- Biden met the Saudi crown prince in July as US gas prices hit record levels.
- Three months after their visit, OPEC+ decided to cut oil production.
- Some Democrats in Congress say it is time to consider the partnership between the United States and Saudi Arabia.
WASHINGTON – The world’s most closely watched fist has turned into one of President Joe Biden’s biggest insults.
Biden came under fire in July for meeting not only with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – whose family once vowed to make Biden a “outcast” – but starting with the kind of fist usually shared between friends.
Three months later, Prince Biden refused when the OPEC+ alliance of oil-exporting countries decided last week to cut oil production by two million barrels per day. The move is expected to raise gas prices at the pump, which could deal a devastating blow to Biden ahead of the midterm elections, while helping member Russia bypass a partial European ban on Russian oil.
The crown prince refused to push Democratic allies to question whether the meeting was worth it, with some calling on the Biden administration to cut US cooperation with Saudi Arabia, including arms sales to the Saudis.
more:Why gas prices to go up? More pain at the pump as OPEC cuts oil production by 2 million barrels
How can OPEC+ beat Biden?
- Biden expected a different outcome: The White House insists that July’s meeting with the crown prince, also known as Mohammed bin Salman, was not related to oil. But it came with rising gas prices for months after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Biden told reporters after the meeting that “based on our discussions today” he expected the Saudis to take “additional steps” to boost oil production in the coming weeks.
- Pre-protrusion fist dynamics:Biden has faced criticism for even agreeing to meet the crown prince – who US officials believe ordered the brutal 2018 murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
- Payment to Russia: The OPEC+ move to cut oil production by 2 million barrels per day was larger than expected. The alliance referred to the “uncertainty surrounding the outlook for the global economy and the oil market.” If the move leads to higher prices as expected, it will boost Russia’s oil revenues, helping Russian President Vladimir Putin continue his war in Ukraine.
- Gas prices are back on the rise: At home, the move is expected to increase gas prices at the pump, which have already started to rise again after falling over the summer. A gallon of regular gasoline averaged $3.92 on Monday, according to AAA, up from $3.80 last week.
Biden told reporters last week that the administration was “looking at alternatives” in the wake of the OPEC+ decision to cut oil production.
The Biden administration announced that it will deliver an additional 10 million barrels of Strategic Petroleum Reserve in November, adding up to the 180 million barrels ordered by the president in March.
more:Biden looks for “alternatives” to help lower gas prices after OPEC cut oil production
The White House has called on US energy companies to cut prices at the pump by “bridging the historically large gap” between wholesale and retail gas prices.
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and National Economic Council Director Brian Dees said in a joint statement that the administration will also consult with Congress on additional tools and powers to reduce OPEC’s control over energy prices.
Biden took a major foreign policy adventure by meeting in Saudi Arabia with a leader he had previously condemned.
And while some allies say the president’s visit was justified given the state of gas prices, the meeting is now widely seen as a strategic loss.
The White House responded to the OPEC+ decision with anger and disappointment. The political setback for Biden and the Democrats could be consequential as they seek to cling to power in next month’s midterm elections.
Biden’s approval rating has proven to be related to gas price volatility, increasing during the summer as gas prices fall and declining again as gas prices rise.
Gas price hikes before the election are not what Democrats want to see.
what are they saying
- Biden is “disappointed”: Biden said he was “disappointed” with the OPEC+ cut in oil production but did not regret his visit to Saudi Arabia. White House press secretary Karen-Jean-Pierre said it was “obvious that OPEC+ is allied with Russia”.
- Democrats target the US-Saudi alliance: Top Senate Democrats have called on the United States to step back from a more than 70-year partnership with Saudi Arabia that has provided the country with weapons and military aid. Senator Bob Menendez, DN.J. He said the US should “immediately freeze all aspects of our cooperation” with Saudi Arabia including arms sales, arguing that there is “no room for playing with both sides” in Russia’s war in Ukraine. As chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mendez has veto power over foreign arms sales. “I will not give the green light to any cooperation with Riyadh until the kingdom reassess its position regarding the war in Ukraine. That is enough.”
- ‘We have a problem’: Representative Elisa Slotkin, D-Mitch, said in an interview Sunday on “Meet the Press” that the Saudis “have a strategic decision to make about helping the global economy and pumping more oil there or cutting it back. At best, they made a decision that didn’t help.” The rest of the world. At worst, they support Putin. We have a problem.”
- Choose Russia: Democratic Senator Chris Murphy said Sunday on CNN that he had no problem meeting the presidents with other leaders, but described the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia as “severed.” Murphy said the United States needs to “rethink” arms sales to Saudi Arabia. “For years, we’ve been looking the other way as Saudi Arabia has been chopping up journalists, engaging in widespread political repression, for one thing. We wanted to know that when the chips were, when there was a global crisis, the Saudis would choose us instead of Russia. Well, they didn’t They do. They choose Russia.”
- Republican response: Senator Lindsey Graham described the pressure to end Saudi arms sales as a “short-sighted view of the problem” in an interview with USA TODAY. He said that the US relationship with Saudi Arabia must be preserved, noting that it is a “bulwark” against Iran. The best way to neutralize Russia, Graham said, is to export more natural gas to Europe by producing more oil domestically. “Instead of cutting arms sales to Saudi Arabia, I prefer to open up local exploration operations,” he said.
The Big Picture
An overhaul of the longstanding partnership between the United States and Saudi Arabia would mark a major shift in foreign policy with major repercussions in the Middle East.
The White House has not stated whether it supports ending military assistance and arms to Saudi Arabia.
Before any change in long-term policy with the Saudis, Biden faces an even tougher challenge: making sure gas prices don’t destroy the fortunes of Democrats in November.
Contributing: Associated Press and Francesca Chambers
You can reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.
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