Biden subtly withdraws from battle with Saudi Arabia

 December 25, 2022

According to the Washington Examiner, President Joe Biden appears to have softened his stance toward Saudi Arabia as energy prices have fallen. 

Last summer, amid soaring energy prices, Biden made a trip to Saudi Arabia, where he pleaded with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to increase oil production.

Biden did so despite previously promising, as a U.S. presidential candidate, to treat Saudi Arabia as a "pariah" following the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Biden's plea, however, was unsuccessful. In the fall, OPEC+ announced its decision to reduce oil production by 2 million barrels per day.

Biden says there will be "consequences"

Biden and the White House responded to the decision by expressing "disappointment" and by slamming it as "shortsighted."

It wasn't long thereafter that the White House, feeling betrayed and "humiliated," revealed that it was "reevaluating" the U.S.'s relationship with Saudi Arabia. White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said:

I think the president's been very clear that this is a relationship that we need to continue to reevaluate, that we need to be willing to revisit. And certainly in light of the OPEC decision, I think that's where he is.

Democratic allies came to Biden's aid. Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ), for example, urged Biden to “immediately freeze all aspects” of U.S.-Saudi relations.

Biden even vowed that there will be "consequences" for Saudi Arabia.

Recently, however, it appears that Biden and his administration have moved away from such rhetoric.

A change of heart?

The Washington Examiner reports:

Months later, the White House has said little about the scope and timeline for its assessment, and aides suggest an outcome is unlikely. The White House has credited the president with lowering gas prices by tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Instead, the administration has taken steps to stall action that could upset a delicate effort to align the two nations.

The Examiner exemplifies this change even further by noting that the Biden administration recently "moved to shield Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a legal case over the slaying of journalist Jamal Khashoggi" after "Saudi officials had requested the administration’s support in the case."

The question is "what has changed?"

The answer is not immediately clear. But, the likelihood is that the decrease in energy prices is playing some sort of role in the Biden administration's decision to tone down its Saudi Arabia rhetoric.

The Examiner concludes its report, writing, "Asked whether Biden planned to follow through on the consequences he promised for Saudi Arabia after it slashed oil production, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said a bipartisan assessment was underway and reiterated the two nations’ 80-year history."

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