Things look horrible for the U.S. under Biden both within and internationally. While the oil prices in the country are going through the roof, the long political alliance between America and Saudi Arabia has dropped to a historic low.
The news of the rift between the leaderships of the two countries started to surface last year but became widely known in 2022. In February, before the Russia-Ukraine war started, The Intercept reported that Saudi Arabia rejected the request by the Biden administration to pump up more oil last year. Since 2022 is going to be the year of the midterms, the Biden administration has been worried about its failure to check rising oil prices. Bringing oil price back to where Trump had left them and claiming it as an achievement seemed to be the midterm campaign strategy of the Democrats.
In wake of the Saudi rejection, the Biden administration tried to blame the Saudi government for the high prices Americans paid at gas stations. The Saudi reaction was direct and minced no words. As reported in Middle East Eye (May 02, 2022), the kingdom’s royal and former intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal blamed the Biden administration’s policy of curtailing domestic production for the devastating oil prices.
But the paper noted that the seed of dislike between the Biden administration and the Saudi royalty goes back to Biden’s presidential campaign when he took aim at Saudi Arabia over its human rights abuses and particularly angered Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman by stating that they won’t directly talk to him after Biden took office in January 2021.
After the Ukraine-Russia war started in late February this year, Biden again looked at Saudi Arabia for oil. The war gave Biden an awkward excuse to blame Russia for oil going up even though the prices had been going up already under his administration. But it did give him another push to connect with both the Saudi royalty and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for help. The result was humiliating for America’s international reputation. Both countries declined to take any calls from Biden. The humiliation was particularly notable for Biden since he reportedly tried to reach Prince Mohammed bin Salman—the man he had promised not to engage directly despite the fact that the prince is the one calling the shots in the Kingdom’s affairs.
Around the same time, in a rare display of contempt for the US government, a Saudi state-funded TV channel MBC aired a skit mocking Biden’s senility. The skit showed the actor playing Biden struggling with names while the actor playing Kamala Harris keeps reminding him of names and drags him off the stage as he falls asleep mid-speech. Journalist Asaad Sam Hanna tweeted: “For the first time I see the Saudi TV mocking the US administration.”
In defense of Biden, some liberal writers attacked Saudi Arabia. Elizabeth Shackelford, a career diplomat under the Obama administration, wrote an opinion piece for Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (April 25, 2022) that slammed Saudi Arabia for not being a “true ally.” She wrote:
If Saudi Arabia can’t side with the United States against Russia in the face of its indefensible aggression against Ukraine, it’s high time the U.S. asked what this partnership is good for.
Shackelford missed the point, and likely on purpose, that Biden’s failure to negotiate, even reach the Middle Eastern ally, shows his authority is not really recognized on the world stage. Losing Saudi Arabia and accordingly, the OPEC group of oil-rich countries directly hurts the American taxpayers who are paying more than twice at the gas stations now than what they did under President Trump. It’s not a crisis of oil supply but a crisis of leadership that is taking its daily toll on the average American’s pocket.