Just three months after US President Joe Biden gave Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman the fist bump that reverberated around the world, Saudi Arabia and the US appear to be in a crisis days before the US midterm elections on November 8.
However, since then, as a result of OPEC’s decision to reduce oil supply, relations between the United States and one of the biggest oil producers have drastically deteriorated.
Understanding how the past has shaped the present may be aided by looking back at the US and Saudi Arabia’s historical connection. On board the American cruiser USS Quincy, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt met Saudi King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud in the Suez Canal in 1945. The foundation for a long-lasting alliance was also laid down: “America’s security assurances for the Kingdom in exchange for access to reasonably priced energy supplies.”
Saudi Arabia has since served as an oil compensater. Saudi Arabia has contributed significantly to cost containment since the middle of the 1960s. In order to make up for lost supply in the wake of the Iranian Islamic Revolution, Riyadh opened the tap in 1980 and 1981.
The Saudi reluctance to raise oil output, however, looked to many Democrats to be a political action that attempts to transform wrath into a technique given that it came in the height of a US election season highlighted by public outrage over high gas prices. The US had asked for a one-month postponement, but it was denied.
Jared Kushner’s attendance at the Davos in Desert investment conference in Riyadh and the Kingdom’s recent commitment to strengthen energy connections with Beijing are sure to raise more questions in the minds of Democrats. Notably, no American delegates received an invitation to the Riyadh summit.
Saudi Arabia was warned with “consequences” after decreasing oil production by US Vice President Joe Biden. The White House had already announced that Biden was reevaluating relationships between allies, but Biden did not elaborate on what exactly was being assessed.
“I believe the President has made it quite clear that this is a relationship that we need to keep reviewing and revisiting, “John Kirby, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said.
“I believe that’s where he is right now given the OPEC decision, he emphasized. Although he made it clear that no official negotiations had yet started, Kirby said that Biden was “prepared to engage with Congress to think through what that relationship [with Saudi Arabia] needs to look like going forward.” The relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States, in the opinion of many commentators, is unusual.
The OPEC action was largely seen as a diplomatic “slap in the face” because Biden visited Saudi Arabia in July and met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman despite vowing to make the Kingdom a worldwide pariah following the murder of writer Jamal Khashoggi.
Senator Bob Menendez of the United States declared at the time that “the United States must immediately suspend all areas of our engagement with Saudi Arabia, including any arms sales and security cooperation beyond what is absolutely essential to safeguard US people and interests.”
In other words, the political crisis involving Saudi Arabia and the US is a formal dispute rather than hostility. The peaks and valleys in the ties, however, show a tumultuous, unstable connection. Whether the Democrats or Republicans win the US midterm elections, Riyadh and Washington will once again be on their honeymoon.