How To Lose Friends And Alienate Allies

How To Lose Friends And Alienate Allies

By Mike McKenna

Last week, the team over at OPEC announced that they intended to reduce their production by somewhere between 1.2 and 1.7 million barrels a day. For purposes of context, the world uses about 100 million barrels a day, so a reduction that size is going to cause an already tight oil market to get a little tighter. By the Summer, oil will be around $100 per barrel, which means the United States will be looking at $4 per gallon gasoline.

In fact, that is almost certainly the specific reason Saudi Arabia drove this reduction — for them, an oil price of $100 a barrel is just about what they need to meet their domestic economic and political obligations.

The only surprising thing is that just about everyone was surprised by the announced reduction. There is an unwillingness to believe that our usually dependable and reliable friends in Saudi Arabia would increase the price of our second most important commodity without warning or apparent concern about its effects on the unsteady economy of the United States. (RELATED: MIKE MCKENNA: Who Or What Is Your King?)

No one should have been surprised.

The simple reality is that Saudi Arabia and the United States have been drifting apart since Team Biden took the reins in Washington. If you can remember way back to 2019, then-candidate Biden identified Saudi Arabia as a “pariah” nation, mostly over the killing of Saudi national Jamal Khashoggi.

Team Biden made it clear that they intended to re-orient America’s interests in the Middle East away from Saudi Arabia. They restarted the misguided and pointless negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program. They have routinely tut-tutted the Kingdom over its role in the conflict in Yemen.

Contextually, both at home and in the international arena, Team Biden has treated the main product and export of the Saudis — oil — as a necessary evil rather than as something that has lifted billions out of poverty and driven billions into prosperity.

Finally, Team Biden has just been inattentive. They have spent little time or effort in the region, especially compared to their immediate predecessors, who, despite suffering from their own pathologies, managed to create the Abraham Accords. The framework of those accords — which expresses and expands the common economic and regional interests of the Arabs and Israelis — is probably the most significant diplomatic and social breakthrough since the modern Middle East was drawn up in the wake of World War I.

With all of that as prelude, no one should have been surprised last week when communist China finished knitting together an agreement restoring diplomatic and economic ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Nor should anyone have been surprised when Saudi Arabia led OPEC to reduce crude oil production.

The simple fact is that Saudi Arabia lives in a dangerous neighborhood, and it has made a calculation that the United States is not likely to always be a dependable friend. The Saudis have decided that they need to look out for their own interests first, and expand the list of those who may be able to help them in a tight spot.

One can hardly blame them. If President Biden wins reelection next year, it is not as if the United States is going to suddenly change direction and surge to greatness under the leadership of an addled and senescent grandfather.

Because the world is a dangerous place full of people — Chinese communists, Iranian mullahs, etc. — who prey on weakness, it is simple human nature to gravitate towards strength. One of our most daring and durable enemies in the last 25 years, Osama bin Laden, said that: “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will prefer the strong horse.”

The Saudis are making decisions based on their unemotional assessments of Team Biden’s real or perceived strength and the very real possibility that they may run the American government until 2029.

So is the rest of the world. Buckle up.

Michael McKenna is the president of MWR Strategies.


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