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16.06.2022 Author: Valery Kulikov

Biden Wants to Dictate Policy Change to Saudi Arabia


After the failure of numerous Washington emissaries’ attempts to change Saudi Arabia’s perception of the world and force it to take a place in the ranks of “US supporters”, the current US administration has decided to use its latest weapon in this effort by “throwing President Biden to the wolves”.

Such a decision by the US is quite understandable. It is to vassal Europe that the White House can send its secretary of state to deal with an issue of American interest. But for some minor European countries, according to Washington, (e.g. Ukraine, the Baltic states or Eastern European states) the White House even limits itself to sending an “interlocutor” at the level of a deputy secretary of state or a simple secretary.

However, this does not work with Saudi Arabia. And this was clearly demonstrated by the “results” of Anthony Blinken’s recent trip to Riyadh, or rather the complete lack thereof! Even the cold reception of the secretary of state in the kingdom was already telling, making it clear that only President Biden himself, after the farce of the demonstrative isolation of Crown Prince Bin Salman since coming to power, can expect to have “constructive conversations”. And the Saudis have very clearly hinted that before making an oil request to Saudi Arabia, the current US president should come to meet Mohammed bin Salman and shake his hand, thereby effectively publicly acknowledging his wrongness, removing Mohammed bin Salman from the status of “rogue”.

Incidentally, in contrast to its reaction to the blatantly arrogant and dismissive US attitude towards other countries and politicians, Riyadh has demonstrated a very different attitude in its contacts with Russia by rolling out the red carpet for Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the end of May. However, this is not so surprising since Russia, unlike the US, has never allowed itself to be dismissive of the Saudi leaders and their kingdom.

Initially scheduled for June, the possibility of Joe Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia was recently postponed until July. NBC News reported on June 4 that the reason for the postponement was, first, some kind of problem with the US President’s schedule. Second, the need for additional preparation time. Biden’s visit to Riyadh was initially intended to be part of a major tour by the US president, who would first visit Europe and then the Middle East. Washington makes no secret of the fact that the visit to Saudi Arabia is very much needed today by the US itself, because the near future of the Democratic Party and Biden personally depends on its success. That is why it has now been decided that it will be part of a separate Middle East tour of the White House head.

As CNN commented on the Biden administration’s preparations for the visit, Washington seeks “full reset with Saudi Arabia” because of the need to improve relations with Riyadh amid rising oil and gas prices following the imposition of anti-Russian sanctions. Washington is therefore hoping to win the kingdom’s support for increased fuel production by Arab countries, which is supposed to help the White House curb inflation.

At the same time, CNN and other US media close to the US administration emphasize that improved relations between the countries should not mean “forgiveness” for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. Thus, having been blatantly forced to “go hat in hand” to Riyadh, Washington nevertheless intends to continue its policy of diktat during President Biden’s planned visit. This is why White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre on June 1 essentially left Biden’s 2019 statement that Saudi Arabia should become a “rogue” on the world stage because of Khashoggi’s murder,
for its massive human rights violations.

It should be recalled that Joseph Biden has personally made Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman a rogue and personally boycotted him, as well as attempted to launch an international crackdown over allegations that he organized the murder of The Washington Post columnist Khashoggi. That is why Biden has only communicated with the incumbent King Salman since he came to power.  But it is unlikely that a diktat so explicit in position will bring any success to White House attempts to “reset relations with the kingdom”…

Without yet beginning discussions with Riyadh on issues of importance to Washington, six Democrats in the US House of Representatives called on the US President to “persuade” the Saudi authorities to withdraw from the 2020 agreement with Russia to cut oil production. At least such demands, citing the press office of the Armed Services Committee, whose chairman Adam Smith is one of the signatories of the appeal to Biden, were reported by Reuters. Politicians called on the US leader to “intensify efforts to review US-Saudi relations” during a possible visit to the kingdom and get Riyadh to reject the oil deal with Russia under previous US President Donald Trump. “Greater clarity and commitment on future production as well as withdrawal from the quota agreement with Russia would be additional important steps forward,” the letter said. Following the usual policy of diktat by the current authorities, the US Subcommittee on National Security, leading five other congressional committees, sent President Joseph Biden, ahead of his expected visit to Saudi Arabia, six key demands in his possible communication with the Saudi leadership, which they believe should break Riyadh. A joint statement from the committees, as reported by news website CNN Arabic on June 10, stresses that since 2015, the Saudi authorities have often pursued a different course from US policy in the region. The congressmen’s demands for Riyadh’s commitment to stabilizing global energy markets and abandoning the “oil deal with Russia” highlight the risks of further expanding Saudi Arabia’s strategic cooperation with China as well.

Earlier, Adam Schiff, chairman of the US House of Representatives Select Committee on Intelligence, called on Biden on CBS channel to refrain from meeting with the Saudi Crown Prince and from travelling to Saudi Arabia at all until there is evidence of change in terms of Riyadh’s respect for human rights.

However, Foreign Affairs and a number of other leading US media outlets are forced to admit that, however much the White House wishes, Biden’s visit to Riyadh will not be able to do the main thing: “change the Saudis’ close relationship with both China and Russia”.

Valery Kulikov, political expert, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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