October 12, 2022 Special Dispatch No. 10258

Leading Saudi Journalists Reject Biden Administration's Criticism Of OPEC's Oil Production Cut: This Criticism Is Excessive, Reflects Misguided Policy Towards Saudi Arabia

October 12, 2022
Saudi Arabia | Special Dispatch No. 10258

There has been increasing tension between Saudi Arabia and the U.S. since the latter supported the decision of OPEC+ to cut oil production in a bid to lower oil prices. Several Democrat U.S. lawmakers described this move as a "hostile act" by Saudi Arabia that harms the U.S. and undermines its efforts to curb Russia's aggression in Ukraine. They introduced legislation to remove U.S. military support from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which also voted in favor of the OPEC+ decision. Others called to pass the bill known as the "No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act" (NOPEC), which  would allow the U.S. to bring antitrust lawsuits against OPEC for illegal price fixing. [1] On October 11 leading Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the U.S. must immediately freeze all cooperation with Saudi Arabia, including arms sales, and on October 12 President Biden stated that the Saudis' conduct would have "consequences" for its relations with the U.S. [2]

Saudi Arabia, for its part, rejected the American criticism. On October 11 during its weekly session, the Saudi government noted "the pivotal role played by OPEC in achieving balance and stability in the global oil markets."[3] Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan told the Al-Arabiya channel that "the OPEC+ decision was a purely economic and was taken unanimously by all the member states," and that "the OPEC states act to maintain stability in the markets and actualize the interests of [both] the producers and the consumers." He added that "the relations with Washington are strategic and promote security and stability in the region."[4]

A more forceful response was voiced in articles by leading Saudi journalists. They repeated the official Saudi position that the decision to cut oil production had been professional and objective, aimed at protecting the Saudi economy and the global oil markets. Some also argued that that Democrats have little right to expect friendship or loyalty from Saudi Arabia after their president, Joe Biden, promised to make this country a "pariah," and when some Democrats are even calling to end the deployment of US troop and missile defense systems in Saudi Arabia.  They called on the U.S. to remember that Washington and Riyadh have vital interests in common, especially in the context of curbing the aggression of Iran and its proxies in the region. One argued that it would be unwise of the U.S. to jeopardize its strategic ties with Saudi Arabia just in order to appease some radical U.S. lawmakers.

Another argument that recurred in the articles was that, in the present global circumstances, Saudi Arabia and many other countries feel the need to adjust their foreign relations, balancing their ties with the West and the East. One of the articles also warned that, while Saudi Arabia's oil policy is not intended to harm the U.S. or aid Russia, America's hostility may in fact  push Saudi Arabia away from it and towards Russia and China.

The following are excerpts from some of these articles.

Tariq Al-Homayed: Saudi Arabia Is Not Supporting Russia, But Only Protecting Its Interests

Leading Saudi journalist Tariq Al-Homayed, the former editor-in-chief of the London-based daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, addressed this issue in his October 9 column in the daily. The following are excerpts from the column, as published in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat's English-language edition:

 "The reactions of the Democrats to OPEC’s decision to reduce production have been heated and unobjective. They and their media speak of Saudi Arabia as 'stabbing them in the back' and its 'betrayal.'

"They have also said that 'friends' do not do this to 'their friends' and that Saudi Arabia stands behind Moscow, not Washington.

"This is the case despite the fact that, according to the New York Times, Saudi Arabia clearly laid out its position, demonstrating that cutting production is not a 'strike' against Biden because the drop of the price of a barrel of oil to below 80 dollars is worrying. It could then slip further and reach 70, perhaps 60, dollars, which would undermine Saudi interests.

"The paper adds that, though there has been no official declaration to the effect, it understands that Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich countries will increase production in the fall.

"And so, the Democrats’ heated reactions espouse naive rhetoric and speak of Saudi Arabia 'the ally' and 'partner.' An American researcher tells me: 'I wish (Twitter) did not exist; maybe the acrimony would decrease, and we would not see crazy comments.'

"However, we are not talking about ordinary tweeters, but tone-deaf Democrats. In fact, the terms some of them used are pathetic, especially since their president and the head of their party had promised to make Saudi Arabia a 'pariah,' and they are now talking about 'friendship' and 'partnership.'

"This tension means that the administration is confused and doesn’t know how to solve this problem of its own making…

"The most honest response, in the midst of this tension, is what Biden recently said about the production cuts: 'There is a problem.' This is true. The problem is in Washington and in particular with the Democrats, who believe that foreign policy is merely about inflammatory statements, while politics is the language of interest.

"And so, Saudi Arabia is not supporting Russia. Rather, it is pursuing its interests, and this is fair. The story is simple, as Bill Clinton’s famous campaign slogan went: 'It’s the economy… stupid.'" [5]

'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed: Some Americans Seem To Be More Eager To Punish Saudi Arabia Than To Punish Russia

'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, also a former editor-in-chief of Al-Sharq Al-Awsat and a former director of Al-Arabiya TV, wrote in his October 10 column, which likewise appeared in the daily's English edition: "Some Americans seem to be more enthusiastic about punishing Riyadh for its participation in voting for the decrease of oil production than they had been eager to sanction Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

"As disagreements over oil prices have been a constant and recurring problem (since they reflect a dispute between the consumer and the producer), the politicization of the recent disagreement – driven by Riyadh’s critics – will instead harm the high interests of both Saudi Arabia and the US.

