Biden warns of consequences for Saudi Arabia after OPEC decision

President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that there would be consequences for U.S.-Saudi relations after OPEC+ last week announced a production cut over U.S. objections.

The powerful Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called for the United States to immediately halt all cooperation with Saudi Arabia, including arms sales, on Monday.

Biden declined to reveal what choices he was weighing, as discussed with CNN’s Jake Tapper.

There is no timeframe for the policy review, nor is there information on who will lead the re-evaluation, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. The United States will be paying close attention to the situation over the coming weeks and months, she said.

After weeks of lobbying against an OPEC oil production cut, OPEC+ announced its plans last week. Saudi Arabia is accused of bowing to Russian interests after the Ukraine invasion, which spurred Western efforts to cap the price of Russian oil.

Officials from the United States have been trying to persuade its biggest Arab partner to abandon the idea of a production cut, but Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was not persuaded.

A source familiar with the situation said that bin Salman and Biden clashed during Biden’s visit to Jeddah in July over the death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

According to U.S. intelligence, the crown prince authorized an effort to detain or kill Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident turned whistleblower, who was murdered and dismembered by Saudi agents inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.

In July, Biden said he told the prince that he thought he was responsible for the killing. The prince, son of King Salman, 86, has denied ordering the murder but acknowledged that it occurred ‘under my watch.’

A White House national security spokesperson, John Kirby, said that Biden would work with Congress to determine the future relationship between the two.

It is Kirby’s belief that Trump is eager to begin negotiations right away and that nothing should wait much longer.

On Tuesday, State Department spokesman Ned Price said that the Biden administration would not look aside Iran, a U.S. rival and a bitter regional adversary of Saudi Arabia, in the review.

Saudi Arabia has been the recipient of much of U.S. arms sales, and part of the reason has been to keep Iran in check in the region.

Price emphasised that Iran poses a great risk to the region and the world, and that we must remain vigilant.

Image Credit: Lisa Ferdinando/U.S. Secretary of Defense