Biden Should Repair Relations With the Saudis — Here’s How
As gas prices rise, it’s up to Biden to reach out to our Saudi allies and treat them with the respect they deserve.
Saudi Arabia is grabbing a lot of headlines these days because of oil prices and the tension between Riyadh and Washington.
President Biden is desperately trying to get the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates to pump more oil to help reduce skyrocketing oil prices. The Biden administration will have a difficult time doing so for several key reasons.
First, the administration’s rhetoric about Saudi Arabia has not been respectful of the Kingdom as an important ally. Let’s remember what Mr. Biden said about the Saudis on the campaign trail. In a 2019 debate, he said there was “very little social redeeming value in the present government in Saudi Arabia.” He promised to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” by ending subsidies and weapon sales to the Kingdom.
Second, Mr. Biden refuses to treat the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, as his counterpart. The White House insists that Mr. Biden’s peer is the king — even though the crown prince, popularly known as MBS, rules the country with his father’s blessing.
Third, the Biden administration has undermined Saudi Arabia’s right to self-defense in Yemen’s civil war. The Houthi terrorists in Yemen are attacking both the Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates with missiles and drones. Mr. Biden refuses to blame the Houthis and has essentially pressured Saudi Arabia to stop defending itself.
Furthermore, the Biden administration has removed the terrorist designation from the Iran-funded Houthis — a terrible mistake. An even more disastrous mistake would be to remove the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps from the list of sanctioned foreign terrorist organizations.
After mistreating the crown prince and the Saudi Kingdom, Mr. Biden — hat in hand — needs something from them.
A tip to the Biden administration: If you want to try to repair this relationship, here’s what you should do:
First, pick up the phone. Call the crown prince and give him the respect he deserves. He should be your main counterpart if that is the will of the Kingdom.
Second, immediately re-designate the Houthis as terrorists. Recognize that the Houthis are the ones causing the devastation in Yemen, and support the Saudis and the Emiratis in their defense against Houthi attacks. Don’t just pay lip service with mere condemnations. Ask them how we can offer meaningful help.
Third, listen to Saudi Arabia when it comes to a renegotiated Iran deal. Prioritize our allies in the Gulf and Israel, who face imminent and incredibly serious security threats from Iran. Don’t listen to the Europeans, who mostly just want to make money from their relationship with Iran, and to get access to more oil. The region may not be fully united about how best to proceed with Iran, but their voices — all of them — should be the main focus, and they should be seated at those negotiations, at the head of the table.
By the way, you might want to insist that the most powerful country in the world also sit at the head of the table, instead of allowing the Euopeans to be a messenger for America.
In a recent interview with Graeme Wood of the Atlantic, MBS explicitly stated: “We have a long, historic relationship with the United States. For us in Saudi Arabia, our aim is to keep it and to strengthen it.”
It’s up to Mr. Biden to determine whether he wants to strengthen this key relationship — and the relationships with our other key allies in the region such as the United Arab Emirates — or whether he wants to strengthen our relationships with the Islamic Republic of Iran and Yemen’s Houthi terrorists.
This should be a no-brainer for America for so many reasons, including our national security and doing what is smart and right. As prices continue to rise at the pumps, the choice should be even clearer.
Adapted from Mr. Greenblatt’s podcast, “The Diplomat,” which is produced by Newsweek.
Mr. Greenblatt is a former White House Middle East Envoy and the Host of the podcast The Diplomat on Newsweek. Follow him on Twitter @GreenblattJD.