A lengthy report by the “New York Times” stated that US officials in the administration of President Joe Biden believed they had concluded a “secret oil deal” with Saudi Arabia, but this later turned out to be contradictory with their expectations, especially after Saudi leaders insisted on cutting oil production despite President Biden’s visit, where US officials were furious that they had been misled.
The newspaper based its report on interviews with American and Gulf Arab officials, as well as Middle East experts familiar with the talks between the two countries.
As President Biden planned a politically risky trip to Saudi Arabia this summer, his top aides believed they had struck a secret deal to boost oil production through the end of the year.
And she adds, “It didn’t work out this way, although Biden made the trip (July last year), but earlier this month (October) Saudi Arabia and Russia directed a group of oil-producing countries to a vote to reduce oil production by two million barrels per day, This is the opposite of the outcome that the US administration believed it had secured, at a time when the Democratic Party is struggling to deal with inflation and high gas prices, with the mid-term elections that approaching next November.
The move prompted outraged Biden administration officials to reassess America’s relationship with Saudi Arabia, and led to a flurry of accusatory statements — including the White House’s accusation that Saudi Arabia is aiding Russia in its war in Ukraine.
And she continues, “lawmakers, who were told in secret briefings and other conversations about the benefits of the trip that included details of the oil deal – which had not been previously disclosed, and were supposed to lead to an increase in production between September and December – became angry that the Saudi Crown Prince, Prince Muhammad bin Salman, had defrauded the US administration.”
US officials told the paper that even days before the OPEC Plus decision, they had received assurances from the crown prince that there would be no production cuts – and when they learned of the Saudi reversal, they had a final, futile attempted to change opinions in the royal court.
Key proponents of the visit, including senior adviser on global energy security Amos Hochstein and Brett McGurk, the National Security Council’s top official for Middle East policy, met with MBS and his advisers during the spring. US officials said they reached a two-part special oil deal with the Saudis last May.
Under the agreement, the Saudis will accelerate the increase in OPEC Plus production by 400,000 barrels per day, and change the date of the increase, which was already planned in September, to July and August. After that, the Saudis will ask the cartel (OPEC Plus) to announce an additional production increase of 200,000 barrels per day for each month from September to December this year.
On June 2, OPEC Plus announced that it would change the date of the production increase scheduled for September – which, according to the newspaper, represents the fulfillment of the first part of the secret agreement. On the same day, the White House announced that Biden would soon travel to Saudi Arabia.
After the visit, the Americans believed that the agreement was on the right track and that the crown prince was satisfied. But in Riyadh, senior Saudi officials have said privately that they have no plans to increase oil production, according to the paper.
On the fifth of last September, OPEC Plus announced that it would cut production by 100,000 barrels per day, reversing the increase it announced a month ago.
In late September, US officials began hearing that Saudi Arabia may announce a significant reduction in oil production at the October 5 OPEC Plus meeting.
On September 24, US officials met in person in Saudi Arabia with the crown prince and his brother, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, the Saudi minister of energy. During the meeting, Mohammed bin Salman assured the Americans that there would be no production cuts, according to US officials with direct knowledge of what happened.
But four days later, the White House learned that the crown prince had done the opposite: Saudi officials told the Americans that Saudi Arabia would support production cuts at the OPEC+ meeting, which took place in Vienna.
US officials say they believe the crown prince was particularly affected by a high-level meeting on September 27, in which Prince Abdulaziz, the energy minister, argued that oil production cuts were needed to prevent prices from falling as low as $50 a barrel.
The officials added that they learned that Prince Abdulaziz stressed that under such a scenario, the Saudi government would not have the resources to finance economic diversification projects that are at the heart of the domestic agenda.
Some US officials believe the Russians influenced the Saudi transformation, citing Prince Abdulaziz’s strong working relationships with senior Russian officials close to Putin, particularly Alexander Novak, the deputy prime minister who oversees energy policy.
Consequences of the Saudi decision
US President Joe Biden has promised that Saudi Arabia’s decision to significantly cut oil production will have consequences, but, like previous US presidents angered by the Kingdom, he may face restrictions as he evaluates his options in this area. according to an analysis published by AFP. , on October 17.
Biden has been criticized in the United States for his visit to Saudi Arabia last July, and the fist-bump between him and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, despite his promise during his election campaign to make the kingdom a “pariah” because of cases of human rights abuses.
However, Saudi Arabia also undermined the undeclared reason for Biden’s visit, as the “OPEC +” alliance led by the Kingdom announced a reduction in oil production by two million barrels per day, which will lead to an increase in Russian income while Ukraine is under attack, and rising prices for American consumers a few days ago From the congressional elections in November.
In response, the Biden administration announced that it was ready to consider measures demanded by angry Democrats in Congress to respond to Saudi Arabia and, in turn, rethink US policy toward Riyadh.
In contrast, Saudi supporters have warned that the United States could push it into the arms of Russia and China, although many experts doubt that the kingdom would make such a move so easily after eight decades of partnership with the United States.
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN a few days ago that Biden would “act methodically and strategically” as part of a reassessment of US-Saudi relations, adding that the US president has “no plans” to crown prince at a group summit. The twentieth of November in Indonesia.
And University of Michigan Middle East expert Russell Lucas believed that the Biden administration could at least slow down arms sales, especially regarding the issue of ammunition stockpiles.
“It cannot be quickly replaced by another arms supplier,” he said.