MBS and MBZ decline calls with Biden, pressure US amid oil turmoil
It appears that the Saudi and Emirati officials have become more critical of US policy in the Gulf.
Officials in West Asia and the US have said that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammad bin Zayed have declined US requests to speak to the US President in recent weeks, according to The Wall Street Journal.
It appears that the Saudi and Emirati officials have become more critical of US policy in the Gulf, according to the daily, and don't want to address US concerns amid rising oil prices.
The last call Biden had with an official from these two countries was with Saudi Arabia's King Salman on February 9. Amid all of the development that have taken place over the past months, both in West Asia and globally, the Saudis have signaled that their relationship with the US has deteriorated under the Biden administration.
Moreover, it seems Saudi Arabia has a list of demands, which includes more support for their war on Yemen, help with the kingdom's nuclear program since Iran's program is making progress, in addition to legal immunity for bin Salman in the US, as the Crown Prince is facing lawsuits in the US over the torture and murder of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
The United Arab Emirates also shares its Saudi neighbor's concern about the US' comportment toward the Ansar Allah's missile strikes, which they qualified as "restrained".
In addition to that, there is the shared concern of the revival of the Iranian nuclear deal, whose negotiations entered their final stages in recent weeks.
But it's not these concerns that have prompted the White House to attempt to repair its relations with its West Asian allies, but Russia's special operation in Ukraine, which resulted in a surge in oil prices that went past $130 a barrel for the first time in 14 years.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE are the only two US-allied major producers of oil that can pump millions of more barrels of oil, which can help stabilize the market as gas prices keep increasing.
Closer to Russia?
Despite the US making attempts to strengthen Saudi and Emirati missile defenses, and Washington making assurances that it would be doing more to increase the two countries' security, they have both declined to pump more oil, citing an approved OPEC+ production plan.
OPEC+ is a group that includes OPEC and other oil producers led by Russia. This energy alliance has allowed Saudi Arabia and the UAE to become closer to Moscow, while also enhancing OPEC's power and influence.
Although they have so far declined to speak to Biden, with their calls being "rescheduled", MbS and MbZ have both taken phone calls from Russia's President Vladimir Putin last week, and later with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The rift between the West Asian countries and Biden goes back to the 2020 US elections race, when Biden vowed he would treat Saudi Arabia as a "pariah" state, due to Khashoggi's murder in the Saudi consulate in Turkey. Biden even release a US intelligence report that concluded that MbS personally approved the plan to kill the journalist, and repeatedly condemned Saudi Arabia over its war on Yemen, despite still supporting it through weapons sales.
On Monday, White House Spokesperson Jen Psaki said Biden stands by his view that Saudi Arabia should be treated like a "pariah" state. Last week, when MbS was asked in an interview with The Atlantic if Biden misunderstood him, he responded "Simply, I do not care."
However, the UAE's ambassador to the US recently stated that although relations between his country and Washington were strained, the relationship is like any other.
“It has strong days where the relationship is very healthy and days where the relationship is under question. Today, we’re going through a stress test, but I am confident that we will get out of it and get to a better place.”