When Joe Biden took over the White House from Donald Trump last year, there was no country whose relations with the US changed abruptly and more drastically than Saudi Arabia.
As a candidate, Both Vows to treat the kingdom as a “pariah” amid mounting evidence that Saudi officials are behind the assassination of rival Jamal Hashukaji in 2018; Within a month in office, Bidan had removed the U.S. intelligence classification and pointed to Regent Muhammad bin Salman, the de facto state leader, as the one behind the killing.
But inside the sky Fat Prices and peak inflation at home, the US president – who once characterized the “battle between democracies and autocracies” as the central guiding principle of his foreign policy – was forced to make a sharp U-turn.
Biden is now expected to meet with Regent Muhammad in person during a visit to Riyadh later this month, a type led by a furious diplomatic attack at a senior level by the president’s top adviser to the Middle East and an energy adviser.
On Tuesday, the White House was able to show the first fruits of the policy reversal: OPEC agreed To accelerate oil production To help replace the lost output of international sanctions against Russia, Riyadh helped extend a ceasefire between the Saudi-backed Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels.
“Biden was skeptical of the Saudis long before MBS was in place,” said Daniel Shapiro, a former ambassador to Israel during the Obama administration, using the nickname of the regent.
But Shapira, a respected fellow on the Atlantic Council, said the White House was forced to make a non-sentimental choice to add oil supplies to the tightening global oil market and ensure Riyadh supports tougher U.S. approaches to both Russia and China.
“This is the key deal that will make the trip worthwhile,” he said. In return, Saudi Arabia wants promises that Washington will provide weapons and coordination to protect the kingdom from Iran and its emissaries.
The oil production deal follows months of ferry diplomacy led by Brett McGurk, Biden’s Middle East adviser, and Amos Hochstein, his senior energy adviser. The two men were in Riyadh a week before the OPEC + meeting on Thursday – their fourth visit to the Saudi capital in recent weeks.
But diplomacy included more than supplying oil, according to people familiar with the discussions, with a broader energy security agreement on the table, as well as a resumption of the security arrangement.
The Saudis are looking for more defensive equipment, including Patriot anti-missile systems, new security guarantees and assistance with a civilian nuclear program, according to Lima Croft, head of global commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets and a former CIA analyst.
When asked on Friday about a visit to Riyadh, which is expected to take place as part of a larger meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council during a presidential tour already planned in Israel and Europe, the president insisted there was still nothing to announce.
But he defended Saudi propaganda, insisting it was part of advancing peace in the Middle East and not a tougher assessment of U.S. economic needs. “Look, I’m not going to change my view of human rights,” Biden said. My job is to bring peace if I can. “
For the market, Thursday’s deal may be largely symbolic – signaling Saudi Arabia’s willingness to renew its role as an active swing supplier, the “Central Bank for Oil”. Actual oil additions may be less than announced.
That may partly explain the market response on Thursday, when the Brent International Index actually rose 1 percent, to settle for $ 117.61 a barrel. Opec + has pledged to increase supply by 648,000 barrels in July and August. But most of it was already planned. The proposed net addition is only 216,000 b / d.
The extra supply may dwarf the loss of supply from Russia, which produces 10% of the world’s 100 million barrels a day of crude oil. The International Energy Agency said Russia could lose up to 3 million bullets a day from production later this year because sanctions are suffocating its industry.
In addition to tensions over Hashukaji’s assassination, US-Saudi ties were strained over Biden’s failure to support Riyadh in the Yemeni civil war, which is widely regarded as a confrontation between the Saudis and Iran’s main rival, Iran.
Biden also showed a preference for communicating with King Salman rather than with Crown Prince Muhammad, a sharp change from Trump’s years, then courted the Crown Prince devoutly by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser.
Some in Biden’s team have called for a Saudi thaw for months, arguing that a new relationship with the 36-year-old crown price should be sold with a leader who is likely to dominate the longtime U.S. ally for decades.
How far the American president is willing to go remains to be seen. As a candidate, Biden pledged not to sell more weapons to the kingdom, and he tried to preserve human rights and democratic values at the top of his international agenda.
“It was clear to me that human rights would be at the heart of our foreign policy,” he said last summer as American forces left Afghanistan.
But the Ukraine war has forced the White House to rethink much of its original foreign policy agenda, from climate policy to its laser-like focus on U.S. rivalry with China.
“It was an administration that came into office and talked about a zero net, the oil era that was over, a new policy paradigm, an axis for Asia – but in crisis it has now returned to a tested diplomacy,” Croft said. “It’s a return to realpolitik… In crisis you always pick up the phone and call Riyadh.”
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