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Joe Biden trapped in his Saudi politics

President Biden “has no intention of meeting with Crown Prince” Mohammed bin Salman at next month's G20 summit in Indonesia, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Sunday.

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Joe Biden trapped in his Saudi politics

President Biden “has no intention of meeting with Crown Prince” Mohammed bin Salman at next month's G20 summit in Indonesia, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Sunday.

But the room for maneuver of the President of the United States, who says he wants to "review" a relationship as strategic as it is tense, seems limited at least in the short term, according to experts.

Washington will also find it difficult to risk anything that would be perceived favorably on the side of the powerful Iranian rival, so much "the Biden administration as its predecessors seems obsessed with a kind of Iranian paranoia", noted Bruce Riedel of the Brookings research center at Washington.

"Short-sighted", "disappointing", "manipulation": US officials cried wolf in rarely so undiplomatic terms accusing Ryad of having thrown all its weight within OPEC in favor of a reduction oil production quotas in the midst of the energy crisis.

And in doing so to have provided unexpected "support" to Russia in its war against Ukraine.

Joe Biden has warned that there will be "consequences" to this decision by OPEC, while his closest advisers spoke of a "reassessment" of bilateral relations with Saudi Arabia in the longer term.

On the side of the American Congress, Democratic parliamentarians immediately called for a freeze on massive arms sales to Saudi Arabia, among the largest recipients of American military aid in the world.

The Republican opposition, quick to denounce the "fiasco" of the Biden administration, is more circumspect, but some voices say they are also ready for possible measures against OPEC in any case.

But, beyond their fury, US officials privately admit that the United States will do nothing that will go against its "security interests in the region".

Clearly, the stakes in the Middle East -- and particularly those related to Iran -- are such that no American disengagement is in sight.

Especially since more than 70,000 Americans reside in the kingdom.

In the short term, President Joe Biden also has his hands tied by the decisive November 8 legislative elections for the rest of his term.

"The practical thing about saying you're going to reassess your policy is that it allows you to do something without having to act in the moment," said Russell Lucas, Middle East expert at the AFP. Michigan State University.

“When Congress is back in session in November, measures could be implemented”, he adds, however, citing in particular a reduction in the resupply of weapons or ammunition, so as “to annoy the Saudis who will have hard to get elsewhere".

"The president will therefore not act in haste," said Jake Sullivan on Sunday. Among the options considered are, according to him, "changes in our approach to military aid to Saudi Arabia".

In the meantime, many critics of the American president hastened to denounce his visit to the kingdom last July, even though according to the media he himself was reluctant to go there.

- Marriage of convenience -

The American president had traveled to Saudi Arabia to meet the crown prince, after having sworn during his campaign to make the kingdom a "pariah" following the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Placed on the defensive, American diplomacy strove to justify the trip, refusing any notion of "error" according to the spokesman of the State Department, Ned Price, arguing that the purpose of the visit was "a multiplicity of common interests" and not just the question of oil.

Speaking last Thursday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken stressed that the US president has been trying to "recalibrate" the relationship with Riyadh "for two years now" citing the emphasis on human rights or even the distances Washington has taken with the Saudis over the conflict in Yemen.

"This process will continue with one goal in mind: this relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia must advance our interests more effectively," he added.

The partnership between the United States and Saudi Arabia -- roughly, oil for security -- sealed after the end of World War II, was never an alliance of heart but rather of convenience.

"The United States still needs the Saudis as detestable as it may seem," Steven Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations told AFP, advocating a "realistic rapprochement" with Riyadh.

"In the meantime, the United States must have a real energy policy. If we had had one over the past 40 years, we wouldn't be here," adds the expert.

As long as the United States does not have the ability to really influence oil prices and will depend on the Saudis to do so, this revaluation may not lead to much, judge for her part Annelle Sheline of the Quincy Institute.

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