Deteriorated U.S.-Saudi relationship opens door for Republicans

World Today

For years, Saudi Arabia and the United States were close allies in the Middle East, with the latter serving as the premier arms dealer to the Gulf Kingdom.

But since the Kingdom’s surprise announcement detailing how OPEC+ members, including Russia, agreed to cut oil production by 2 million barrels a day, many in the West have begun to reevaluate their close and reciprocal relationships with Saudi Arabia.

The move caused shockwaves throughout Washington, prompting the White House and Congress to openly criticize the Gulf nation and threaten to downgrade their ties in a reciprocal response.

“We provide so much not just in weapons, but in defense, cooperation and joint defense initiatives to the Saudis. They get almost 73% of their arms from the United States,” House Representative Ro Khanna, a Democratic congressman from California, said in response.

In fact, from 2017 to 2021, Saudi Arabia was the largest purchaser of arms from the United States, as the Gulf nation accounted for 23 percent of all weapons sales to the U.S., the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reported.

However, in October of 2018, the relationship between the long-time allies was put to the test, following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Embassy in Istanbul.

The mysterious circumstances around the murder of Khashoggi led to several accusations that the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammad bin Salman, ordered the killing of the journalist.

While the U.S. condemned the murder of Khashoggi at the time, former U.S. President Donald Trump reportedly ‘helped’ the Crown Prince after the incident, citing Saudi Arabia’s business dealings, particularly their arms purchases, as one of the main reasons the ex-leader chose not to punish the Gulf Kingdom.

Fast forward to early 2021, U.S. President Joe Biden is now in office and one of his first major moves to kick off his tenure is authorizing the release of a report that concludes the Saudi Crown Prince ‘approved’ the murder of Khashoggi.

Nearly a year later, Biden attempted to discuss with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates the economic downfall that about to ensue because of the Ukraine conflict; however, the countries reportedly declined his phone calls, raising red flags at the White House.

Desperate for help in the Summer of 2022, Biden made the decision to travel to Riyadh to personally meet with the Crown Prince, a move that received mixed reviews in the media.

Biden appeared to have made amends with Saudi Arabia after leaving the Gulf capital, but the situation would only get worse in the months to come.

For one, energy prices did not stabilize and secondly, Saudi Arabia made a bold move in early October when it decided, alongside Russia, to a massive oil supply cut of two-million barrels a day.

U.S. President Joe Biden has since criticized the move, but avoided making any aggressive comments in order to wait for Congress to reconvene.

Still, the current relationship between the two countries appears to be headed toward further disintegration, as Washington has failed to convince Saudi Arabia and other Arab states from cutting ties with Russia, despite warnings from the U.S.

This latest rift between Riyadh and Washington will likely play out in the coming mid-term and 2024 presidential elections, where Republicans will seek to capitalize on the current administration’s economic woes and international turmoil.