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What will become of the American-Saudi review in relations?

Representatives of OPEC member countries attend a press conference after the 45th Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee in Vienna, Austria, on October 5, 2022 [VLADIMIR SIMICEK/AFP via Getty Images]
Representatives of OPEC member countries attend a press conference after the 45th Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee in Vienna, Austria, on October 5, 2022 [VLADIMIR SIMICEK/AFP via Getty Images]

The Wall Street Journal reported Saudi officials privately saying that the kingdom could sell US Treasury bonds held by Riyadh if Congress passed legislation against OPEC.

While American newspaper the New York Times revealed the details of a secret deal between Washington and Riyadh last May to increase Riyadh's oil production until the end of the year, but it failed after Biden's visit to Saudi Arabia in what was known as the summit of the nine that included the GCC countries, along with Jordan, Iraq and Egypt last July.

The causes of the US-Saudi conflict have not dissipated nor has its motives faded, as tensions still exist between Washington and Riyadh reflected in statements by Saudi and American officials calling for a review of relations. The most recent of which was the statements of the Saudi Ambassador in Washington, Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud, during an interview on CNN, where she says she welcomes a US review of the relationship between the two countries because "the kingdom is not what it used to be five years ago."

The call for a review of US relations has hardly been absent from the world of economics, energy and politics. The Future Investment Initiative conference, held in Saudi Arabia, was no exception, as it turned into a platform for discussing Saudi-American relations, in the presence of many representatives of American and international companies and institutions.

The crisis of US-Saudi relations was strongly present in the discussions and dialogues that the Saudi Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih, the Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz Bin Salman and the CEO of Aramco Amin Al-Nasser participated in. The conference, which began on Tuesday and continued until yesterday, discussed the Saudi-American relationship from the perspective of interests and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and its repercussions on global markets. It is worth noting that on the last day of the conference, it discussed the status and future of China.

READ: Saudi Arabia battles to win inward funds while investing abroad

The crisis in US-Saudi relations was also present at the International Energy Week in Singapore, where the Director of the International Energy Agency Fatih Birol made controversial statements in which he said that the world was not ready to give up Russian oil and that after the OPEC+ decision, the world has entered a global energy crisis.

Birol stressed the need for Russian oil in light of the expected increase in global demand next year, while there is a small expected increase in global gas production but only from newly explored fields. The increase in oil production will not compensate for Russian oil and gas and will not keep pace with the increasing global demand.

Saudi Arabia has doubled its exports to Europe to 950,000 barrels per day. Despite Riyadh's production cut and its commitment to supplying oil to Asian markets, it remained committed to raising its exports to Europe. This means that the energy crisis will not be resolved soon, and Saudi Arabia will have the magic wand to resolve it.

Back to the statements of Saudi officials and American press leaks, which moved the discussion to a new level by talking about the possibility of Saudi Arabia giving up treasury bills estimated at $121 billion, we find that the tension in the relations between the two countries has not disappeared.

Also, trust between the Biden administration and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman is still high in light of the apparent absence of White House officials from the Future Investment Initiative conference. There was the glaring presence of Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of former US President Donald Trump, ahead of the start of the supplementary elections for the US Congress in November.

Finally, the US-Saudi statements and leaks reveal that the US-Saudi reviews of relations are being carried out remotely and through media mail, satellite channels and conferences, not through diplomatic channels. This is because no conference or table is capable of bringing the US administration together with the Saudi leadership ahead of the congressional elections. The results of the elections and any escalation in Ukraine are not expected to contribute to providing this table that has lost its legs.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Arabi21 on 27 October 2022

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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