No sooner had the OPEC+ oil producers’ alliance decided last week to reduce output in November by 2 million barrels per day, than a barrage of criticism from the Washington was homing in on its target like a heat-seeking missile — and that target was, of course, Saudi Arabia.
Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut (D) called for “a wholesale re-revaluation of the US alliance with Saudi Arabia,” and White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said it was “clear OPEC+ is aligning with Russia.”
One wonders where these people were in March, when Saudi Arabia joined 140 other countries at the UN in denouncing the Russian invasion of Ukraine. One also wonders if any of them listened to Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman’s thorough rationale after the OPEC+ meeting. He explained, among other things, that the alliance had to be proactive as central banks in the West moved to tackle inflation with higher interest rates — which would make a global recession more likely and lead to reduced demand for oil.
One has to wonder whether the Kingdom’s US critics think they are more committed to Ukraine’s interests than the country’s own president!
Faisal J. Abbas, Editor-in-Chief
Conspiracy theorists can say what they want, but the job of OPEC+ job isn’t to give Washington a slap in the face, or to side with Moscow against Ukraine. The alliance exists to safeguard the stability of the oil market — a market that keeps the world turning.
Now, it is true that the Kingdom has maintained good relations with Moscow, and offered to be a reliable mediator in this conflict. However, when the value of these relations is recognized by none other than Volodymyr Zelensky, one has to wonder whether those Democrats in Washington think they are more committed to Ukraine’s interests than the country’s own president!
In a video interview with Arab News last week, Zelensky thanked the Kingdom and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for their efforts to broker the largest prisoner swap of the war, with almost 300 detainees exchanged. “Given the ties that the crown prince has with Russia, probably it was, you know, a good chance of success, and I’m very much thankful to him for this brilliant result,” he said.
Incidentally, among the prisoners released by Russia were two Americans — and while the White House and the State Department issued brief statements thanking Riyadh for its role, the silence from Saudi Arabia’s critics in Congress was deafening. Of course, the mid-term elections are only four weeks away, and thanking the Kingdom doesn’t win votes.
This is not a criticism only of Democrats; Riyadh has worked very well in the past with both major US political parties. Rather it is a plea to opportunist politicians to stop treating the Kingdom like an electoral football, to be given a kicking every time Americans go to the polls. Saudis are not responsible for your internal woes, or your ill-advised decisions.
Take the recent call by some Democrats for a halt to US arms sales to Saudi Arabia. While this obviously goes down well with some voters, it raises serious questions about these politicians’ understanding of basic logic.
Texas is a lot nearer than Riyadh. But perhaps Biden feels hamstrung by the pledge he made on the election campaign trail in New Hampshire in February 2020.
Faisal J. Abbas, Editor-in-Chief
Allow me to simply it for them. The Tehran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen use Iranian drones (the same drones used by Russia against Ukraine) to target not only Saudi civilians, but also Saudi energy infrastructure. Now, what happens when the Kingdom’s ability to defend itself is limited because of ill-advised US decisions, and fuel supplies are restricted because a drone has blown up a refinery? Basic economics: prices will go up — precisely the outcome these politicians say they are trying to avoid!
Americans must understand that the price of fuel at the pump for US motorists —the issue that so exercises US politicians as polling day draws closer — is a consequence of decisions made not in Vienna or Riyadh, but in Washington. As the Saudi Minister of State Adel Al-Jubeir so cogently observed to Fox News: “The reason you have high prices in the US is because you have a refining shortage that has been in existence for more than 20 years. You haven’t built refineries in decades.”
One final point: If the price of gasoline is such a worry for the Biden administration, then the solution surely lies closer to home; the US is the world’s biggest oil producer, and Texas is a lot nearer than Riyadh. But perhaps the president feels hamstrung by the pledge he made on the election campaign trail in New Hampshire in February 2020: “No more drilling on federal lands, period. Period, period, period”— another error of judgment for which the blame can hardly be laid at the door of Saudi Arabia.
Like so many US issues, fuel prices can be solved in America itself. But that would require the Democrats to swallow their pride, to be reasonable in negotiation with the other side of the House, and to put America first… something they have not yet proved they can do!