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White House Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa and the U.S. Special Presidential Coordinator for Global Infrastructure and Energy Security visited Saudi Arabia officials on Friday to discuss regional security and energy matters.
It is the senior-most U.S. delegation to visit Saudi Arabia since the latter announced a large crude oil production cut in the Fall of last year.
White House Coordinator Brett McGurk and Coordinator for Global Infrastructure and Energy Security Amos Hochstein visited with Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud—topics thought to be under discussion are the conflict in Yemen, Saudi-Iran relations, and energy.
Relations between Saudi Arabia and the United States have been tense over the last couple of years after the U.S. withdrew its support for the Saudi-led offensive in the Yemen conflict and the murder of Saudi journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi. Khashoggi’s murder saw relations quickly deteriorate between HRH Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and U.S. President Joe Biden—the latter who was sharp in his criticism of MbS while on the campaign trail and throughout his presidency over the Crown Prince’s human rights records. President Biden even refused to speak with the defacto ruler of Saudi Arabia, instead speaking only to King Salman.
But energy concerns prompted the U.S. President to change strategies when Saudi Arabia and the UAE refused to increase crude oil production to bring down prices.
On Friday, the senior U.S. delegation did in fact meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to discuss ending the war in Yemen, according to a White House National Security Council Spokesperson who spoke to Axios.
The United States also discussed energy security and clean energy cooperation, among other topics.
The Biden Administration is likely feeling the pinch of OPEC+’s latest surprise oil production cut announced a week ago by an additional 1.6 million barrels per day. Biden has publicly shrugged off the surprise production cut, but the timing of the delegation to Saudi Arabia follows by just a week.
By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com
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Julianne Geiger is a veteran editor, writer and researcher for Oilprice.com, and a member of the Creative Professionals Networking Group.
From a purely domestic perspective,
1. If the US produces more than it needs, why does Biden care how much the Saudis produce?
2. I can not understand why Biden would be bothered by OPEC efforts to establish a price floor when he knows that some US oil producers need that price floor to remain profitable.
From the Saudi perspective,
MBS has got to be asking himself, Who is my best customer? Now that the US is close to the point where they no longer need our oil, maybe I should be more concerned about what is good for Saudi Arabia than about what is good for the US.
The visit to Saudi Arabia by a high ranking US delegation to discuss energy and security matters aims most probably to add a bit of warmth to relations between the two countries which have been cool and tense for a number of years. It also aims to claim a share of glory when the Yemen war comes to its end.
On energy matters, the delegation will return empty-handed because Saudi Arabia and OPEC+ have made their position clear by the latest cut amounting to 1.6 million barrels a day (mbd). Saudi-led OPEC+ and Russia will only amend their production policies according to the needs of the market and not at the request of the United States.
On security matters, the Saudi-Iranian rapprochement has pulled the rug from under the feet of the United States and has deprived it from playing Iran and Saudi Arabia against each other.
In my opinion, the American delegation’s visit will amount to nothing because Saudi Arabia under its young Saudi Crown prince Mohammed bin Salman has made up its mind that it will manage its affairs on its own based on the new realities in the world and will choose its alliances according to its national interests.
Therefore, for Saudi Arabia the days of doing America’s bidding, quenching its thirst for oil at rock bottom prices and financing its military adventures have gone hopefully for ever.
Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
International Oil Economist
Global Energy Expert