US Silently Squeezing Concessions from Saudi Arabia following Biden humiliation by MBS Perhaps?

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Saudi Arabia

An attack never materialized despite the display of force. For example, one researcher asserts that tensions between America and Saudi Arabia are unlikely to ease. Following Mohammed bin Salman’s humiliation of Biden, the US is silently securing concessions from Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia
Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi speaks during a rally outside the former US embassy in the capital Tehran on November 4, 2022, to mark the 43th anniversary of the start of the Iran hostage crisis. – Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi today ridiculed a vow by US President Joe Biden to “free” Iran, as weeks of protests in the Islamic republic show little sign of abating. [ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images]

Saudi Arabia-US Complex Interests

Following a recent feud over oil, Saudi Arabia has taken strides to appease the United States. The Kingdom has extended its backing for Ukraine in its fight against Russia. Last week, the United States scrambled jets toward Iran amid indications that Tehran was preparing a drone and missile attack on Saudi Arabia.

However, the episode underscored the complicated web of interests that keeps the US-Saudi alliance alive even in tough situations.

Diplomatic ties between the Biden White House and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman are streched like never before in a series of high-stakes diplomatic engagements.

Last month, the Saudis irritated the US by cutting oil production in collaboration with Russia, a snub heightened by allegations that US officials felt they had guarantees that the Saudis would do the opposite.

According to observers, the abandoned oil agreement, together with a series of more personal expressions of disdain for Biden, amounts to a power move by Crown Prince Mohammed, who believes US power is declining and is seeking adversary countries such as Russia and China.

Biden officials were believed to be taken aback by the revelation, assuming they’d negotiated a secret arrangement to boost supplies. President Joe Biden has tried to cut off Moscow’s oil export revenue as retaliation for Russia’s aggressive invasion of Ukraine. Meanwhile, one of the president’s top domestic concerns is to keep inflation in check.

The move sparked a broader response in the Democratic Party, with Delaware Senator Chris Murphy asking for the US to withdraw forces from Saudi Arabia and prohibit military shipments to the Kingdom. Biden himself stated that there would be “consequences” for Saudi Arabia but did not explain what they might be.

Saudi Arabia
Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Crown Prince Mohammad in Moscow in May 2017.[Pavel Golovkin/AFP/Getty Images]

The Iran factor

The threat from Iran appears to have riveted minds as well.

Giorgio Cafiero, CEO of Gulf State Analytics posits that there is no doubting that as long as the Islamic Republic holds power [in Iran], leaders in Washington and Riyadh will continue to consider the Iranian regime a major threat to both US and Saudi interests.

“This is one of several factors that keep the Washington-Riyadh cooperation alive despite all the causes of conflict between Americans and Saudis.”

The outrage in the Biden administration appears to have reached the Saudis, who have launched a series of diplomatic attempts in recent weeks to appease the US.

Last month, the Saudis voted in support of a resolution declaring Russia’s annexation of areas of east Ukraine unlawful, further isolating Putin in the global arena.

Crown Prince Mohammed recently promised a $400 million boost in Saudi humanitarian aid to Ukraine, in addition to the $10 million pledged in April. The Saudis also played a crucial role in mediating a high-profile prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine in which UK and US citizens who got captured fighting for the Ukrainian military were released.

Cafiero interpreted the Saudi moves as a hint that the Saudis were eager to assist Western interests in Ukraine. However, he warned that Riyadh’s geopolitical maneuvering and failure to censure Russia over Ukraine had engendered significant mistrust in Washington.

“It does not appear that the Kingdom’s diplomatic initiatives concerning the war in Ukraine have much potential to counterbalance the harm inflicted to Saudi Arabia’s standing in the US capital,” he said.

Saudi Arabia
Chris Murphy, United States Senator from Connecticut, is seen during the ministerall panel discussion ‘Gazing at Each Other or Facing the Same Direction: Reviving the Transatlantic Alliance in Times of War in Europe’ at the Warsaw Security Forum 2022 organised by the Casimir Pulaski Foundation. On Tuesday, October 04, 2022, in Warsaw, Poland. [Artur Widak/NurPhoto/Getty Images]

Despite the thaw in diplomatic relations, the US still relies on Saudi Arabia as a buffer against Iran and a critical strategic partner in a parious area. According to Cafiero, Crown Prince Mohammed is aware of this and will likely continue to exploit the situation, pressing for greater Saudi autonomy on the international stage while antagonizing the US.

“These common interests keep the US and Saudi Arabia interested in the bilateral alliance. Riyadh is aware of this and may continue to signal its ambition for an increasingly independent foreign policy without fear of the US abruptly abandoning the Kingdom, “he stated.

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