After coming into office determined to make the Saudi crown prince a “pariah,” President Biden—amid pressures on the oil market due to the war in Ukraine—found himself visiting the kingdom to make amends this summer. Now Washington is again angry with Riyadh for its role in the decision of the OPEC+ cartel, which includes Russia, to cut oil production. The White House, already concerned about high inflation and a looming recession, responded by announcing a reevaluation of the longstanding U.S.-Saudi alliance; others have even accused the Saudis of supporting the Kremlin. But Mohammed Khalid Alyahya sees the current situation as the result of years of misguided U.S. policies that began with the decision to allow Russia to prop up its Syrian client Bashar al-Assad:
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.
America saddled us with the reality of a neighboring country controlled by Iranian troops and the Russian air force. Worse, as part of its 2015 nuclear deal, 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.
Having watched Russian forces support, or directly commit, atrocities against innocent civilians and facilitate the use of chemical weapons for seven years in Syria, the Saudi government was quick to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Unlike many in the West, who expected a short, parade-ground war, the Saudis understood full well what Putin was capable of. So did the Israelis.
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.