The Saudis and other Arabs who were once considered America’s major allies in the Middle East have resumed their criticism of the Biden administration, accusing it of harming US interests and alienating Washington’s friends.
The criticism came after US President Joe Biden threatened that “there will be consequences” for US relations with Saudi Arabia after OPEC+ announced that it would cut its oil production target. It also came after White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said a policy review of US-Saudi relations would be conducted in response to the OOEC+ announcement.
The Saudis did not take the statements emanating from Washington lightly.
Responding to the statements, Saudi Arabia affirmed its “rejection of any dictates, actions or efforts to distort its noble objectives to protect the global economy from oil market volatility.”
The Kingdom expressed its total rejection of statements that are not based on facts, but are meant to portray the OPEC+ decision out of its purely economic context.
“This decision was taken unanimously by all member states of the OPEC+ group,” read a statement issued by the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“The Kingdom affirms that the outcomes of the OPEC+ meetings are adopted through consensus among member states, and that they are not based on the unilateral decision by a single country. These outcomes are based purely on economic considerations that take into account maintaining balance of supply and demand in the oil markets, as well as aim to limit volatility that does not serve the interests of consumers and producers, as has been always the case within OPEC +.”
While the Saudi statement may sound relatively toned down, a number of Saudi and Arab writers and political analysts have been less diplomatic in their criticism of the Biden administration. They say that Biden seems to care more about winning the upcoming midterm elections and getting re-elected than safeguarding America’s interests and relations in the Middle East.
“I can’t understand President Biden’s behavior and policy,” commented Saudi writer Abdo Khal.
“He is at odds with his country’s interests and is complicating many issues, specifically regarding his attitude towards Saudi Arabia. He has established a policy that is based on hostility towards Saudi Arabia.”
Khal said that he cannot understand why the Biden administration is so determined to undermine US-Saudi relations.
“If Biden has ordered the US National Security Council to conduct a re-evaluation of the relationship between the two sides, Saudi Arabia is also able to evaluate is relationship with the US. This is a legitimate right.”
Saudi columnist Mashari Althaydi denounced the Biden administration over its “threats and intimidation.”
Althaydi pointed out that he could not understand why the Biden administration has singled out Saudi Arabia for criticism when the OPEC+ decision was taken not only by the Kingdom, but all members of the group.
“A group of countries (OPEC+) made a decision that serves the interests of the oil commodity, the pillars of this market, the producer and the consumer… Biden and his men are angry with Saudi Arabia alone, and not the rest of the countries, even though it was a collective decision. It’s true that Saudi Arabia is the most important country in this organization, but it is a collective decision. We remember that there was a previous accumulation of tension against Saudi Arabia. This tension was connected to [then US President] Obama’s ideological illusions.”
Althaydi added that the Saudi government’s response to the statements coming from Washington was “decisive against the nonsense of the Obama-Biden campaign.”
“The smart and strong thing to do is to identify the source of the anger of Biden and his team. It’s a temporary opportunistic electoral political anger. I think that the Americans should get used to this clear speech with Washington. This is not at all a hostile speech nor a revolt against the historical strategic interests between Saudi Arabia and America. It’s just a reminder that Saudi Arabia is not a Banana Republic.”
Syrian writer Rami Al-Khalifa described the Biden administration’s statements as hysterical and childish. The US, he said, “has turned into a teenage child showing irrational reasons for condemning the OPEC+ group, especially Saudi Arabia.”
“Washington does not want to understand Saudi logic and is disrupting the language of reason in dealing with Saudi interests. The American administration believes that the OPEC countries, led by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, should work to achieve American interests regardless of their own interests.”
Al-Khalifa noted that the Biden administration wants to increase production to reduce oil prices on the eve of the midterm elections:
“The Saudi logic is very simple and is based on three basic pillars: Saudi Arabia is not part of the Western-Russian conflict, and it sees this war as having a negative effect on security and stability… Saudi Arabia believes that no one has the right to demand that it sacrifice its interests to serve the interests of other parties. Saudi Arabia understands the nature of its relationship with the US, which is a strategic relationship. But at the same time, this relationship should be based on reciprocity. If Washington is looking for its own interests, as with the Iran nuclear deal or the cancellation of the [Iranian-backed] Houthi group’s designation as a terrorist group, Saudi Arabia also has the right to seek its own interests through a network of relationships with various parties. The relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia is a strategic relationship that must be based on the mutual understanding of each other’s interests and that Washington should stop acting like an arrogant teenager who only sees himself and his own interests and wants others to work for it regardless of their interests.”
Another Syrian writer, Abdul Jalil Al-Saeid, wrote that the anti-Saudi statements of the Biden administration were aimed at “pleasing his [Biden’s] voters just as he did during his presidential election campaign.”
Al-Saeid pointed out that US Senator Ted Cruz summarized many of the recent developments in America by saying that the cause of the financial crisis in the US is Biden’s destructive policies.
“Biden was the one who decided to pursue a hostile policy towards the [Arab] allies. He and his team were the ones who gave in to America’s enemies and went looking for nuclear agreements that are fraught with flaws and harm to many of America’s friends.”
