American-Saudi relations are in a state of deep freeze. Riyadh refuses to heed Washington’s appeals for increased oil production and MBS refuses to speak with Biden after the president recently ended his yearlong boycott against the crown prince. MBS has apparently concluded that Biden is an enemy of Saudi Arabia in all but name and is treating Biden accordingly. Foremost in MBS’ mind of course are the eternal Vienna negotiations which of course seem to be going nowhere. Like the Israelis, the Saudis are acutely concerned about a return to the JCPOA and Riyadh recognizes that the Americans completely disregard Saudi interests in that regard. Furthermore, like the Israelis, the Saudis are concerned that the Biden administration may be pursuing the Obama agenda and will seek a détente with Tehran as intended to lead to alignment with Iran at the expense of Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Of course, these concerns do not mean that MBS is currently abandoning the Saudi alliance with the United States. Rather, MBS recognizes that there is only three years left until Donald Trump in all likelihood returns to power. Similarly, MBS is biding his time with regard to normalization with Israel and is awaiting the return of Trump and Kushner to the White House. When US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan asked MBS for Saudi normalization with Israel, and MBS made a serious offer, this was turned down by the Biden administration and apparently without negotiation. What is clear is that the industrialized world will pay a gargantuan financial price for Biden’s highly ill-advised yearlong personal boycott against MBS unless the United States finds a way to reconcile with Saudi Arabia. But Biden is the one who made it personal and now it is an open feud between Biden and MBS. The price MBS may be asking for increased oil production may in fact be the US abandoning the Vienna negotiations. It turns out that MBS is finally playing hardball after having been sidelined for long by Biden.