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The Wall Street Journal reported on 8 March that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS) and his Emirati counterpart Mohammad bin Zayed (MbZ) both declined phone calls from the White House as Washington tries to find ways to lower oil prices.
Oil prices have surged to record highs, surpassing $130 a barrel as a result of severe western sanctions imposed on Russia since late February.
Increasing oil production would lower these prices, which was the aim of the attempted talks between the Biden administration and the leaders of the two Gulf kingdoms.
“There was some expectation of a phone call, but it didn’t happen,” said one US official. “It was part of turning on the spigot [of oil].”
Sanctions on Russia now include a ban on imports of Russian gas and oil into the US, which the Biden administration announced on 8 March, further adding to the spike in oil prices.
OPEC+ declined to increase oil production in the wake of surging prices. Russia is a member of OPEC+ and recently held an agreement with the UAE to maintain ties in the energy market in spite of the gauntlet of sanctions and pressure on Russia’s economy.
Oil is not the only area in which Saudi Arabia has become less timid in its relationship with the US. MbS has previously stated that the kingdom is considering a reduction of their investments in the US.
Saudi Arabia is already planning to reduce its dependency on US weapons manufacturers, announcing plans to bolster its domestic defense industry to achieve 50 percent domestic production by 2030.
Cracks between the historic allies began to show even before Biden was elected president, as he ran on a campaign platform to treat Saudi Arabia’s current leadership as a “pariah.”
The Biden administration has also angered the Gulf kingdom over accusations of MbS involvement in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
In a surprising move, the US opened up diplomatic channels with Venezuela hoping to tap into its vast oil reserves.
The US has been supporting regime change efforts in Venezuela through overt and covert means since the success of the Bolivarian revolution put Hugo Chavez into power.
Venezuela has released two US citizens from prison since the opening of diplomatic channels with the US.