A US intelligence document revealed and analyzed by The Washington Post shows what’s really behind the Saudis no longer playing ball with the Biden administration with its decision to slash oil output amid already high energy prices, which also won’t bode well for the Democrat incumbent in the fast-approaching 2024 election.
Polite but firm public pronouncements from the kingdom aside, the Post wrote this week that “in private, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman threatened to fundamentally alter the decades-old U.S.-Saudi relationship and impose significant economic costs on the United States if it retaliated against the oil cuts,” based on the classified intel document.
The document leaked by 21-year-old National Guardsman Jack Teixeira cited the crown prince as asserting “he will not deal with the U.S. administration anymore,” vowing that there will be “major economic consequences for Washington.”
This is perhaps why (along with little leverage/few cards to play) the White House has refrained from imposing any costs or consequences on the longtime close Gulf ally. Biden last year warned of “consequences” coming, but still no bite.
The Biden administration has been quick to downplay the intel document and Washington Post’s reporting: A spokesperson with the National Security Council said “We are not aware of such threats by Saudi Arabia.”
“In general, such documents often represent only one snapshot of a moment in time and cannot possibly offer the full picture,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss an intelligence matter. The United States continues to collaborate with Saudi Arabia, an important partner in the region, to advance our mutual interests and a common vision for a more secure, stable, and prosperous region, interconnected with the world,” the official added.
So it seems the man who Biden once called a “pariah” after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is defiantly in the driver’s seat vis-à-vis Washington, also while American officials have since the start of the Russia-Ukraine war been scrambling for untapped energy resources, even beginning to bring the Maduro regime of Venezuela “in from the cold”. But Riyadh is currently provoking Washington by itself reaching out to Maduro of late.
A curious thing happened in Vienna on Sunday just as the 35th Ministerial Meeting of OPEC+ was about to start at its headquarters. Three princely Western news organizations – Bloomberg, Reuters, and the Wall Street Journal – were barred from entering the OPEC premises. When asked about it, the reply was: “This is our house.”
Indeed, OPEC officials were left with no option other than an unorthodox way of “mood setting,” given their heightened sensitivity about the wild stories disseminated in the Western media about disagreements between Saudi Arabia and Russia, the two high flyers in OPEC+.
To be sure, OPEC+ touches raw nerves in Washington even seven years after the group took shape as the brainwave of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS). The two leaders intended that they would have more control over the global crude oil market. The impetus to realism on the part of Moscow and Riyadh has only grown since 2016 and will crystalize further after the US-led G7 inserted itself into rule-making in the world oil market last year, threatening to fragment the entire ecosystem.