The US is quietly extracting concessions from Saudi Arabia after Mohammed bin Salman humiliated Biden

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  • Saudi Arabia has made moves to placate the US after a recent feud over oil.

  • The kingdom has increased its support for Ukraine in the war against Russia.

  • But tensions between the US and Saudi Arabia are unlikely to ease, one analyst said.

Last week, the US scrambled jets toward Iran amid warnings that it was planning an imminent drone and missile attack on Saudi Arabia.

After the show of force, an attack never came.

But the incident highlighted the complex web of interests that keep the US-Saudi alliance alive even in hard times.

Diplomatic ties between the Biden White House and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman are being tested like never before in a series of high-stakes diplomatic encounters.

Insider reported last month the Saudis frustrated the US by slashing oil production in league with Russia, a snub made sharper by reports that US officials believed they had assurances that the Saudis would do the opposite.

The abandoned oil deal — and a series of more personal displays of disdain for Biden — amounts to a power play by Crown Prince Mohammed, analysts say, who believes US power is waning and is courting rival powers like Russia and China.

Biden officials were said to be stunned by the announcement, as they believed they'd struck a secret deal to boost supplies. President Joe Biden has sought to cut off Moscow's oil-export revenue to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. Tamping down inflation, meanwhile, is one of the president's key domestic priorities.

Vladimir Putin Mohammed bin Salman
Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Crown Prince Mohammad in Moscow in May 2017.Pavel Golovkin/AFP/Getty Images

The move also prompted wider backlash in the Democratic Party, with Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut calling for the US to withdraw some forces from Saudi Arabia and ban arms sales to the kingdom. Biden himself said there would be "consequences" for Saudi Arabia, though did not specify what they'd be.

The threat from Iran also appears to have focused minds.

"There is no denying that as long as the Islamic Republic maintains power, officials in Washington and Riyadh will continue to view the Iranian regime as a grave threat to both US and Saudi interests," Giorgio Cafiero, the CEO of Gulf State Analytics, told Insider.

"This factor is one of many that serve to keep the Washington-Riyadh partnership alive notwithstanding all the sources of tension between the Americans and Saudis," he added.

The anger in the Biden administration appears to have gotten through to the Saudis, who in recent weeks launched a series of diplomatic initiatives apparently designed to appease the US.

At a meeting of the UN General Assembly last month, the Saudis voted in favor of a resolution declaring Russia's annexation of swaths of eastern Ukraine illegal, a snub to Putin that further isolated him in a global forum.

Crown Prince Mohammed more recently announced a huge increase in the humanitarian aid the Saudis would send Ukraine, adding $400 million to the $10 million pledged in April. The Saudis also played a key role in brokering a high-profile prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine, in which some UK and US citizens who had been captured fighting for the Ukrainian military were freed.

Cafiero said the moves were a signal from the Saudis that they were willing to help with Western interests in Ukraine. But he added that Riyadh's geopolitical maneuvering and refusal to sanction Russia over Ukraine had fostered deep mistrust in Washington.

"It doesn't appear as though the kingdom's diplomatic initiatives vis-à-vis the conflict in Ukraine have much potential to offset such damage that has been done to Saudi Arabia's reputation in the US capital," he said.

Despite the chill in diplomatic relations, the US continues to rely on Saudi Arabia as a bulwark against Iran and a key strategic partner in a volatile region. Crown Prince Mohammed, Cafiero said, knows this and will likely continue to exploit the situation, pushing for greater Saudi autonomy on the world stage and antagonizing the US.

"These are mutual interests keeping the US and Saudi Arabia interested in the bilateral partnership," he said. "Riyadh knows this and can continue to demonstrate its desire for an increasingly independent foreign policy without worrying about the US all of a sudden walking away from the kingdom."

Correction: November 10, 2022 — An earlier version of this story misstated which state Sen. Chris Murphy represents. He represents Connecticut, not Delaware.

Read the original article on Business Insider