By M. A. Saki

Begging to S. Arabia for higher oil output is a big mistake: GWU professor 

June 11, 2022 - 12:41
‘Biden’s homage to Saudi Arabia will do nothing to relieve Europe’s natural gas shortage until the U.S. lifts all sanctions on Iran’s energy sector’

TEHRAN – A professor from George Washington University (GWU) says President Joe Biden’s decision to visit Saudi Arabia to beg for more oil output by the Kingdom is a “big mistake”.

“To go begging to Saudi Arabia for higher oil output after all that MBS has done and is doing is simply a mistake. A big mistake,” Hossein Askari tells the Tehran Times.
 
“It shows that Biden has no principles and will do anything to improve the chances of his party at the polls,” the professor adds.

However, he says, oil and money shape U.S.- Saudi ties.

 “America’s companies and highly placed Americans profit from relations with Saudi Arabia and they care little about the heinous crimes of its rulers. The world sees America as never before—a country that talks big on morality and human rights, but largely cares only for money,” Askari notes.

Biden is set to visit some West Asian countries, including Saudi Arabia, in the coming weeks amid a larger shift in tone towards the kingdom, according to multiple U.S. media reports.

On Friday, Biden said he has “no direct plans” to go to the kingdom for now, but he did not rule out the visit.

Here is the text of the interview about such a trip:

Q: It was announced on May 2 that President Biden would tour West Asia to visit Saudi Arabia and Israel. What is the purpose of each stop? Let’s start with Saudi Arabia.

A: The trips to Saudi Arabia and to Israel have different missions or objectives in mind. The trip to Riyadh is not to repair relations but instead to beg Mohammad bin Salman (MBS), the crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, to increase oil output and exports in order to moderate global oil price increases sparked by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing U.S. and European economic sanctions on Russia. This is the same MBS that Biden coined as “pariah” and it is a duplicitous U-turn by an American president, which will only give license and more money to oppressive Saudi rulers to continue their crimes.

Q: Will the trip benefit the United States or will it be considered a mistake?

A: Saudi Arabia is one of the most repressive regimes in the world. It does not have a modern constitution. It has no meaningful elections. The rulers’ only claim to legitimacy is as self-claimed defenders of Islam. Yet the rulers pervert the most basic teachings of Islam—freedom, modest living and pursuit of peace—as they rob the people of Saudi Arabia of their birthright. There are no churches, no synagogues, only mosques that preach the perverted Saudi Wahabi doctrines of Islam with no tolerance even of Shia Muslims. In Islam depletable resources, such as oil and natural gas, belong equally to every member of all generations and should be managed accordingly, yet the Saudi rulers claim it as theirs to share with Saudis as they choose—the biggest theft in the history of mankind. The courts serve as the rulers’ enforcers. For security, the country has relied on the United States.

“The world sees America as never before—a country that talks big on morality and human rights, but largely cares only for money.”The Al-Sauds, oppressive rulers of the country, jail their subjects with no due process. They torture. And yes, they kill their subjects with impunity as we witnessed in the brutal murder and subsequent dismemberment of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul and under the direction of MBA as confirmed by America’s own CIA. In the aftermath of this heinous crime, Americans and American companies distanced themselves from Saudi Arabia and MBS for a few months, but then resumed their business dealings as if nothing had happened.

But there is more. Saudi Arabia has been engaged in the indiscriminate bombing of its neighbor, Yemen, killing more than 350,000 civilians in what many around the world have labeled genocide and the biggest blight on humanity since the Holocaust. What makes America’s backing of Al-Sauds even more for the United States is that the murders have been carried out with U.S. planes, bombs, mid-air refueling and intelligence! Shameful! This is the same MBS who arrested the former crown prince and other Al-Saud members who were a threat to his rule.

Presidential candidate Biden was going to put an end to this and treat Saudi Arabia as a pariah, yet he now goes begging MBS, who would not even accept his telephone call when Biden wanted to request that Saudi Arabia produce more oil, which in turn would only enrich the kingdom. Thus Biden is a beggar who works to enrich his master! How America debases itself in front of the whole world for lower gas prices at the pump.

Why does America care so much for Saudi Arabia? Because of oil and the money it brings. America’s companies and highly placed Americans profit from relations with Saudi Arabia and they care little about the heinous crimes of its rulers. The world sees America as never before—a country that talks big on morality and human rights, but largely cares only for money.

So to go begging to Saudi Arabia for higher oil output after all that MBS has done and is doing is simply a mistake. A big mistake. It shows that Biden has no principles and will do anything to improve the chances of his party at the polls.

Q: Will Biden’s meeting with MBS lower oil prices in Europe and the U.S.?

