Significance of President Biden’s first visit to Saudi Arabia

By: Imadodin Basar Dimao

It is been pretty obvious for years that the mutual relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia had been politically severed since the assassination of Jamal Kashoggi, a Saudi national and journalist by profession who was columnist for the Washington Post at the time of his death. This was also coincident with the so-called “2017 Saudi Arabian Purge” that led to the mass arrest of Saudi princes, Prince Waleed bin Talal was among others, ministry heads, and business people in November 2017.

MBS receiving US President Joe Biden

Thus, this gave Crown Prince “Mohammad bin Salman” an absolute consolidation of the three security branches of Saudi Arabia: Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Interior, and Ministry of National Guard; a power that had been vested separately to high-ranking princes and was only possessed collectively by the first King, ibn Abdullah. As such, the then-evolving faction of the late King Abdullah, Salman’s older brother and predecessor, had been sidelined once and for all.

There, MBS was publicly known and highlighted – recognized by Time Magazine as one of the most influential people in 2018 – as he surprised world leaders of his unprecedented leadership to the extent that the Saudi government had even sanctioned one of its crucial allies and sister in faith: the state of Qatar, over security reasons. This was also the time that Democratic Party was still in the process of understanding “what-went-wrong” with Hillary Clinton and the unfavorable win of Donald Trump with no prior any single political experience throughout his life, yet filled with many controversial issues and scandals over and over again. Of course, the main factor was that the battlegrounds or swing states were not much impressed to stay blue and therefore turned red.

With Kashoggi’s killing, it created an opportunity for the Democrats to criticize Trump’s foreign policy. Much said in the name of freedom of speech and human-right violations fueled by political motives to primary attack his administration hidden behind Kashoggi’s issue, though some of those concerns were indeed true and alarming. But Trump was not that easy to be slowed down and intimidated; he was not much affected at first simply because he was not a traditional politician to the point that he rather went to play golf several times amidst the crisis of his administration. He just meant what he said in an unconventional approach like what he was known for with his apprentice show: You are fired!

Fast forward, in 2020 Democratic Party presidential candidates started to square off fiercely attacking each other over personal and political weaknesses while selling their platforms to their supporters, hoping that each aspirant would have been favored among others, and finally the aging Biden was nominated not necessarily because of his political platforms, but of his strong stance in the party that can unite them to work as one against Trump, and of his bromance with Obama that had been formed over the years of the latter presidency to which Biden was not just considered as a vice president but a mediator among democratic leaders and even to his fellow senators who were republican with strong bond over decades of being in the senate. And then finally Biden won the presidency in November 2020.

Above said is necessary to fully understand this rhetoric in a 360 degree perspective and to keep us on the same page, provided that all of these happenings revolve around one thing only: Either to stay in power or get into it as much as possible. No sooner had Biden – as he famously pledged to make Saudi Arabia “a pariah” during a campaign debate – been sworn into the presidency than he started to be realistic of his promise to take necessary actions to which he immediately stopped U.S. offensive arms sales to Saudi government and declared an end to U.S. support for Saudi operations in the war in Yemen. 

However, as the only certainty is uncertainty and the future is filled with mysteries and enigmas, Russia’s invasion to Ukraine in February 2022 has shown no respect to the US government and proven to the world that Putin is indeed true to his words that Ukraine will have to suffer if they keep insisting on joining NATO that would compromise Russia’s deterrence. This war has added to the burden caused by the Pandemic that is still existing. And for that, the oil supply in the world market has been downgraded to which oil price has been significantly increasing, which shakes up the Biden administration and the democratic party in general as far as the 2024 national election is concerned.

Months ago, it was leaked online that MBS declined Biden’s call while the latter was trying to find ways to convince their allies in the Middle East to effectively sanction Russia, an attempt that would have paralyzed Putin economically, but it didn’t prosper as they had diplomatically refused to do so. And thus, a new version of the Middle East was loudly recognized for its stand to distance its wealth and identity to possibly become a collateral damage again over the clash among great nations based on political greed. 

Ironically, the US as a nation is too strong to somehow rely on Saudi Arabia; it’s rather the opposite. In fact, there are hundreds of American companies in the kingdom employing thousands of Saudi nationals in addition to the American experts holding crucial roles found in almost every sector of the government to make sure it’s on the right track with the emerging technologies. Thus, the visit  – though it guaranteed nothing so far with regards to the soaring oil prices – is extremely controversial between Democratic and Republican party along with outsiders in the US in the since that Biden was forced to write an op-ed at The Washington Post prior to his leaving toward the region, expressing his reason why it’s of importance: To find ways to help ease the global crisis in the face of unrelenting oil price, a potential threat to his reelection and to DNC inclusively if this is not stopped immediately. IBD

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