Biden and Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) will meet next month while the two have recently been using harsh language against each other.
On this Friday and according to a report by CNN, US President Joe Biden is supposed to meet with Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, crown prince Mohammed bin Salman this coming June.
What makes the meeting noticeable is that the meeting comes amid months of diplomatic tensions between Washington and Riyadh.
The report also mentioned that as Saudi Arabia is currently in the position of presidency of the Gulf Cooperation Council, any meeting between Biden and bin Salman is expected to come during a meeting of the GCC in Riyadh; “You should count on something like this happening, it just comes down to when, not if,” a former US official familiar with the discussions said this Friday.
For years, Saudi Arabia was an ally of the United States. This alliance even took a strategic shape when Donald Trump came to power back in 2017. To read between the lines, Trump’s first foreign trip was to Saudi Arabia.
However, the bilateral relationship between the two countries has come to a stalemate due to the recent tensions.
Biden has been highly critical of the Saudis’ record on human rights, its war in Yemen, and the role its government played in the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. But now Washington needs Saudi’s oil more than ever. Saudi Arabia is now the world’s largest exporter of crude oil.
The war in Ukraine as well as rising gasoline prices in US has in fact made it impossible for Biden to keep criticizing the Kingdom for the above-mentioned issues.
Biden’s mission impossible
But Biden’s rapprochement with Saudi Arabia is difficult because of Biden’s policies regarding the Kingdom. The US President repeatedly criticized his predecessor, Donald Trump, for his cozy relationships with dictators — including MBS of Saudi.
On the campaign trail back in January last year, Biden openly promised that under his leadership, the US would teach dictators a lesson by punishing Saudi Arabia. “We were going to, in fact, make them pay the price, and make them, in fact, the pariah that they are,” Biden said then. In addition, the US president announced in February last year that his administration was ending US support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.
But that was not the end of this clash story between Biden and MBS. In February last year, the Biden administration downgraded the Crown Prince and equaled his rank with that of a defense minister.
Biden’s press secretary Jen Psaki said in a news conference back then and on the question of whether Biden would be speaking with the crown prince that: “the president’s counterpart is King Salman, and I expect that at an appropriate time, he would have a conversation with him. I don’t have a timeline on that.”
In reaction to the above words, Mohammad Bin Salman has openly said several times that he doesn’t care what Biden thinks of him.
This past March, for example, and when he was asked by the Atlantic whether Biden misunderstood things about him, MBS said: “Simply, I do not care. It is up to President Biden to think about the interests of America and we don’t have the right to lecture you in America. The same goes the other way.”
But now, and with the Russia-Ukraine still ongoing for an unknown future, it seems Biden has to use a softer language when speaking to or about a giant oil exporter like Saudi Arabia.