A few days back, US President Joe Biden went to Saudi Arabia. There was much media expectations before and even during the visit, as some expected fireworks while others expected worse. But diplomacy and national interests prevailed as the US President sat in council initially with the Saudi King and Crown Prince and a day later with leaders of the GCC and Jordan and Egypt on a round table to discuss regional interests.
Those expecting dramatic outbursts were sure to be disappointed by the seemingly cordial state of affairs as Biden and the Saudi Crown Prince made their positions clear on a number of issues. Regional security and the stability of oil prices and oil flow were on the agenda, and each side made its position clear on the matter.
Leaders brought up the issue of the nuclear proliferation talks between the US and their European allies with Iran. And they wanted assurance of security guarantees. Much of the talks progressed into agreements of mutual benefits to all parties.
In the US, the expectation that the visit would bring gasoline prices at the pumps plummeting was tested as there has been no drastic fall in the price of petrol. In reality, over the past few weeks, there has been a small and incremental decrease and was unrelated to any issues raised during Biden’s visit.
A mixed back
Joe B., an American with a large social media following wondered why the US President had to go to Saudi Arabia in the first place. Commenting on one of his platforms he was critical of the President, calling it a waste of taxpayers’ money with all the hoopla and with very little to show for it.
Another American who preferred to remain anonymous tells me that the US is self-sufficient in energy needs but their oil industry is creating these phoney shortages to drive prices up. “Just follow the stock market and notice how the shares of Exxon, Mobil, and others have shot up through the roof. This is not an overseas problem. This is an American one and is fuelled by greed.”
Most of the Americans I talked to had no optimistic view on the recent visit with the exception of Alice who felt that the US president’s visit was a necessary one to the region. “Look at the recent inroads made by the Chinese and Russians into the region. The US with its hands-off policy would only continue to lose the sphere of influence it has enjoyed for so long by this standoffish attitude adopted by the Biden administration. Sooner or later, it will come to haunt us as our significance in shaping policies in the Middle East to our interests will begin to fade.”
She continued, “And what did the talks produce at the end of the day. I’m still paying almost $6 per gallon for fuel and there has been no relief in sight.”
Todd, a movie producer says that the US is doing it all wrong. “We have suffered under powerful lobbies be it oil or energy that crippled the research into alternate and green energy and as a result, we are where we are today. If twenty or thirty years ago our efforts went into getting away from the dependence on oil as an energy source, we wouldn’t be running off to the Middle East with outstretched hands hoping for a bailout. There has been some progress in the alternate energy field but not as much as should have taken place.”
Ibrahim, a Saudi tells me that Saudi oil is for the development of the country and the taps will be turned on and off as the leaders see fit to ensure that the country’s needs and objectives can be met without hiccups.
“Just because Biden came here with his team is no reason why we should rush out and pump all we can to appease US needs. We have to look after our nation’s interests first, and that is the only way we can ensure that our targets are realistically met. We have a growing population and growing demands. Let us look internally first and then take care of the rest.”
Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi sociopolitical commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena