President Joe Biden awkwardly claimed that his planned Saudi trip, where it's expected he'll mend ties with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) and 'move on' from the issue of the Jamal Khashoggi murder, has not much to do with energy. He had this exchange with reporters outside of Air Force One on Sunday:
Reporter: "Have you decided, sir, whether to go to Saudi Arabia?"
Biden: "No, not yet."
Reporter: "What would be holding up the decision at this point? Are there commitments you’re waiting for from the Saudis on the negotiations over peace talks?"
Biden: "No, no, the commitments from the Saudis don't relate to anything to do with energy."
Axios wrote the same day based on Israeli sources that the trip will come in mid-July and is to include a stop in Israel and the Palestinian Authority. A formal announcement is expected early in the week, as soon as Monday.
"Three Israeli officials told Axios Biden is expected to visit Israel and the Palestinian Authority on July 14 and 15 before traveling on to Saudi Arabia. The White House has not confirmed those dates, and the Israeli officials all warned that the timing had shifted several times and could change again," Axios wrote.
But it's not fundamentally about the White House begging the Saudis to pump more oil? The assertion might be within the realm of believability if Biden hadn't also recently dispatched officials to repair severed ties with Maduro's Venezuela in a clearly desperate effort to tame oil prices.
In the Sunday exchange with reporters, Biden said further, "It happens to be a larger meeting taking place in Saudi Arabia. That’s the reason I’m going. And it has to do with national security for them – for Israelis." He continued, "I have a program, anyway. It has to do with much larger issues than having to do with the energy price."
Ironically, the Democratic president is suggesting this is really focused on a furtherance of Trump's Abraham Accords. After the UAE and Israel established ties under the accords, along with several other Arab states, there's been talk that Saudi Arabia could be next.
However, it's obvious that when the idea of a Biden-MbS meeting was first floated in March, oil production was top of the agenda - and has remained so - as Americans continue to feel pain at the pump, and Europe figures out 'what's next' with its partial Russian oil embargo amid the war in Ukraine. In Biden attempting to frame the trip as making it all about Israel and regional security, he's fooling nobody. But it appears this is the White House narrative meant to deflect from the Khashoggi killing and Biden's re-embrace of a "pariah" (Biden's own words), which a number of outside investigations have found was ordered by the crown prince himself.
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