Saturday, October 15, 2022

A Saudi Look at Biden

Mohammed Khalid Alyahya is a Saudi fellow at Harvard University and the Hudson Institute. He was previously the editor of Al Arabiya English.

He has taken to the pages of Tablet Magazine to offer a Saudi perspective on the latest Biden administration policy bungle-- the notion that America must re-evaluate its relationships with the kingdom because OPEC refused to do Biden’s bidding and did not increase petroleum production-- the better to bring down the price of oil and help the Democratic election campaign. 


Anyway, Alyahya offers a concise summary of diplomatic bungling, from the Obama administration to the Biden presidency. Naturally, the Trump administration tried mightily, and to some extent succeeded, in repairing the damage, but Biden has returned to the bad old Obama days, in its lust for a nuclear deal with Iran.

Alyahya returns us to the days when Obama decided to given Russia a right to work in the Eastern Mediterranean:

It was the Obama administration that decided to give Vladimir Putin a foothold in the eastern Mediterranean, which it sold to the American people as a way to “deescalate” the civil war in Syria. As the United States romanced Putin, offering him Crimea and warm water ports in Syria in exchange for pulling Iran’s irons out of the fire over the past decade, U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and Israel have had no choice but to cope. 

And then there was the Iran nuclear deal, which funded Iranian terrorism, also funded Hamas and Hezbollah and which promoted terrorism in the region:

America saddled us with the reality of a neighboring country controlled by Iranian troops and the Russian air force. Worse, as part of its Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Obama administration sent tens of billions of dollars flowing into Iranian coffers—money that was used to demolish Iraq, crush Syria, create chaos in Lebanon, and threaten Saudi territory from Yemen. Iranian rocket and drone strikes on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia are now routine. In response to the barrage of missiles on Saudi infrastructure last year, the Biden administration withdrew U.S. missile defense batteries from Saudi territory.

He continues to describe Biden administration perfidy:

Yet even as countries that had survived two decades of American experiments in our backyards came together to achieve extraordinary degrees of political and economic normalization, it was never at America’s expense. We have always sought to honor America’s role in our defense and as a regional peacemaker, and as a place where many of us have lived and gone to school. That’s why it was so painful and alarming for us when the Biden team came into office in January 2021 promising to “recalibrate our relationship with Saudi Arabia,” and to “sideline the crown prince in order to increase pressure on the royal family to find a steadier replacement,” and to “make [the Saudis] pay the price, and make them in fact the pariah that they are.” That’s not how friends talk.

To say the least, that is not how friends talk. It is how enemies talk. It is not going to lead to anything good.

The United States now claims it will have to “reevaluate” its relationship with Saudi Arabia again, apparently because OPEC+ declined the president’s requests over the last few months to aid his reelection prospects, which are being impaired by skyrocketing energy prices. As someone who loves Americans and has many dear friends there, I take no pleasure whatsoever in the energy inflation impacting so many of their livelihoods. But the unstable situation in the Middle East, which America continues to exacerbate by licensing and funding Iranian terror, does not allow Saudi Arabia such a wide margin of error that it can make decisions that affect the stability of the global energy market for the sake of one party’s success in America’s midterm elections.

The author does not quite mention it, but the Biden administration got itself into this mess by, among other things, shutting down domestic oil production, by closing pipelines, by refusing to open up new areas to exploration.

It has committed a dangerous bungle. It expected that someone it maligned and defamed was going to bail it out. It shows a dazzling lack of diplomatic finesse. Sad to have to say it.

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