A Saudi rethink is it too late? Critics claim that the oil decrease was an expected setback for Biden.

After the White House and the fiercely conservative kingdom fought over oil output restrictions, analysts and dissidents told NBC News that President Joe Biden’s attempts to court Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman were certain to fail.

After the oil-producing alliance OPEC announced earlier this month that it would cut oil production by 2 million barrels per day, a move that is likely to send gas prices higher once more, the White House threatened there would be “consequences” for the Middle Eastern powerbroker without going into further detail.

The reduction is also perceived as aiding Russia, the second-largest oil exporter in the world, in financing its conflict in Ukraine.

And for some, the decision by the group of 13 oil-exporting nations, whose de facto leader is Saudi Arabia, was a hint that Biden’s attempt to mend Washington and Riyadh’s relations during a visit to the kingdom earlier this year was doomed to failure.

Dr. Khalid Aljabri, a Saudi human rights activist, told NBC News via phone on Thursday that “it failed both on blood and on oil.”
The Washington, D.C.-based cardiologist Aljabri continued by saying that bin Salman had “no motive to change his conduct.”

Biden was out front about his position on the U.S.-Saudi relationship when he ran for president. He said he was going to “cancel the blank check” the Trump administration had given Saudi Arabia during its war in Yemen, in which hundreds of people have died, shortly after announcing his candidacy.

In the wake of the savage murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, which the CIA has stated was probably ordered by the crown prince, he also vowed to treat Saudi Arabia as a “pariah” state.

One of his most vocal detractors, the journalist, was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul by agents working for bin Salman, but he has long denied any knowledge of or involvement in the crime. According to a U.S. intelligence report that Biden declassified after taking office, Khashoggi’s murder could not have occurred without the knowledge of the crown prince.

Despite the criticism and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, Biden visited the country in July. The kingdom is a crucial ally of the United States and one of the biggest oil producers in the world.

The de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, the crown prince, received a famous fist bump from Biden, who had vowed before his arrival that he would bring up the country’s record on human rights. He also met with him and other senior officials.

The president would not “be getting anything out of this visit” at the time, according to Saudi human rights activist Lina al-Hathloul.

Al-Hathloul claimed they had warned that Biden’s visit would empower bin Salman and that had turned out to be the case. Loujain al-Hathloul, whose sister made international headlines for advocating for women’s freedom to drive in Saudi Arabia, was imprisoned.

Aljabri concurred. For his “extremely terrible behavior,” he claimed that the crown prince had been “actively rewarded” by Biden with “presidential visits and fist bumps.”

It has been a positive feedback loop, he claimed. He makes a mistake, receives no repercussions, gains confidence, crosses the boundary farther, makes a bigger error, and this will continue to happen.

According to Aljabri, OPEC ‘s decision to reduce production was “a hostile move that is purposeful with planned repercussions.”

Ahead of the midterm elections, Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of Democracy for the Arab World Now, also referred to the choice as a “planned kneecapping of Biden.”

Whitson, whose organization is a New York-based nongovernmental organization that fights for better democracy and human rights throughout the Middle East, said: “It’s fairly evident that they’re doing this to inflict deliberate pain on the Biden administration before of the elections.”

In a statement released on Thursday, the Saudi Foreign Ministry stated that the decision to reduce oil production had not been “politically driven” and had been made to “defend the world economy from oil-market instability.”

It also claimed that the United States asked it to delay cutting oil production by a month, which may have prevented price increases at American gas stations until after the November elections.

Adrienne Watson, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, later declared such assertion to be “categorically incorrect.”

Saudi Arabia, according to Annelle Sheline, a research fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft in Washington, was more in line with the policies of the previous administration of President Donald Trump, who prioritized the kingdom in his Middle East strategy and supported its stance against Iran.

She claimed that if Trump were to run again in 2024, the Saudis would be “delighted.” Crippling Biden and the Democrats in the midterm elections would undoubtedly advance this goal, she continued.

There are many ways the United States might react to Saudi Arabia, Sheline added, from “stopping all arms sales and security cooperation, to withdrawing U.S. forces from Saudi Arabia.”

The actions of foreign oil producers “would no longer have the power to influence U.S. elections,” she continued, “therefore the U.S. must continue to invest in a less oil reliant future.”