Biden needs to work with America's enemies to lower gas prices, but he doesn't have to play nice with Saudi Arabia.

Mohammed bin Salman Biden MBS

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and President Joe Biden.Pool via REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque; REUTERS/Andrej Isakovic

  • President Joe Biden is visiting Saudi Arabia, ostensibly to stabilize oil markets and improve regional security.

  • The new commitment proposed by Biden is just code to give Riyadh more security commitments and US resources.

  • Yameen Huq is a Cybersecurity Professional and Strategic Leaders Fellow at the John Quincy Adams Society.

President Joe Biden is visiting Saudi Arabia this month to rebuild relations, ostensibly to stabilize oil markets and improve regional security.

The immediate price of this commitment is to end the diplomatic freeze that began when the Saudi government assassinated Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist and US resident. Long-term pricing is getting tangled up again with a reckless customer, one that continues destroy nearby nations and destabilize the Middle East.

The Biden administration has also continued its economic war with Iran and Venezuela, as well as pressuring US allies to comply with two of the biggest oil producers. This isolation and uncertainty limits oil production in both nations and forces them to seek commitment from rivals like Russia and China.

If the Biden administration wants to drive down oil prices and stabilize regional conflicts, rekindling relations with the key instigator is the wrong way to go. Instead, it should diversify its relationships and remove sanctions on isolated countries, including Iran and Venezuela. Doing so would not only ease gasoline prices, but also reduce the ability of existing customers to exploit Washington’s support.

Gasoline prices are seen on the sign at an Exxon Mobil gas station on June 9, 2022 in Houston, Texas.  Gasoline prices are reaching record highs as demand increases and supply fails to keep up.  There are now more than 10 states where the average gas price is $5 a gallon or more.

Gas prices at an Exxon station in Houston on June 9, 2022.Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Oil prices are obviously a big problem. have hit $111 a barrel since last month, creating short-term pain and long-term loss. Because transportation costs factor into everything, high gas prices drive up the price of everything else, making Americans poorer in real terms because their wages buy fewer goods.

But the proposed new commitment is just code to provide the Saudis with more security commitments and additional American resources. I would reiterate that the Saudi government can do whatever it wants and expect continued support from the US, hardly a prescription for encouraging them to take American interests into account.

It would also further erode international norms and increase reckless driving. Giving up leverage means temporary production increases can be reversed later. And that little “consolation” would come at the cost of looking beyond extrajudicial public murder. International norms are weakened when prominent countries offer tacit endorsement of their violation. Rogue states are a bit like entrepreneurs: they know an opportunity when they see it.

Expanding US engagements with Saudi Arabia would also deepen US involvement with a historically destabilizing force. This is a country that was recently at war with impoverished neighbor Yemen, using missiles provided by Washington to bomb everything from funerals to weddings.

The leadership and institutions of Saudi Arabia remain the same. States do cost-benefit calculations like everyone else. When the United States offers compromise (money and weapons despite destabilizing behavior), it changes Saudi expectations of what they can and cannot do. Knowing that American support is guaranteed will only encourage more bad behavior.


Smoke rises from a community hall in Sanaa, Yemen, where Saudi-led warplanes bombed a funeral, on October 9, 2016.Khaled Abdullah/Reuters

Instead of deepening ties with bad faith actors, the Biden administration should diversify Washington’s ties so that no actor takes advantage of US support. Coincidentally, Iran and Venezuela are also founding members of OPEC and major oil producers. If they were to produce oil at full capacity, oil prices could fall significantly. Biden should offer them relief to encourage more oil production.

After lifting sanctions on oil, Biden may offer to buy a certain amount of oil in advance to stabilize the business and improve production in the long run. This would show a renewed commitment to restore economic relations with both nations.

Finally, the Biden administration should schedule bilateral talks on a regular cadence to improve communications and build a productive relationship. The goal of these talks would be to phase out other sanctions, such as on banking, international trade and shipping. Even unrelated sanctions have a pernicious effect on trade: if companies know that a country is a potential target for any sanctions, why would they invest in such an unstable environment?

These reforms will not only curb inflation, but will help move the two nations out of Russia’s orbit and improve Washington’s bargaining power with existing clients. Countries like Saudi Arabia would have a harder time monopolizing the attention of the Biden administration.

International relations, like economics, are about trade-offs. By lifting sanctions on Iran and Venezuela, Biden can take action to restore the nation’s standard of living. Building a world in which the United States has more relationships and pursues them corporately is one in which the United States can see and pursue its interests more clearly.

Yameen Huq is a Cybersecurity Professional and Strategic Leaders Fellow at the John Quincy Adams Society. Previously, she was a consultant specializing in analysis, cybersecurity, and strategy for private and public sector clients. She has a master’s degree in Cybersecurity with an emphasis on technology policy. Her previous writings have appeared in The National Interest, American Affairs, and Exponents. The opinions expressed in this publication are his own and do not reflect those of his employer. Follow him on Twitter here.

Read the original article at Business Insider

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