A: Saudi Arabia has the biggest spare capacity of crude oil production—it could ramp up its output by about 2 million barrels a day (mbd) within 1-3 months. Why is there a shortage of oil and oil capacity in the world? Because of the war in Ukraine and the economic sanctions on Russia along with lower investment in oil as the world pivots to non-carbon sources of energy.

“America’s sanction policies can be described as inhumane and myopic at best—America has never appreciated the wider fallout of its economic strangulation.”In addition, U.S. sanctions on Iran have choked investment in Iran’s oil fields and have limited its oil exports, this for a country that was OPEC’s second largest exporter at over 5 mbd in 1975 to less than 1 mbd in 2020.

In 2016, OPEC and Russia agreed to cooperate on oil production—Declaration of Cooperation—in order to control prices better. So today, Saudi Arabia is reluctant to antagonize its Russian collaborator by increasing oil exports significantly and moderating oil prices.

Also noteworthy is the fact that higher Saudi oil exports will add to Saudi coffers—a real windfall with higher sales at these higher prices. Higher levels of Saudi oil exports are not a Saudi sacrifice but a Saudi bonanza and Saudi Arabia will be in a position to claim that it is supporting the world in a pinch!

But any Saudi pledge will have a marginal impact on oil prices over the ensuing few months. The likely increase in Saudi output will not do much given the higher summer driving season and the re-configuring of refineries for a different gasoline blend.

Q: What will the trip do to relieve the shortage of natural gas in Europe?

A: Let me first provide a little background.

The largest deposits of natural gas are in Russia, followed by Iran and Qatar. There are two methods of exporting gas—via pipeline and as liquified natural gas (LNG). LNG is more costly to export and to receive because it has to be liquified in a costly plant, transported in expensive special tankers, gasified at a terminal in the importing country and then piped to the end user. The largest exporter is Qatar, closely followed by the U.S. and Australia.

Why is there a shortage of natural gas? The shortage is most acute in Europe. Europe (most heavily central Europe) has depended on piped gas from Russia with some LNG imports. Because of the war, there is not only a shortage of piped gas but also of LNG, LNG tankers and LNG gasifying plants in various parts of Europe. Besides the war, why the shortage?

Again, because of U.S. sanctions on Iran. Given Iran’s geography, if there had been no sanctions, Iran could today exceed Qatar’s gas exports, not only in LNG but also provide piped gas to Europe to replace Russia’s piped gas. So Biden’s homage to Saudi Arabia will do nothing to relieve Europe’s natural gas shortage until the U.S. lifts all sanctions on Iran’s energy sector.

America’s sanctions on Iran have resulted in lower world LNG output and lower piped and LNG exports to Europe, leaving Europe vulnerable to Russia. At the same time, this has impoverished Iranians and deprived them of needed nutrition and healthcare. America’s sanction policies can be described as inhumane and myopic at best—America has never appreciated the wider fallout of its economic strangulation.

Q: What will be the overall fallout of Biden’s visit to Riyadh?

A: Look, America prides itself as the shining city on a hill. Sadly, it has become a failing city on a hill. It has not lived up to this self-proclaimed honor for some time—as evidenced by the illegal invasion of Iraq, the horrors of Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib prisons, the debacle in Afghanistan and supplying intelligence, mid-air refueling, and arms for the genocide in Yemen. Biden’s begging mission may afford the world a tiny degree of price relief at the pump, but it will certainly underline America’s unprincipled and haphazard approach to foreign policy and economic sanctions. And in the end, further erode support for America around the world.

Q: What about trip to Israel? What is Biden’s purpose?

A: Biden throughout his years in the U.S. Senate and as vice-president has been a big backer of Israel. Even after Israel’s recent announcement of land grab from Palestinians for hundreds of new illegal settlements, he was muted. So we can’t expect him to stand up against Israel’s daily crimes, which are in large part made possible by U.S. acquiescence to Zionist policies. Let’s face facts, America has given more aid, military and economic, to Israel than to any other country. This aid is to a nation with a higher per capita GDP than Italy, while America’s own poor lack nutrition and medicine. American politicians live in fear of Israeli reprisals through the American political system. So Biden is no different. He is almost an Israeli backer in chief.

So why would such a U.S. president go to Israel now after Israel’s latest illegal land grab and after Israel would not even co-sponsor a U.S. anti-Russian resolution at the UN Security Council? Wouldn’t a normal person shun Israel? Well, I think there are two things in play. First to reassure the Israeli PM that he has Israel’s back. Not to worry. Second, he wants to get the PM’s backing in case there is an agreement to restore the JCPOA. Because in that case, Biden will be bombarded by Israeli backers in the Congress and he will need their backing to weather the storm, especially as the U.S. is coming up to the mid-term elections in November. The Israeli PM could provide Biden with much-needed support in his own country, the United States.

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