US and Saudi Arabia in oil dispute

The new cold war

Published 14 June 2023
- By Editorial Staff
Mohammed bin Salman and Joe Biden.

When the Saudis decreased their oil production, Joe Biden promised that there would be “consequences”. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman responded by threatening to create a US economic disaster and reportedly expressed reluctance to cooperate with the Biden administration in the future.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman conveyed an image of unity and friendship at a summit in Riyadh last week. According to the US State Department, they reaffirmed their shared commitment to “building stability, security, and prosperity in the Middle East”, but according to leaked Pentagon documents, relations between the US and Saudi Arabia are anything but good.

The conflict flared up in October when Saudi Arabia, along with Russia, decreased its oil production – something that reportedly upset the powers that be in Washington and President Biden in particular.

Joe Biden reportedly promised that there would be “consequences” for the Saudis’ decision – which in turn prompted Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to threaten the US with economic disaster, a threat that, according to Business Insider, did not have the desired result as Biden’s promised “consequences” did not materialize.

Instead, the United States sent a delegation led by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to court the crown prince – at a time when the Saudis have intensified their cooperation with China, perhaps America’s greatest global rival.

One of the US’s most important allies

According to the leaked documents, the Crown Prince reportedly said that he wants nothing more to do with the US administration and that their threats will have major economic consequences for the US.

– Mohammed bin Salman is keen to let Washington know that the US needs Saudi Arabia just as much as the Kingdom needs America,” Cafiero said in reference to the leaked document. “The crown prince wants Biden and everyone else in Washington to respect Saudi Arabia’s sovereignty and right to make decisions which advance the country’s national interests, comments geopolitical analyst Giorgio Cafiero.

Saudi Arabia is not only one of America’s most important allies in the Middle East, it is also the world’s largest oil producer and thus has the power to directly influence the global oil market and the US economy.

Last week, it decided to cut oil production again, citing the need to stabilize the oil market – a decision that will likely lead to even more American anger.

During his presidential campaign, Joe Biden promised to make Crown Prince bin Salman a “pariah” because of his alleged involvement in the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Crown Prince reacted to these statements by mocking Biden behind his back and reportedly expressed hopes of acquiring US nuclear technology by playing off the US and its competitors against each other.

Despite the conflict, Giorgio Cafiero believes that the US and Saudi Arabia will continue to cooperate and that the important thing for bin Salman is that he is not seen as a puppet of the Americans.