Saudi Arabia, UAE Reportedly Snub US, ‘Decline Calls With Biden’ as Oil Prices Surge
08:10 GMT 09.03.2022 (Updated: 08:49 GMT 09.03.2022)
© AP Photo / JOHN MOOREKhaled al Otaiby, an official of the Saudi oil company Aramco watches progress at a rig at the al-Howta oil field.
© AP Photo / JOHN MOORE
US President Joe Biden announced on 8 March that Washington was banning all imports of Russia's energy products to deliver "another powerful blow to Putin's war machine". The move came in response to Russia’s ongoing special operation to demilitarise and de-Nazify Ukraine amid already-soaring energy prices.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan, the effective leaders of their countries, have declined US requests to speak with President Joe Biden in recent weeks, reported The Wall Street Journal.
Washington has been scrambling to drum up more international support for its sanctions policy, targeting Russia in the face of its special operation to demilitarise and de-Nazify Ukraine, while also hoping to contain surging oil prices.
However, Saudi and Emirati officials have been increasingly vocal in their criticism of US policy in the Gulf, Middle East and US officials were cited by the publication as saying.
“There was some expectation of a phone call, but it didn’t happen… It was part of turning on the spigot [of Saudi oil],” a US official was cited as saying.
According to the report, senior US National Security Council and State Department officials had travelled to Riyadh and Abu Dhabi in recent weeks to plead the case of the US directly.
Joe Biden has never spoken to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, preferring to place his first official call to the leader's father, King Salman, on 9 February, where they affirmed their countries’ “strategic and economic partnership”.
As for the UAE, its Ministry of Foreign Affairs was cited as saying that a call between the POTUS and Sheikh Mohammed would be “rescheduled”.
Earlier this week, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters there were no plans for Biden and Crown Prince Mohammed to talk soon, while also denying any plans were in place for the US President to travel to Riyadh.
The current scramble to enlist the support of Oil-Rich Gulf Nations comes amid a chill in relations with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that began when Joe Biden took office in 2021. At the time he had re-examined his country's ties to these states over alleged human rights abuses.
Accordingly, Biden’s administration hampered the sale of arms to the two nations. The UAE has been reportedly frustrated by the slow pace of a deal to acquire US-made F-35 fighter jets. Washington also resisted Abu Dhabi’s push to reinstate a terrorism designation for Yemen's Houthi group after launching attacks on the Gulf Arab state.
Another contentious issue is Biden’s effort to rekindle the Iran Nuclear Deal (JCPOA), which after gruelling talks in Vienna, Austria, appears to be nearing success. The 2015 deal, signed with seven powers, including the US and Russia, placed strict limitations on the quality and quantity of uranium Iran could refine in exchange for the removal of international sanctions against Iran’s economy. Washington, under then-President Donald Trump, pulled out in 2018 and reimposed sanctions on Tehran, claiming, without evidence, that Iran was secretly pursuing a nuclear bomb.
Furthermore, another demand has been legal immunity for crown prince Muhammed bin Salman, who was tied by the US intelligence to the murder and dismemberment of American journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate in 2018.
Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE ambassador to the US, confirmed the strained relations between the two countries.
“Today, we’re going through a stress test, but I am confident that we will get out of it and get to a better place,” stated Al Otaiba on 3 March at a defence event.
Rush to ‘Contain’ Skyrocketing Oil Price
This comes as the two Gulf nations - Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - are regarded as global suppliers that possess the capacity to pump more oil to ease the current price surge, which soared to fresh highs after Biden banned imports of Russian crude and gas into the US on Tuesday. The move was announced as part of the sweeping sanctions on the country over Moscow's special operation to de-militarise and de-Nazify Ukraine.
As a result of the announcement, oil prices topped $130 a barrel - the highest level in 14 years. Gas prices in America surged on Tuesday to an unprecedented high of $4.17 per gallon, with experts warning the developments would continue to push energy costs up.
Furthermore, the scramble to increase oil supply has even prompted Washington, for the first time in years, to reopen diplomatic channels with one of Russia's closest Latin American allies, Venezuela. The country on the northern coast of South America boasts the world’s largest proven oil reserves and used to be a major exporter until its production collapsed from an estimated 3 million barrels per day to less than million amid the tough sanctions regime imposed by the US and mismanagement.
Sanctions were imposed against the country’s democratically elected government in January 2019 in the wake of Venezuelan opposition figure Juan Guaido’s proclamation of himself as the country’s "interim president". Guaido led an unsuccessful coup attempt, with the Donald Trump administration recognizing his claims back in January 2019.
Several days ago, an American delegation visited Caracas in a bid to discuss "energy security" and ensure additional oil production to sustain the US economy. Now, Venezuela has released from jail at least two Americans, Gustavo Cardenas, one of six Exxon executives detained in Venezuela on corruption and embezzlement charges since 2017, and Jorge Alberto Fernández, a Cuban-American detained on terrorism charges.
The move is seen by analysts as an apparent goodwill gesture and possibly a prelude to the OPEC member ncreasing production to ease the oil price surge.
Meanwhile, Joe Biden has claimed that the decision to ban all energy imports from Russia would deal "another powerful blow to Putin's war machine".
© Sputnik / Valery MelnikovDPR LPR Russia Ukraine Military Operation
DPR LPR Russia Ukraine Military Operation
© Sputnik / Valery Melnikov
Moscow launched a special military operation aimed at demilitarizing and de-Nazifying Ukraine on 24 February, undertaken in coordination with Russia's Donbass allies, the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics (DPR, LPR). The move came after the two breakaways, earlier officially recognized by Moscow, requested assistance amid escalating attacks by Kiev forces. Only military assets are being targeted, according to Russian authorities, with the Kremlin reiterating that it has no intention of occupying Ukraine. However, the US and its NATO allies have rolled out sweeping sanctions targeting Russia.