Are US-Saudi and UAE relations approaching “breaking point”?

By agencies

Relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia – which date back to 1945 – have never been worse, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

Insiders in Washington and Riyadh have blamed the situation on a personal rift between US President Joe Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. However, the White House and the Kingdom have officially denied any trouble.

According to the outlet, the crown prince has sought recognition from Washington as the new head of state, which would give him immunity from prosecution for the 2018 murder of dissident Jamal Khashoggi.

Biden’s White House declined, bringing up Khashoggi during the first meeting with national security adviser Jake Sullivan and dealing with the prince – known by his initials MBS – in his official capacity as Saudi Arabia’s defense minister. .

The WSJ story opens with a description of MBS “wearing shorts in his seaside palace” and going for a “relaxed tone” for his first meeting with Sullivan in September 2021, only to end up “screaming” at the American and tell him to forget an increase in oil production.

Sullivan did not discuss oil production with MBS during their September meeting and ‘there was no shouting,’ National Security Council spokeswoman Adrianne Watson told the WSJ after the report. of the article online Tuesday.

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A Saudi Embassy official in Washington called the meeting “cordial and respectful,” adding that over the past 77 years, the United States and the Kingdom have had “many disagreements and points of contention. divergent views on many issues, but that never stopped the two”. countries to find a way to work together.

The Saudi-American relationship dates back to the 1945 meeting between President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and King Abdul Aziz ibn Saud aboard an American warship in the Great Bitter Lake of the Suez Canal.

In return for US military protection, the Saudis pledged to maintain a steady flow of oil and sell it in dollars, anticipating the eventual emergence of the “petrodollar”.

Saudi Arabia led the 1973 oil embargo against the United States, citing Washington’s support for Israel during the Yom Kippur War. The result was America’s worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Yet relations between Washington and Riyadh have never been more difficult than they are today, according to Norman Roule, whom the WSJ described as a former senior US intelligence official in the Middle East who has ties to top officials. Saudis.

Khashoggi, a dissident who has written columns for the Washington Post, visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018 but never came out. An inquest later showed he was killed and dismembered, blaming security officials close to MBS. As US President Donald Trump sought to maintain a cordial relationship with the Saudis despite the macabre incident, Biden publicly denounced Riyadh as an ‘outcast’ during the 2019 presidential campaign, and has since reportedly refused to offer any major concessions. to the Saudis, according to the WSJ.

Riyadh initially responded to Trump’s replacement with Biden by ending the three-year feud with Qatar and releasing several high-profile activists jailed after his inauguration. Within months, however, the Kingdom ran out of patience with too many US demands, the WSJ said.

Last July, Prince Khalid bin Salman cut short his trip to Washington when his demand for more air defenses came to nothing. The United States had removed several Patriot anti-missile systems from Saudi Arabia the previous month, citing maintenance needs.

Meanwhile, the Houthi rebels have stepped up missile and drone strikes against the Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates, seeking to force an end to their involvement in Yemen. One of the first actions of the Biden administration was to revoke the designation of the Houthis as terrorists, made by the State Department under Trump.

Since then, Riyadh has canceled scheduled visits by US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken. MBS also reportedly declined to participate in the Feb. 9 call with Biden and his father, King Salman.

The Saudis are ‘appalled’ by the US withdrawal from Afghanistan last August, disapprove of efforts to revive the nuclear deal with Iran and ‘bristle’ at Washington’s presumption that they will follow whatever states States will decide, according to the WSJ.

The Kingdom has refused US demands to increase oil production in order to lower the world price and offset Washington’s embargo on Russia. Oil prices soared after the United States announced sanctions against Moscow in early March over the conflict in Ukraine. Biden has since attempted to blame the pain at the pump on “Putin’s price hike,” though most Americans remain unconvinced.

Meanwhile, Riyadh has raised no objections to Russia selling its oil to China and India in their own currencies, casting doubt on the petrodollar’s long-term survivability. The United States has since reduced its demands as well, asking only the Saudis not to do anything that could harm Western efforts to help kyiv, the WSJ reported quoting a senior US official.

Despite pressure from US leaders, Middle Eastern monarchies refuse to increase oil production to compensate Western countries for losses due to reduced supply of Russian energy resources.

In addition, the UAE, like Saudi Arabia, did not condemn Russia for the special military operation in Ukraine and abstained from voting during the consideration of the anti-Russian resolution in the Assembly General of the United Nations.

A new generation of leaders in the Middle East is gradually moving away from the “Washington-centric” policies of their predecessors and striving to pursue a multi-vector policy. A striking example of a new independent approach to international relations is the foreign policy of the United Arab Emirates, whose leader, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, refused to speak to US President Joe Biden as he tried to form an anti -Russian in the Middle East. .

Meanwhile, the development of trade and economic relations between the United Arab Emirates and Russia, on the contrary, is on the rise and contributes, among other things, to the emergence of Abu Dhabi from total dependence on American weapons.

The presence of American military bases in the region currently limits the foreign policy opportunities of the Arab monarchies, but the example of the United Arab Emirates allows us to determine not only the vector of further development for the Emirates, but also the direction in which all Persian Gulf countries should move in order to gain complete independence in international affairs.