Democratic lawmakers have called for a freeze in all arms sales and American military support for Saudi Arabia — which includes 70 percent of the weapons that its air force relies on to conduct its bombing campaign against Yemen — not that the Kingdom will disrupt stable energy supplies to the United States.
Saudi Arabia is the United States’ largest foreign military customer, with more than $100 billion in active weapons system sales.
Saudi Arabia’s recent decision to cut oil production will raise prices in the West and is widely seen as a slight to the United States in two geopolitical disputes, Ukraine defense against a Russian invasion and and the war in neighboring Yemen.
Differences have also emerged over Saudi human rights policies, particularly the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed on Oct. 2, 2018, by agents acting on the orders of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.
“We stood up for them when Saddam Hussein was going to invade after Saddam had invaded Kuwait, and Saudi planes literally couldn’t fly if it weren’t for American technicians,” said Representative Ro Khanna, a member of the House Armed Services Committee. “Yet they are fleecing the American public, making about $100 billion in 2022. There needs to be consequences.”
The United States is Saudi Arabia’s second largest trading partner, and the kingdom is America’s third leading source of imported oil, providing about half a million barrels per day of oil to the U.S. market.
American officials said oil price increases would line Putin’s pockets while he’s waging war in Ukraine and they say it is a bad time because the world economy is still trying to recover from COVID as well as dealing with global inflation.
Then-President Donald Trump threatened to upend a 75-year strategic alliance in an April 2020 pressure campaign that led to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) global deal to slash the oil supply as demand collapsed during the coronavirus pandemic — scoring a diplomatic victory with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Trump’s strongarming to protect the US oil industry from a historic price meltdown when governments shut down economies worldwide to fight the virus may have opened a door for the Republican to influence price fixing that is now harmful to his opponent’s political ambitions.
Democrats tore into oil company executives for raising gasoline prices immediately after Russia invaded Ukraine, while Republicans used the surge to record high pump prices to try to pin the blame on President Joe Biden’s green energy push.
“We understand that the Covid-19 pandemic threw that marketplace into disarray,” said Rep. Diana DeGette, head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s investigations and oversight subcommittee. “And we understand that Vladimir Putin’s senseless, vicious invasion of Ukraine has further reduced the world’s oil supply as more and more companies are unwilling to buy Russian oil. But there’s the thing — if the price of gas is driven by the local market, why is the price of oil coming down but the price at the pump is still near record highs?”
Rep. Frank Pallone complained that companies were sending billions of dollars to shareholders in the form of dividends and stock buybacks even as fuel prices rose.
“Big Oil is lining their pockets with one hand and taking billions in taxpayer subsidies with the other,” Pallone said. “Meanwhile, the American people are getting ripped off as these companies choose to keep production low so that their own profits stay high.”
“When President Biden points to Vladimir Putin or Big Oil or other scapegoats as the culprit, I’m reminded of the words of the Wizard of Oz: ‘Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain,’” said Republican Congressman Morgan Griffith, a a proponent of fossil fuels who claims he has a “100% pro-life” voting record and was one of 126 Republican members of the House of Representatives to dispute the results of the 2020 presidential election, in which Biden defeated Trump.
Saudi Arabia does face real threats and must deal with real security challenges.
The Kingdom may sometimes overreact to the Iranian threat and extremist challenges, but both sets of threats are present, and affects all the other Gulf states as well as of the United States.
Moreover, Saudi Arabia now faces a much broader range of security threats—many of which also affect key Saudi allies like the UAE, as well as the United States: