this is the plan of his whole country.

The Saudis have repeatedly insisted that their only interest is in global market stability. The current reduction in production, the minister said, will create capacity to fill the upcoming restrictions in Russia without creating a major global shortfall.

“You need to make sure that you build a situation where if something [get] Worse, you have the right” to respond, he said. “We will be the suppliers who want us to supply.”

The Saudis, Abdulaziz said, have “decided to be mature,” unlike those who are “destroying their emergency assets… as a way to revive the market.” Biden has withdrawn about a third of the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve this year, in an effort to keep gas prices flowing to Americans struggling with high prices and interest rates.


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