The Saudi crown prince Mohammad Bin Salman has been reported to refuse to pump more oil in order to hurt Russia and even shouted at Biden’s NSA Jake Sullivan for bringing up the name of journalist Khashoggi.
When asked about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman yelled at President Joe Biden’s national security adviser and stated he would not help the US by producing more oil.
The shocking deterioration of US-Saudi relations under the Biden administration is detailed in a Wall Street Journal article that recounts the president’s rage at the kingdom’s de facto ruler and the prince’s enraged response.
At a seaside palace in September, Biden National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who goes by the initials MBS.
Sullivan mentioned Khashoggi, the Washington Post columnist assassinated at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.
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MSB shouted at Sullivan, telling him that he didn’t want to talk about it again. He also said that the US could forget about its request that Saudi Arabia increase its oil production, which the administration had pushed for in order to help bring down gas costs.
The story is being denied by the White House.
“Most of this story is categorically false, including both the basic facts and the overall premise,” National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said.
“The opening characterization of Jake Sullivan’s meeting is basically made up. There was no shouting and oil production was not a topic of discussion,” she said.
“While there is work to do in any relationship, as Saudi Arabia comes under increasing threat from Iranian-backed proxy groups in Yemen and elsewhere, the United States is committed to strengthening relations with Saudi Arabia and other partners in the Gulf region. This is an iron-clad commitment from the President on down,” Watson said.
Saudi Arabia has been annoyed by the cold welcome it has received from the US since Biden’s victory.
President Biden has refused to speak with MBS and has limited his direct interactions to MBS’ father, King Salman, who is ill and elderly.
”There’s a lot of Middle Eastern folks who want to talk to me. I’m not sure I’m going to talk to them,’ Biden remarked during a CNN townhall in October, referring to MBS.
The king is said to be Biden’s direct counterpart. In Saudi Arabia, however, the king chooses his successor, and Salman, 86, has given MBS, 36, de facto control of the country.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, relations have deteriorated. The US has frequently pressed Saudi Arabia to pump more oil to assist lowering gas prices, but the Saudis have declined, which serves Moscow’s interests better.
MBS has responded by boosting relationships with Russia and China while relations with the United States have deteriorated. One of the kingdom’s largest oil consumers is Beijing.
After the Journal published the report, Adrianne Watson, a White House National Security Council spokeswoman, said that Sullivan didn’t discuss oil production with MBS at their September meeting and that “there was no shouting.”
And, following the online publication, a Saudi official at the kingdom’s Washington embassy declared that the US-Saudi relationship is still solid. The meeting between Sullivan and MBS, he said, was friendly and respectful.
Saudi Arabia is a member of OPEC, a powerful group of 13 nations that controls 40% of world oil production. Russia is a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC+).
On Saturday, MBS and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke for the second time since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24th. The call was made at Saudi Arabia’s request, according to the Kremlin. The last time the two men communicated was on March 3.
Meanwhile, Brett McGurk, the White House Middle East coordinator, has been visiting Riyadh on a regular basis, attempting to repair a strained relationship that erupted after Biden declined to speak with MBS.
A state visit by Biden was discussed at one point, but it was ultimately ruled out. There is some concern that things have deteriorated to the point where Biden’s personal visit would be ineffective.
For months, relations have been deteriorating.
The Saudis reportedly turned down an administration request for a phone call with Biden in March, according to reports, which the White House denied. After the monarchy rejected to speak with Biden, MBS called Putin in March.
In late March, Yasmine Farouk of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace told NPR that “the crown prince … has a very big ego and he was personally humiliated by Biden.” “What’s happening, of course, this is payback time.”
Meanwhile, in the aftermath of sky-high oil and gas costs, the White House is seeking to restore relations. Crude oil prices rebounded on Wednesday, rising to $107.91 per barrel following a brief dip. After previously decreasing, gas prices are on the increase again, with the national average at $4.10 per gallon on Tuesday.
Biden is doing everything he can to bring down gas prices and make life easier for Americans at the pump. He gave the go-ahead for a one-million-barrel-per-day release from the Strategic Oil Reserve.
The president has blamed the rising prices on Russia, OPEC, and Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are the only two major oil producers capable of pumping millions of more barrels of oil.
However, Saudi Arabia has so far refused to compromise on providing more oil, keeping to an OPEC+ supply arrangement with Russia and others to gradually release more oil.
The Biden administration also wants oil prices to fall in order to put pressure on Putin’s finances. Energy is one of Russia’s most important sources of revenue.
MBS, on the other hand, has a reputation for ruthlessness. He gathered up hundreds of members of his own family and other rich Saudis in 2017 and imprisoned them in Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel on charges of corruption.
He aspires to become the Kingdom’s next ruler.
He’s also warned that alienating the Saudi leadership may be detrimental to Biden.
“It’s up to him to think about the interests of America,” MBS said of Biden in March to The Atlantic.
“Simply, I do not care,” MBS said when asked if Biden misinterpreted him.
“We don’t have the right to lecture you in America,” he said. “The same goes the other way.”
Biden has been critical of Saudi Arabia since his presidential campaign, when he referred to the country as a “pariah.”
When asked about Khashoggi’s murder during a Democratic debate in 2019, Biden responded, “We were going to, in fact, make them pay the price, and make them, in fact, the pariah that they are.”
MSB ordered the journalist’s death, according to US intelligence services, and it was Biden’s administration that produced the unclassified report revealing that information.
In his articles, Khashoggi was critical of the crown prince. MSB has denied ordering the journalist’s death, but has admitted that he bears some responsibility because it occurred while he was in office.
MBS is thought to want to move on from the Khashoggi incident. According to Saudi officials, he is facing civil lawsuits over the assassination and is seeking legal immunity in the United States.
Biden might help by ordering the State Department to recognise MBS as a head of state, something that has yet to happen.
The president also publicly chastised Saudi Arabia for its long-running conflict in Yemen, cutting off some weapons that Riyadh could use to fight the Houthis.
Yemen is in the midst of a civil war, with the government fighting Houthi insurgents backed by Iran. Saudi Arabia, which is driving the campaign against the Houthis, was angered by the White House’s decision to declassify the Houthis as a terrorist group.
Biden’s approach to Saudi Arabia is totally opposite to Trump’s. President Trump emphasised the need of repairing the relationship and boasted about arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
Trump also questioned the CIA’s assessment that MBS was involved in the murder of Khashoggi and refused to denounce him.
In addition, Trump withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal, which they had opposed. To the Kingdom’s displeasure, the Biden administration has restarted negotiations to revive the Iran deal.