According to the New York Times, Saudi Arabia and the United States have exchanged “rare public accusations” that reveal a “new level of tension” between the two allies over oil.
The newspaper pointed out that oil already joins other contentious files between Washington and Riyadh, including the Kingdom’s human rights record, Saudi concerns about the United States’ commitment to its security and its interest in reviving the Iran nuclear deal.
The Saudi Foreign Ministry on Thursday responded to a pledge by US President Joe Biden to reassess relations with Riyadh following the OPEC Plus alliance’s decision to cut crude oil production with an “extraordinary” statement, in which the United States accused of distorting the facts, and said that the White House requested to postpone the cuts for a month.
The Saudis claimed to have ignored the American request; Because they fear that this delay will have “negative economic consequences”, without explaining what these consequences are.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said in a press release: “The Saudi State Department may try to spin. But the facts are simple.”
“Twisting and twisting” .. The White House responds to the Saudi Foreign Ministry
White House spokesman John Kirby said that Saudi Arabia made the decision to cut crude production “knowing that it would increase Russia’s revenue and ease the severity of the sanctions imposed against it.” “
He added: “The world supports Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression,” explaining that the Saudis, from Washington’s point of view, are undermining efforts to isolate Russia, which also benefits from high oil prices.
“We are reassessing our relationship with Saudi Arabia in light of these actions, and we will continue to look for indications of their position in countering Russian aggression,” Kirby said.
For the United States, the Saudi move was portrayed as a “betrayal,” a “deliberate blow” from a longtime ally of American efforts to thwart Putin’s military efforts in Ukraine.
In contrast, the Saudis defended their decision, saying that it was based on the economy, not on politics, and that the decisions of OPEC Plus are reached by consensus among members and not by Saudi Arabia alone.
Jim Crane, an energy research fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute, doesn’t believe the Saudis are seeking Putin’s help, but their interests overlap with his own when it comes to oil.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, has announced several spending programs worth hundreds of billions of dollars aimed at diversifying his economy away from oil, starting new industries and building a new futuristic city in the desert known as NEOM.
And for all that, he will need the capital that high oil prices can bring, Crane said. He added that OPEC had previously given priority to price stability and maintaining long-term demand for oil.
In recent years, the petroleum alliance has begun to feel comfortable in prices between $60 and $80 per barrel. But last week, while the price was close to $100 a barrel, they cut production instead of increasing it to raise the price, according to Crane.
“We reject diktats.” Saudi Arabia responds to Washington on OPEC+ decision
Saudi Arabia on Wednesday refused to describe the OPEC Plus decision as the Kingdom’s side in international conflicts and that it was a politically motivated decision against the United States of America, according to what the Saudi Press Agency cited as an official source of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Riyadh.
The OPEC Plus alliance, which consists of the 13 member countries of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries “OPEC” and its ten allies led by Russia, decided last week to significantly reduce production quotas by two million barrels per day, starting in November.
The OPEC Plus decision came despite efforts by White House officials to persuade Riyadh to use its influence in the organization to maintain stable production.
The move was announced a day before the European Union adopted a package of sanctions aimed at fixing the price of Russian oil, which was widely seen as weakening the effectiveness of the sanctions.
The “New York Times” said that “the Saudi response to the American criticism underscores the new, more independent path the kingdom has taken in the era of Prince Mohammed (bin Salman).”
Regional analysts said that the opinion of the United States is not as important in Saudi decision-making as before.
“The impact of Saudi decision-making on US national interests will at most be one of many factors that the Saudi leadership will consider before reaching their conclusions and will not be decisive,” Gerald Feierstein, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Middle East Institute, wrote in an analysis published on Thursday.
Prince Mohammed bin Salman did not seem to think that cutting oil production could help Russia in Ukraine, Feyerstein wrote, but instead may have seen it as a “positive factor, as a sign for Russian President Vladimir Putin.”