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Sunday, June 26, 2022

Saudi, UAE leaders decline calls with Biden as US tries to combat oil price surge due to Ukraine crisis

The White House unsuccessfully tried to arrange calls between US President Joe Biden and the leaders of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as the U.S. was working to build international support for Ukraine and contain a surge in oil prices, reports Wall Street Journal.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and the U.A.E.’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi, both declined U.S. requests to speak to Mr. Biden in recent weeks, US and Middle East officials said.

Oil prices passed $130 per barrel for the first time in nearly 14 years after the West announced sanctions against Russia, and gas prices in US have reached a record high.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are two major oil producers that can pump millions more barrels of oil, which could help the crude market in America when gasoline prices are soaring. However, both countries have declined to pump more oil, saying that they are sticking to the current production plan approved by Opec+, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and a group of allies led by Russia. 

The reject comes as Saudi and Emirati officials have become more vocal in recent weeks in their criticism of American policy in the Gulf.

Both Sunni monarchies have grown concerned about the US response to the recent missile attacks by the Iran-backed Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen. Biden included ending the war in Yemen as a key goal during his first foreign policy speech as president, breaking with his predecessor Donald Trump who had backed the Saudis and Emiratis.

They are also concerned about the revival of the Iran nuclear deal, which has entered into its final stages of negotiations in Vienna. Saudi Arabia sees Shia-dominated Iran as its major regional rival.

Middle East Eye reported that last week, both the Saudi crown prince and UAE’s Sheikh Mohammed took phone calls from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who launched an special military operation inside Ukraine on February 24, after declining to speak to the US president. They also both later spoke to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Underscoring the tension in US-Saudi relations, MBS warned the US against interfering in the kingdom’s internal affairs in an interview with The Atlantic published last week.

“We don’t have the right to lecture you in America. The same goes the other way,” he said. When asked whether Biden misunderstood things about him, he said, “Simply, I do not care.” MBS has faced lot of criticism within America over the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey, allegedly at the crown prince’s order.

US is also trying to reach out to Venezuela, a top oil exporter and a country US had declared a “threat to its national security” in 2015 and levied sanctions against, to shore up oil supplies. Senior US officials secretly traveled to Venezuela recently in a bid to unfreeze hostile relations with Venezuela’s socialist President Maduro, Vladimir Putin’s top ally in Latin America. Incidentally, USA is the world’s largest producer and consumer of oil, and some analysts are calling for the US govt. to exercise greater control of its oil & gas industry to achieve energy independence.

One thing the Ukrainian crisis has clearly shown is that behind the facade of principles that the US-led West lectures others about, their own actions are motivated by naked self interest and desire to maintain their hegemony. Countries like Bharat have every right to maintain the neutral and humanitarian stance they have taken over this issue, and we must ask the West to first walk its own talk and show consistency in its dealings with different parts of the world.

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