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OPEC+ oil production cut could be a turning point in US-Saudi relations

13.10.2022
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According to Blaise Malley

On Monday, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued a scathing statement condemning Saudi Arabia's recent decision to cut oil production and calling for a freeze on all security cooperation with the country. Assuming his position on the Committee on Foreign Relations, Menendez vowed to prevent arms sales to Saudi Arabia until Saudi Arabia changed its stance on oil production.

A day later, the White House indicated that it was ready to support such a plan by Democrats in Congress. “I think the president has made it very clear that we need to keep reevaluating this relationship, but that we need to be ready to get back into it,” John Kirby, National Security Council strategic communications coordinator, told CNN.

The statements follow a bill introduced last week by three House Democrats, including Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), a longtime critic of Saudi Arabia and former Washington director of Human Rights Watch, which called for the withdrawal of US troops and missile defense systems from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. “It is time for the United States to resume acting as a superpower in our dealings with our client states in the Persian Gulf,” Malinowski and Congressmen Sean Kasten and Susan Wilde said in a statement. “They have made a choice and must accept the consequences.”

However, the way these statements were worded suggests that there is a fairly easy way for Saudi Arabia to win back the favor of the United States. If OPEC+ reverses course on its decision to cut oil production, the oil-for-safety trade could resume. It is possible that after years of foreign and domestic policy missteps and pressure from activists, the US government is poised to really reset relations with Riyadh. Today, official Washington's response to oil production cuts looks tougher than when Saudi Arabia killed an American citizen and thousands of Yemenis (given the evidence that preceded this week) and it is very likely that the Biden administration is ready to carry out threats, leaving Saudi Arabia a chance to restore the status quo.

 

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