The main driver of inflation is a murderous maniac in Riyadh

Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman is taking revenge on Democrats in general and President Joe Biden in particular for the party’s increasingly aloof attitude towards the kingdom – by pushing up energy prices and fueling global inflation.

Biden himself seemed make allusion to to that to one town hall event with CNN last month, in which he attributed the high gas prices to some “foreign policy initiative” on his part, adding, “There are a lot of people in the Middle East who want to talk to me. I’m not sure I’ll talk to them.

Biden was making a not-so-veiled reference to his refusal to meet Salman and recognize him as the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia due to his role in the gruesome murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018. The move came after that Biden swore during a debate with President Donald Trump to make MBS, as he’s known, “an outcast” and represented a radical departure from Trump’s warm relationship with the Desert Kingdom and the Crown Prince.

In 2017, Trump broke with tradition by choosing Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, for his first overseas visit and quickly announced a record arms sale to the kingdom. Later, after Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor, was brutally dismembered in a Turkish consulate, Trump questioned MBS’s involvement, saying, “Maybe he did, maybe that he didn’t. After his own CIA director briefed Congress on Salman’s guilt, Trump would have boasted of his efforts to protect the crown prince, saying, “I saved his donkey.” Since then, a senior Trump campaign adviser, Tom Barrack, has been charged with allegedly working as an unregistered agent for the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia’s closest ally.

In June 2018, before the mid-term, Trump called on Saudi Arabia and its cartel, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, to lower energy prices by increasing production, and the kingdom respected. Prices hit a low in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic, and usage has dropped to record levels. Prices surged after the pandemic subsided and the economy reopened, and Biden in August 2021 asked OPEC to increase production again.

This time, MBS refused, angry that he had not yet secured an audience with Biden and despising the US withdrawal from the war in Yemen. As part of one of his first cases, Biden had ordered an end to US support for Saudi Arabia and the UAE war, although he warned him by only banning support for the United Arab Emirates. “Offensive operations”. Saudi Arabia received it as a heavy blow, however.

Ali Shihabi, a Saudi national who is seen as a voice for MBS in Washington, made it clear in October, Tweeter, “Biden has the phone number to call if he wants any favors.”

In a comment to The Intercept, Shihabi said: “Saudi Arabia has worked hard to make a cohesive OPEC + work in the past 15 months since the crisis that brought oil futures down below zero. , therefore will not break ranks with the consensus or Russia on this. Moreover, the Kingdom does not like to be blamed for what is essentially a structural problem that is not of its own accord in the United States and which has hampered its own energy production. Finally, I’ve heard that the price of Thanksgiving turkeys has doubled in the United States, so why can’t oil prices inflate either? Shihabi added a wink emoji at the end of his comment.

The US economy is heavily dependent on fossil fuels, and in addition to the prices that consumers pay directly at the pump and for energy in the home, the costs of food and manufactured goods are also highly sensitive to price fluctuations in the world. energy.

“Gas prices are tied to a foreign policy initiative that goes beyond the cost of gas,” Biden told City Hall last month. “And we’re about $ 3.30 a gallon in most places now when it’s from – it was single digit – I mean single digit, a dollar more. And that’s because of the supply held back by OPEC. And so there’s a lot of negotiation that’s – there’s a lot of Middle Eastern people wanting to talk to me. I’m not sure I’ll talk to them. But the point is, it’s about gas production.

Since town hall, gasoline prices have risen further, now standing at around $ 3.40, a seven year peak.

“There is a possibility of being able to bring it down,” he continued. “[It] depends a little on Saudi Arabia and a few other things that are in sight.

Biden made similar comments at the G-20 summit in October, saying Russia, Saudi Arabia and others were restraining their ability to produce more. “It has a profound impact on working class families just to come and go to work,” he said.

“The United States, through our own policies, has basically allowed MBS to impose economic sanctions on us,” a senior Senate official told The Intercept, not officially authorized to speak.

Salman’s refusal to bail Biden out by turning on the tap is calculated, said Jon Hoffman, a Middle East analyst who recently written a critical article on the United Arab Emirates and Mohammed bin Zayed, crown prince of the UAE capital Abu Dhabi and the country’s de facto ruler, in Foreign Policy. “They certainly know what they’re doing, and those who play the innocent and act like it’s not a coordinated strategy are just ignorant or in the pockets of MBS or MBZ,” Hoffman said.

The policy of oil, economy and foreign policy unfolded this week as the Biden administration made a major arms sale to Saudi Arabia for its war in Yemen while taking the heat from a Saudi critic leading representative Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.

The arms sale underscores Biden’s Saudi dilemma, as MBS doesn’t just want the guns – he wants a thank you, without a word of dissent from any Democrats.

Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute and critic of Saudi Arabia, said MBS’s move was aimed at boosting Republicans, whom the crown prince sees as a more reliable ally. “In my opinion, this is part of a larger Saudi strategy to favor the GOP, as MBS calculates that a Republican president will reinvest in the idea of ​​militarily dominating the Middle East, which makes the relationship with the Saudi Arabia once again critical, ”Parsi said. noted.

Regional political realignments have led many key leaders in the Middle East to favor Republican leadership. Following former Democratic President Barack Obama’s pursuit of the Iran nuclear deal in the face of opposition from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Israel, an alliance has grown between the three nations.

Parsi said Salman wanted to go back to the days when Saudi Arabia was completely free from criticism and had US backing without question. “While Biden clearly hasn’t completely broken with these policies, despite his rhetoric, Democrats – especially progressives – are adding friction to them and are more reluctant to rehabilitate MBS,” Parsi said. “So for MBS in particular, as well as for Likud [a right-wing Israeli political party] and the rulers of Abu Dhabi, a Republican president and Congress are far preferred. And these three states have already shown a significant propensity to interfere in American politics. “

Saudi intervention in US politics on behalf of the GOP could have profound implications for clean energy policies, as Democrats increasingly have powerful incentives to move away from an oil-based economy that can fall victim to the puppet of political opponents. “The answer is ultimately – which ultimately means the next three or four years – is investing in renewables,” Biden said during his mayoralty, describing an unrealistic and upbeat timeline but describing the direction Democrats take. are planning to go.

Republicans, meanwhile, could have a constant grip on a lever – oil production – that can easily raise or lower congressional approval ratings or generic ballots at will. Just look the other way.

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