The Cradle
Biden mulling over KSA trip as White House upholds pledge to make kingdom a ‘pariah’
The US president's humbling visit to Saudi Arabia would come at a time when the west desperately needs its Gulf allies to increase oil production levels
By News Desk - June 02 2022
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(Photo credit: Getty Images)

US President Joe Biden is weighing a visit to Saudi Arabia later this month that would also include a meeting with the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the UAE – as well as Egypt, Iraq and Jordan, according to officials familiar with the matter.

The trip would also include a visit to Israel, during which Biden would meet with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, and would tentatively take place after a G7 summit in Germany and a NATO meeting in Spain.

However, after being asked about the possibility of Biden visiting Saudi Arabia, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on 1 June that Biden stands by his pledge to make the kingdom a “pariah” and to have Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) “pay the price” for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Biden made his comments in 2019, ahead of his victory at the polls over then-president Donald Trump.

Khashoggi was brutally tortured and dismembered inside the Saudi embassy in Istanbul by a team of assassins linked to MbS, according to US intelligence.

The humbling visit to the kingdom by the US president would take place at a time when Washington is facing increased pressure to lower soaring fuel prices caused by economic sanctions imposed on Russia.

In the face of this crisis, Washington and its western allies have tried and failed several times to get Saudi Arabia and the UAE to increase their oil production levels.

The two GCC countries have instead chosen to stick with their OPEC+ commitments and have moved to strengthen their ties with Moscow.

Saudi Arabia, in particular, has also shown interest in selling oil to China in yuans, instead of the US dollar, which would move them even further away from Washington’s sphere of influence.

Last month, the US president deployed a top level delegation to Abu Dhabi, led by Vice President Kamala Harris, in hopes that the rift with the gulf nations could begin to heal.

This visit came just days after the US Senate Judiciary Committee voted 17–4 to approve the No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels (NOPEC) Act, which could open OPEC members and partners to antitrust lawsuits for “orchestrating supply cuts that raise global crude prices.”

Meanwhile, on 1 June, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Riyadh to meet with GCC foreign ministers, amid reports that OPEC may be looking to suspend Russia’s participation in the alliance.

During a meeting with his Saudi counterpart, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, the two sides hailed oil market cooperation in the OPEC+ alliance, highlighting “the stabilizing effect that tight coordination between Russia and Saudi Arabia in this strategically important area has on the global hydrocarbon market.”