Riyadh warned US of 'major economic consequences': Pentagon leaks
WaPo reveals as per Pentagon leaks that Saudi Arabia threatened to cut ties with Biden's administration over disputes including the OPEC+ decision and Washington's public threats.
What was previously reported about the public fallout between the United States and Saudi Arabia during the term of President Joe Biden seems to have been merely a reflection of a deeper and more dangerous confrontation between the traditional allies.
“I would make it very clear we were not going to in fact sell more weapons to them,” Biden said in 2019 addressing the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Kingdom's Istanbul consulate. “We were going to in fact make them pay the price, and make them in fact the pariah that they are,” he added while campaigning for the presidential elections.
However, the President later in 2022 made a trip to Saudi Arabia to mend ties with the oil-rich Gulf country after the US was struck with an energy crisis domestically.
As oil rates gradually fell toward the end of last year, OPEC+ announced a major cut to output, forcing the United States to further drain their Strategic Petroleum Reserves SPR to maintain low prices.
The US threatened the kingdom with "consequences" after the decision, while Saudi Arabia defended its position citing lower market demand.
But beneath the public diplomatic statements, Saudis issued more direct warnings to Washington, even threatening to decouple from Biden's administration, the new document from the Pentagon leaks revealed.
According to the paper - without mentioning how the information was obtained - Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman warned that “he will not deal with the U.S. administration anymore” and promised “major economic consequences for Washington.”
Earlier this week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Saudi Arabia on a trip to mend strained ties with the kingdom, where he met with the crown prince on Tuesday but did not bring along the promised "consequences".
“Together, we can drive real progress for all our people, not only to address the challenges or crises of the moment, but to chart an affirmative vision for our shared future,” Blinken said at a joint press conference in Riyadh on Thursday alongside Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan.
The top US diplomat's visit comes a couple of months following a Chinese-brokered agreement that restored diplomatic ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia and the restoration of relations between Riyadh and Damascus, 12 years after the war on Syria erupted.
A spokesperson with the National Security Council said, “We are not aware of such threats by Saudi Arabia.”
“In general, such documents often represent only one snapshot of a moment in time and cannot possibly offer the full picture,” the official said, according to the Washington Post, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The United States continues to collaborate with Saudi Arabia, an important partner in the region, to advance our mutual interests and a common vision for a more secure, stable, and prosperous region, interconnected with the world,” the official added.
But differences quickly emerged after Blinken's meetings.
In a subtle warning, Bin Farhan said while Saudi Arabia would welcome US support in building its civilian nuclear program, he noted, however, that “there are others that are bidding," referring to China and Russia.
The top diplomat also shunned human rights issues accusations, stating that Saudi leaders “don’t respond to pressure.”
“When we do anything, we do it in our own interests. And I don’t think that anybody believes that pressure is useful or helpful, and therefore that’s not something that we are going to even consider,” he said.
When asked about Riyadh's relationship with China, the Foreign Minister stressed that these relations will not affect the long-standing security partnership with the US.
“China is the world’s second-largest economy. China is our largest trading partner. So naturally, there is a lot of interaction … and that cooperation is likely to grow,” he said. “But we still have a robust security partnership with the U.S. That security partnership is refreshed on an almost daily basis.”