If there was any doubt that President Joe Biden should not have visited Saudi Arabia, let alone fist-bumped its de facto dictator, the oil giant’s thinly veiled threats that it might cut rather than increase oil output should settle that issue once and for all. Biden went there pleading for more oil to help reduce gas prices at home.
At first, the Saudis snubbed him by announcing one of the smallest oil production increases in the history of OPEC+. To add insult to injury, Saudi Arabia now threatens to cut its oil production explicitly to keep prices high.
Saudi Arabia’s notorious Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, or MBS, may be seeking to sabotage the diplomacy around the Iran nuclear deal as the talks enter their most sensitive stage yet. (A high-level Israeli delegation is in Washington this week in a last-ditch effort to press Biden to stick to Donald Trump’s maximum pressure strategy against Iran and not rejoin the deal.) Or he may simply be signaling to Biden that even if the U.S. returns to the nuclear accord and Iranian oil returns to the energy markets, the vindictive Saudi dictator can still hurt, if not tank, the Democrats in the midterm elections this November by jacking up oil prices.
Either way, Saudi Arabia’s gesture shows the folly of Biden’s visit in June. The trip was meant to present Biden at his best — a foreign policy giant who dealt with the world as it is and who understood when geopolitical imperatives must trump values and human rights. The problem with this framing was not that human rights were sacrificed at the altar of security interests (they always are, notwithstanding American rhetoric), but that the prospects of securing any major geopolitical gains were minute at best and never sufficient to justify the humiliation of Biden’s caving to MBS.
Read the full piece in MSNBC.