President Biden plans to meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman July 13-16, as part of what he called a “broader meeting.” This state visit follows Biden’s campaign promise to “make Saudi Arabia the pariah it is,” for its list of alleged human rights violations.
The Director of National Intelligence office previously investigated the role that the Saudi Crown Prince played in the assassintation of Washington Post collaborator Jamal Khashoggi. The investigation assessed that Prince bin Salman ordered a mission in Istanbul, Turkey to “capture or kill ” Khashoggi. Khashoggi’s vocal political dissent to bin Salman is considered a primary factor in his killing.
Biden’s visit to the Saudi Crown Prince is reportedly part of his “international meeting” to the Middle East. It has, however, received broad criticism as a meeting motivated by the gas crisis.
Biden is being forced to reconsider his Saudi position given the spike in oil prices, according to Bloomberg. Biden also says that he will not “directly ask” Saudi Arabia to produce more oil during this visit, as this was “not the purpose of this trip.”
Climate activists claimed that Biden had “betrayed climate change pledges” as the administration prepared to roll out a new drilling plan in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska. Biden’s new drilling comes after French President Emmanuel Macron stated that the UAE and Saudi Arabia could “barely raise oil output.”
U.S. energy producers criticized Biden for his tweet demanding that gas stations should “immediately lower prices,” Fox News reports. Biden’s oil bids in Saudi Arabia appear “like begging,” and may prove futile, as the Saudi government reportedly is unwilling to risk upsetting the Kremlin to meet Biden’s demands.
Biden’s oil crisis drags on as his popularity declines. An online Reuters poll shows that 57% of Americans disapprove of Biden. Polls show a popularity drop from 85% of Democrats to 72% of Democrats, as Biden loses some confidence from his party.
The poll numbers were reportedly at the “near lowest level” of his presidency. His trip to the Middle East and Saudi Arabia are being overshadowed by domestic crises and the upcoming midterm Congressional elections as Democrats risk losing seats.
At a time when the U.S. is investing in its NATO outreach and foreign policy strategy, Biden’s Middle East visit holds strategic opportunities. On July 4, U.S. Israel Ambassador Thomas Nides discussed Biden’s upcoming trips to the Middle East, saying that there is a “hint of breakthrough” between Saudi Arabia and Jerusalem.
Nides said that there will be no normalization announcement during this visit, but that the U.S. is “committed to combating” Israel and Saudis common enemy, the Islamic Republic of Iran.
“We’re all in the same boat here,” Nides told Haaretz. “People feel a sense of anxiety in the region. We hope to continue working on these issues collectively, because there’s no better way than when you work together to be able to keep the security blanket closely held.