"It is worth mentioning that besides Saudi Arabia and the UAE, OPEC countries were unanimously in favor of reducing oil production, as they hoped that this procedure might prevent oil prices from a catastrophic fall since just two years earlier, it sold it at $40 per barrel. A recurrence of this scenario would be destructive to the oil-producing countries, as the high oil prices are disastrous to consuming nations.

"Meanwhile, apart from their recent dispute over oil prices, Riyadh and Washington share a large group of equally significant vital common interests that make one think it highly unlikely for the efforts to ruin their bilateral relations to succeed.

"For one thing, Saudi Arabia is confronting Iranian coup-mongers in Yemen, which serves US interests and deprives Teheran, and its affiliated Hezbollah is dominating maritime routes that pass through the Red Sea and Bab al-Mandab Strait, reaching East Africa.

"Another common interest for the US and Saudi Arabia is to confront Iran in the Gulf region, especially since Washington considers Iran a threat to its interests and to the security of its allies, which include other countries besides Saudi Arabia.

"Previously, Iran had threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz. In the same vein, it had targeted Saudi oil facilities and expanded the scope of its maritime military activities to threaten oil tankers. Such actions by Iran affect oil prices much more than an OPEC meeting in Vienna. A lack of US-Saudi military cooperation might make one oil barrel cost $200 instead of $90.

"Another issue worth discussing is Washington’s stoppage of its military cooperation with Riyadh, which US officials have repeatedly denied. If such a thing happens, it will push Saudi Arabia and other countries towards China and Russia. It is unimaginable to see the US abandon its precious allies to its enemies just because of an oil price dispute, particularly as Washington prepares for the new phase of the Cold War..."[6]

Cartoon in Saudi daily: "OPEC" tries to stabilize oil prices (Source: Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, October 11, 2022)

'Okaz Editor Jameel  Altheyabi: U.S. Would Be Unwise To Compromise Its Strategic Ties And Complex Shared Interests With Saudi Arabia Just To Appease Some Hate-Mongering Congress Members

Jameel Altheyabi, editor-in-chief of the Saudi daily 'Okaz, wrote: "What is certain is that the new Saudi Arabia has adopted a diplomatic approach that can be characterized as 'balancing its ties with the West and the East,' and this balance includes Russia, the U.S. and China. Riyadh continues to be loyal to its allies and friends, but this does not mean that it regards Washington's rivals as its enemies.

"The doctrine of Saudi diplomacy… has made it clear that the interests of the kingdom are above all the other considerations, and that sovereignty must not only be seen but must also be manifest in practice, without pressures or concessions. This requires the Saudi leadership to have a wide range of options.

Riyadh understands that approaches like freezing arms sales [to Saudi Arabia] or imposing foreign barriers on trade [such as competition law restrictions] are possible, and they will not be surprising. Therefore, the Saudi options are ready and predetermined. At the same time, the kingdom knows that there are smart and influential people in Washington who understand that, if the U.S. takes unfriendly moves towards Saudi Arabia, it will not only harm the kingdom but constitute a spark that will harm Washington as well, and this is the opposite of what the foolish American liberals want.

"Former U.S. president George W. Bush declared during his term in office that if Congress passed the NOPEC bill he would veto it. Even Biden himself, who was among those who pushed this law in 2007, has not seemed too enthusiastic about it since becoming president. One thing is for certain: it would be foolish for the U.S. to sacrifice deep strategic ties and manifold common interests just to appease some [Congress] members who spread and are still spreading hatred and hostility towards Saudi Arabia.

"That is why the Saudi leadership carefully avoided responding to the foolish statements recently made by [certain] Democratic leaders… When the state minister [for foreign affairs], 'Adel Al-Jubeir, did respond [to them] in a Fox News interview, he stressed that Saudi Arabia does not share the mentality of those who attack it, and that supply and demand are the only criteria underpinning its handling of the oil issue."

Saudi Columnist Hassan Al-Yemni: The Idea of Changing The World Order has Come To Be Widely Discussed In Diplomatic Circles

Hassan Al-Yemni, a columnist for the Saudi daily Al-Jazirah, wrote: "Saudi Arabia has the right to defend its development [program] and manage it professionally and with great caution [by] regulating the price of oil, which accounts for a large portion of the revenues earmarked for development according to this predetermined  program… The American outcry over OPEC's decision, and its condemnation of Saudi Arabia over a patently sovereign and economically-motivated decision, reveal a mistake or a flaw in the U.S. policy. [This mistake] requires [the U.S.]  to take stock and opt for [a policy] that will restore the balance to global security and stability, a balance that has been lost due to the war between Ukraine and Russia…

"The relations between Saudi Arabia and the U.S. are larger, wider and deeper than the relations between Saudi Arabia and Russia, but preserving and developing the former relations requires ending these flaws, which blur the difference between sovereignty and subordination and fail to consider that nations have a right to dream and to realize their aspirations.

"The use of political, economic, media and other kinds of clout in cases of natural disagreements between friendly countries is not conducive to creating the right kind of climate for such relations, and does not allow for understandings and agreements. The U.S. has begun to see the world and [global] prospects only from its own perspective, while the world is full of injustice [that threatens] interests. That is why the notion of changing the world order, or replacing it with a more just and balanced world order, has come to be widely discussed in diplomatic circles and in the world media – and this is something Washington should take heed of and consider."[7]


[1], October 6, 2022.

[2], October 11, 2022.

[3] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), October 12, 2022.

[4], October 12, 2022.

[5], October 9, 2022.

[6], October 10, 2022.

[7] Al-Jazirah (Saudi Arabia), October 12, 2022.

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