US Needs the Support of Oil-Rich Gulf Nations to Isolate Russia, but Will They Come to The Rescue?
© AP Photo / Hassan Ammar / US and Saudi flags flutter on a main road in the Saudi capital Riyadh (File)
© AP Photo / Hassan Ammar /
After Joe Biden took office in 2021, he decided to re-examine his country's ties to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates over alleged human rights abuses. In particular, his administration hampered the sale of arms to the two nations and removed Houthis fighting the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen from the list of terrorist organisations.
US President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that his country had banned all imports of Russia's energy products, sending gas prices in America through the roof.
Tuesday registered an unprecedented price of $4.17 per gallon but experts have already warned that Russia's military operation in Ukraine will continue to push energy costs up.
Meanwhile, Biden has touted the decision to ban all energy imports from Russia as "another powerful blow to Putin's war machine". He has also vowed to do "everything he can" to minimise "Putin's price hike".
Attempts to Isolate Russia
Washington has already started taking steps to isolate Russia. Several days ago, an American delegation visited Venezuela in a bid to discuss "energy security" and ensure additional oil production to sustain the US economy.
The Biden administration has also tried approaching Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to request that they pump more oil. But reports suggest that these requests have been repeatedly declined, as Riyadh has already said it would be coordinating production and costs with other members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
Riyadh and Abu Dhabi have their own accounts to square with the Americans. Since Biden came to power in January 2021, he reiterated that he would be scrutinising human rights abuses in the Middle East. He vowed to re-examine American arms sales to the rich Gulf countries. He lowered the flame in relations between the US and the two monarchies, and he initially didn't even bother to call Saudi Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, preferring to talk to his father, and even that nearly a month after Biden assumed office.
Ahmed Al Ibrahim, a Riyadh-based political analyst and an expert on Saudi-American relations, reassures that "there are no personal issues" between the two leaders and that his country will come to the rescue of the US, if need be.
"Our relations with the Americans go a very long way. We will not throw that away because of one president, who is making wrong decisions. We don't change our opinion that quickly, as they do in the West. And we always keep our promises."
That stance is understandable. The Saudis have always been a reliable US ally. American companies have been helping Riyadh to pump its oil and then sell it on the international market, including that of the United States. The business partnership has also been bolstered by tight military ties, with the Saudi military buying 73 percent of its equipment from Washington.
It is unlikely that the Saudi leadership will jeopardise these relations with the US, believes Al Ibrahim, and this is the reason why he thinks his country will pump more oil if it proves to be a stabilising factor.
"The Saudi leadership will definitely jump on the wagon to secure the interests of the Saudi people. It will also do whatever is good for regional security and the globe," explained the analyst.
Support For What Price?
However, the Saudi support will come at a price. Riyadh has been extremely unhappy with the fact that the Biden administration had removed the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who are fighting against the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, from its list of terror organisations.
The Kingdom has repeatedly called on Washington to reverse its decision but its pleas have been largely ignored.
Now, as Washington is trying to isolate Russia, the designation of the Houthi rebels as terrorists might become handy, and reports have already suggested that the US is now mulling over the option to please the Saudis by branding the group as extremist.
Yet, while the US is giving promises left, right and centre, the Saudis, says Al Ibrahim, know they should be careful not to be dragged into the conflict.
"Of course, we work with the international community and we recognise the territorial integrity of Ukraine. We urge all sides to practice restraint and we want this conflict to end. After all, Russia and Ukraine control wheat exports in the world and that will eventually impact the globe," said Al Ibrahim.
"But having said that, we will not be taking any sides. The Middle East has its own problems to worry about," he concluded.