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Saudi Arabia

Biden and MBS are stuck with each other

Mohammed bin Salman: needs to rethink his petulance. Leon Neal/Getty

If there’s one positive from the war in Ukraine, says Bobby Ghosh in Bloomberg, it’s that it might make Joe Biden and Mohammed bin Salman “get over themselves”. Biden came to office promising to make MBS a “pariah” because of his atrocious human rights record. He ended US military support for the Saudi-backed forces in the Yemeni civil war and pointedly refused to speak directly to the crown prince. Biden made out that this was a “principled position”. But really it was just a “political posture” to win praise in Washington. After all, he has been willing to pick up the phone to other bloodthirsty strongmen, including Egypt’s General Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He also wants to ease sanctions on Iran, a regime “several magnitudes more disruptive to peace in the Middle East” than Saudi Arabia.

Ukraine has changed the power dynamic. Biden desperately wants Saudi Arabia to “pump more crude” in order to lower global oil prices. But MBS isn’t interested. He “isn’t taking Biden’s calls”, and said, when asked about how the president viewed him: “Simply, I do not care.” The petulant prince needs to rethink his attitude. The longer oil prices stay high, the more likely governments are to reduce their consumption – hitting Riyadh’s pocket in the long term. Plus, the Saudis are totally dependent on the US “security umbrella” for the protection of their oil infrastructure and exports. Washington and Riyadh are, for better or worse, stuck with each other. The sooner the two leaders realise that, the better.