An American strategic analyst and researcher says the personal relationship between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and US President Joe Biden is “probably beyond repair,” but Saudi-US “bilateral ties are much deeper than this relationship.”
Giorgio Cafiero is the CEO and founder of (Persian) Gulf State Analytics, a geopolitical risk consultancy based in Washington, DC. His research interests include geopolitical and security trends in the Arabian Peninsula and the broader Middle East region.
Cafiero made the remarks in an interview with Press TV on Friday while commenting on a recent war of words between the United States and Saudi Arabia over the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies (OPEC+) production cut.
The Biden administration has warned it will “recalibrate” its ties with Saudi Arabia after the OPEC+ decision to cut oil production despite US entreaties.
The oil-exporting alliance, which includes the 13 OPEC nations and 11 non-members including Russia, made the production cut announcement last month. The group agreed to cut output by 2 million barrels per day, equal to 2 percent of global supply.
The Biden administration was worried that the decision to cut oil production would cause a gas price hike in the US ahead of the November 8 midterm elections.
Republicans are edging closer to securing a majority in the US House of Representatives while control of the Senate is hinging on a few tight races which may not be decided until December.
Republicans have captured at least 210 House seats, Edison Research projected, eight short of the 218 needed to wrest the House away from Democrats and effectively halt President Biden’s legislative agenda, Reuters reported. While Republicans remain favored, there were 33 House contests yet to be decided.
The fate of the Senate is far less certain. Either party could seize control by winning too-close-to-call races in Nevada and Arizona, where officials are tallying thousands of uncounted ballots.
“The relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia has never been based on shared values. The partnership has sustained for many decades because of shared interests,” said Cafiero.
“Washington’s relationship with Riyadh is experiencing many problems and it is now arguably at its lowest point since the 9-11 terror attacks. Yet, the two countries continue to have so many shared interests which means that it is unrealistic to expect this partnership to completely fall apart anytime soon. Lawmakers in Washington are likely to be less friendly and warm toward the Saudis, especially in light of Saudi Arabia’s strengthening relationship with Russia against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine,” he said.
“But this does not prevent the fundamentals of the US-Saudi partnership from remaining strong. Perhaps now that this month’s midterm elections are over, US policymakers will tone down their rhetoric and some cooler heads will prevail,” he added.
In a report published recently by Business Insider Cafiero was quoted as saying that the Saudi crown prince is deliberately snubbing the Biden administration in an attempt to chart a more independent path.
Cafiero said, “With Mohammed bin Salman at the helm, Saudi Arabia is very determined to assert its autonomy from the US.The leadership in Riyadh has been sending many signals to Washington that the Kingdom will pursue its own national interests as perceived by Saudi officials, which includes deepening cooperation with Beijing and Moscow.”
In his interview with Press TV, Cafiero said that the “personal relationship between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and President Joe Biden is probably beyond repair. But bilateral ties go much deeper than this relationship between the Saudi Crown Prince and the US President.”
“It is difficult to deny that the Saudi leadership would be delighted to see Biden and the Democrats lose power with Trump, or at least a Trump-aligned Republican, returning to power. Riyadh was far more comfortable dealing with the US when Trump was in the Oval Office,” he said.
“Like many Arab states, Saudi Arabia believes that it is unwise to remain so dependent on the US as the Kingdom’s security guarantor,” he stated.
“For decades, many aspects of Washington’s foreign policy have left the Saudi government feeling insecure. Riyadh realizes that no other state is willing, or able, to replace the US as a security guarantor for the Persian Gulf’s Arab monarchies and Saudi Arabia has no intention of burning bridges with Washington,” he noted.
“However, to gain greater leverage in its partnership with the US, and to become more autonomous from Washington, Saudi Arabia is diversifying its global alliances and partnerships. Riyadh wants Washington to understand that Saudi Arabia is not any global power’s client or vassal state,” he pointed out.
“Making this point clear to the US sits well with many Saudi citizens at home. Mohammed bin Salman is extremely determined to use every opportunity to let team Biden know that Saudi Arabia will put its own national interests first, regardless of what Washington thinks,” the analyst explained.
“What remains to be seen, however, is the long-term impact of this Saudi-first foreign policy on the US-Saudi partnership. Regardless of the risks, Mohammed bin Salman seems willing to accept them and continue pursuing this independent course which entails Riyadh cooperating much more closely with Beijing and Moscow than Washington would like to see,” Cafiero concluded.
The US and Saudi Arabia have been close allies for decades with Washington selling weapons worth billions of dollars to the kingdom on the pretext of bolstering its defenses and in return Riyadh protecting Washington’s interests in the Middle East region.
The OPEC move was a large blow to the administration of Biden, who visited oil-rich Saudi Arabia on a July trip to appeal to bin Salman despite a CIA conclusion that he had personally ordered the murder of dissident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
US officials told The New York Times that they thought they had secured a deal with the kingdom and were blindsided when their plan fell apart
This caused humiliation for President Biden, who has struggled to build an international coalition against Russia and to amend ties with the Saudis.
The Biden administration has grappled with high oil prices and inflation exacerbated by Russia’s war with Ukraine.