Strained relations between Saudi Arabia and the United States are complicating efforts by the Biden administration to convince Riyadh to step up its oil production — which could provide some relief to consumers amid high prices exacerbated by the Russian war in Ukraine.
The U.S. government has been increasingly critical of the Saudis since the 2018 killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was lured to and killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and tensions over Yemen’s civil war, which have led to bipartisan criticism from Congress, have added to the strife.
It puts the administration in a difficult spot as it seeks to get Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to increase production.
“I hate the fact that we have to ask the Saudis to produce more oil,” Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), who was a top human rights official during the Obama administration, told reporters this week.
“I hate that the Biden administration has to figure out how to leverage our relationship with Saudi Arabia to get them to do that so that my constituents aren’t being squeezed at the pump,” he added.
Saudi Arabia’s control over strategic oil reserves may force the Biden administration, which is under pressure ahead of the midterms to provide some relief to consumers amid inflation and high gas prices, to reassess its strategy towards Riyadh.
The president has sought to recenter the relationship as pragmatic, focused on shared security interests and energy needs, while raising concerns over Riyadh’s human rights record.