In yet another sign of the damage caused by the Biden administration’s hostility towards Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Arab League have come out in support of the Kingdom.
GCC Secretary-General Nayef Al-Hajraf said that the Biden administration’s criticism of Saudi Arabia was “lacking in facts.” The Arab League, for its part, condemned the Biden administration for waging a “negative campaign” against Saudi Arabia.
These reactions from the Arab countries indicate that the Arabs no longer see the US as a strategic ally or even as a friend. This is excellent news for the mullahs in Iran and their terrorist proxies in the Middle East, including Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Houthis in Yemen. Under the current circumstances, it seems clear that the damage done to America’s relations with the Arab world is irreparable, at least during the Biden administration.
If the Biden administration is so distressed, as it claims, about the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, why has there never been so much as a murmur of compliant about Qatar’s three-week torture of Marc Bennett, a British citizen, at the hands of its “secret police” and his subsequent death by hanging — said by the coroner to be not a suicide — on Christmas Day 2019? Bennett had been detained by Qatar for nine months on dubious charges shortly after resigning from a senior position at Qatari Airways. Intriguingly, the British Foreign Office closed the case in 2021, “just one week after” Britain’s current Prime Minister Liz Truss was appointed foreign minister
While it goes without saying, it is worth stating plainly: America’s interests in the Middle East will also be affected as its Arab allies become increasingly disillusioned with the deeds and statements of the current administration, and its continuing inability to see the enormous existential threat it is creating for the Arab world by zealously trying grant nuclear capability and a trillion dollars to an Iranian regime that even its own people can no longer stomach.
Iran, with its Shiite regime, appears implacably determined to destroy its Sunni oil competitors in the Middle East (here and here); “the Little Satan” Israel , and “the Great Satan” the United States through its neglected underbelly in Venezuela, Cuba and increasingly much of South America.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and former President Barack Obama both made statements as if supporting anti-regime protestors in Iran, but both seemed transparently feeble, false-front, Potemkin statements.
“I think we are seeing something that is quite remarkable throughout the country,” Blinken said, failing to offer any practical assistance.
“‘In retrospect, I think that was a mistake,” Obama said, referring his total failure as president to help the Iranian protestors in 2009, while he sided with the regime. “Every time we see a flash, a glimmer of hope, of people longing for freedom, I think we have to point it out,” he said, equally unhelpfully.
Obama ended by noting that it was important “to affirm what they do and I hope that it brings about more space for the kind of civic conversation that over time can take the country down a better path.”
“Civic conversation”? With Iran’s savage regime? That’s it?
It was White House spokesman John Kirby who gave the game away. “The president ,” he said“, “still believes that a diplomatic way forward is the best way forward….”
It is not a secret, however, that a diplomatic way without a credible military threat to back it up is useless. Even soft-power advocate Joseph Nye, former dean of the Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, had to concede that, “to be realistic, soft power is never going to replace hard power.”
The Biden administration appears to be waiting until after the November mid-term elections, when Congress will be in recess for its Christmas holiday and therefore unable to block the deal.
So far, 50 “deeply concerned” members of Congress, mostly Democrats from Biden’s own party, have sent Biden a letter effectively opposing the deal.
The Saudis and their allies in the Gulf appear to be wondering why Biden is threatening them with “consequences” simply for trying to protect themselves from soon being annihilated by Iran, especially as it was the US that introduced the mortal threat against the Saudis — by granting Iran nuclear weapons with the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal — in the first place.
In August of 2015, Obama announced:
“After two years of negotiations, we have achieved a detailed arrangement that permanently prohibits Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon…. Iran will also not be able to acquire the enriched uranium that could be used for a bomb…. Well, here’s the truth: Inspectors will be allowed daily access to Iran’s key nuclear sites. If there is a reason for inspecting a suspicious, undeclared site anywhere in Iran, inspectors will get that access, even if Iran objects…. Let me repeat: The prohibition on Iran having a nuclear weapon is permanent. The ban on weapons-related research is permanent. Inspections are permanent.”
In the same address, however, Obama revealingly let slip:
“Even before taking office, I made clear that Iran would not be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon on my watch….[Emphasis added.]
Although Obama claimed that his deal “permanently prohibits Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” his statement as immediately exposed as a falsehood by the deal’s “sunset clause,” assuring Iran that after only fifteen years, it could have all the nuclear weapons it wanted – with no prohibition on the missiles to deliver them.
Obama had told the world, in another official statement a few weeks earlier, that “Iran is permanently prohibited from pursuing a nuclear weapon under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”
The world can see how much good that did.
The new Iran deal, according to reports, also does not prevent Iran from having nuclear weapons capability, and would merely postpone the same disaster until after the Biden administration’s “watch.”
“[H]ow can we in good conscience,” Obama said in his July 2015 statement, “justify war before we’ve tested a diplomatic agreement that achieves our objectives; that has been agreed to by Iran.”
This diplomatic agreement has now been tested. It failed. That is why this or any agreement with Iran should be allowed to die a dignified death, especially during Congress’s Christmas recess.
Khaled Abu Toameh is an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem.
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