Saudi's crown prince promised pain for the US if it retaliated against oil cuts, report says. His threat seems to have paid off.

Biden and Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) fist bumping.
US President Joe Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.Bandar Algaloud/Reuters
  • Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman threatened the US amid an oil price dispute, leaks say.

  • The US subsequently backed away from "consequences" it pledged when the Saudis cut oil production.

  • The crown prince is seeking to assert a more independent path from the US.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman presented an image of unity and friendship this week at a summit in Riyadh.

The pair at the meeting "affirmed their shared commitment to advance stability, security, and prosperity across the Middle East and beyond," a State Department spokesman told CNN. 

But only months earlier, according to leaked Pentagon papers obtained by The Washington Post, the autocratic Saudi was taking a very different, and more menacing, tone amid an escalating oil dispute with the US.

The dispute flared up last October when the Saudis reduced oil production in tandem with Russia, the US chief global adversary, souring relations between Riyadh and its decades-old allies in Washington, D.C.

The move infuriated President Joe Biden, who promised the Saudis there'd be "consequences" amid fears it'd spike domestic inflation and damage his prospects in the US midterm elections.

The crown prince's response, according to the documents, was to threaten the US with the prospect of economic calamity. That threat appears to have paid off.

Months after the dispute, Biden's promised "consequences" have yet to materialise. Instead he has sent a series of top White House officials, with Blinken the latest, to court the crown prince in Riyadh as the Saudis draw closer to China, another US global rival. 

The crown prince said "he will not deal with the US administration anymore," the leaked document reportedly said, and promised "major economic consequences for Washington," although it's not known if he made the remarks to a US official, or they were part of an intercepted conversation.

At the time, analysts told Insider that the crown prince was seeking to humiliate Biden as part of a bid to steer a new, more assertive course on the world stage. The new leaks appear to confirm the crown prince's audacious defiance of the White House, Giorgio Cafiero, CEO of Gulf State Analytics, told Insider.

"Mohammed bin Salman is keen to let Washington know that the US needs Saudi Arabia just as much as the Kingdom needs America," Cafiero said in reference to the leaked document. "The crown prince wants Biden and everyone else in Washington to respect Saudi Arabia's sovereignty and right to make decisions which advance the country's national interests."

A key factor underpinning the relationship between the nations is oil. Saudi Arabia is the world's biggest oil producer and wields huge power over global oil markets, as well as the power to badly dent the US economy.

In a move likely to provoke futher US ire, the Saudis last week decided to cut oil production, saying they were aiming to stabilize oil markets.

The leaks are the latest twist in the Biden administration's precarious relationship with the Saudis, who for decades have been among the US' most important allies in the Middle East.

On the campaign trail, Biden pledged to make the crown prince a "pariah" over his alleged involvement in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident and Washington Post journalist.

In turn, Crown Prince Mohammed has mocked Biden behind his back, reported The Wall St. Journal, and believes he can secure nuclear technology from the US by playing rival powers off against each other.

But Cafiero told Insider that despite marked differences and apparent personal antipathy between Biden and Crown Prince Mohammed, the Saudis remain committed to working with the US.

"While the crown prince wants to work with Washington, he doesn't want anyone in the US to view Saudi Arabia as America's puppet state," he remarked.

Read the original article on Business Insider