By: Business Insider – Aides to President Joe Biden were enraged when Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman abandoned a secret deal they believed they’d struck to boost oil production, The New York Times reported.
Citing US and Middle Eastern officials, the newspaper said Biden aides believed they’d reached an agreement with the Saudis to increase oil production until December.
This would’ve enabled the Biden White House to claim that his controversial visit to the kingdom in July had resulted in a significant benefit, and would’ve boosted Democrats ahead of the midterms, where they are facing criticism from Republicans over high gas prices.
Biden had criticized the Saudis on the campaign trail over their human rights record, but as the war in Ukraine increased oil prices he made the trip to Jeddah over the heads of senior members of his own party and was pictured bumping fists with bin Salman.
But instead of handing Biden a much-needed political win, the crown prince abandoned the deal. Saudi Arabia also enraged Democratic lawmakers and White House officials earlier this month by announcing plans to cut production along with Russia and other OPEC nations, pushing up oil prices.
The move has been interpreted by some Democrats as an attempt to meddle in the midterm elections and has plunged the White House and Saudis into a cycle of recriminations. Biden has said there will be consequences for Saudi Arabia as a result of the decision, without specifying what they might be.
The Saudi energy ministry pushed back against Biden’s claims the production cut was politically motivated: “The decisions of OPEC + are reached by the consensus of all members and determined solely by market fundamentals, not politics.”
Adrienne Watson, a National Security Council spokeswoman, defended the Biden administration’s oil policies to the NY Times.
“We have a disagreement with Saudi Arabia over the most recent production cut, but our energy policy has always focused on prices, not a number of barrels — and that policy is succeeding with crude oil prices down over 30% this year alone,” she told the newspaper.
The White House did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.