US lawmakers slam Opec+ cuts, threaten to withdraw military support for Saudi Arabia
Several Democratic lawmakers have lambasted the decision made by Opec and Russia (Opec+) to cut oil production by two million barrels a day, proposing legislation that would remove all US troops and missile systems from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, two of the oil cartel's largest producers.
The bill was introduced on Wednesday by Tom Malinowski, Sean Casten and Susan Wild, and was in direct response to Opec+'s decision to issue a major cut in oil production, which market analysts say will force the price of oil to rise to above $100 a barrel again.
They also accused Saudi Arabia of siding with Russia to raise prices amid signs that the global economy is slowing, with Wednesday's move seen as a win for Moscow as it faces battlefield losses in Ukraine, and reduced revenue from falling oil prices in recent weeks.
"We see no reason why American troops and contractors should continue to provide this service to countries that are actively working against us. If Saudi Arabia and the UAE want to help Putin, they should look to him for their defense," the lawmakers said in a statement.
"It is time for the United States to resume acting like the superpower in our relationship with our client states in the Gulf. They have made a choice and should live with the consequences. Our troops and military equipment are needed elsewhere."
'It is time for the United States to resume acting like the superpower in our relationship with our client states in the Gulf'
- Tom Malinowski, Sean Casten, and Susan Wild, members of US Congress
Earlier this year, US President Joe Biden made a visit to the oil-rich kingdom and met with its crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, in an attempt to repair the countries' relationship. Relations had been strained during the early days of the Biden administration.
The US president left Saudi Arabia saying he expected Riyadh to take "further steps" to boost oil supply.
The visit was heavily criticised by Democrats, as well as by Saudi activists, who saw the move as ignoring the kingdom's human rights abuses in a bid to get Saudi assurances on cheaper energy.
Now, with this latest production cut, the critics of Biden's decision to placate Saudi Arabia - and to gloss over the murder of The Washington Post and Middle East Eye columnist Jamal Khashoggi - are calling for a complete overhaul of the US-Saudi relationship.
"Many argued that we had to 'repair' our relationship with our Gulf partners to win their cooperation in stabilizing global energy markets following Russia's invasion, and President Biden made every effort to do so," said Malinowski, Casten, and Wild.
"Saudi Arabia and the UAE have now answered our overtures with a slap in the face that will hurt American consumers and undermine our national interests."
Saudi Arabia and the UAE have denied the production was politically motivated, with Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman saying Riyadh "shall act and react to what is happening to the global economy in the most responsible and responsive way".
'Eliminate military assistance to Saudi Arabia'
While it is unclear how many co-sponsors the legislation has garnered, it seems many Democrats seem supportive of removing US support for the Saudi military, including the withdrawal of American troops and weapons from the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia is heavily dependent on US support to sustain its military. Last month, NBC News reported that US Central Command was working on a new military testing facility in the kingdom.
A recent poll from the Eurasia Group Foundation also found a majority of Americans were opposed to continued US arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
"President Biden should make it clear that we will stop supplying the Saudis with weapons and air parts if they fleece the American people and strengthen Putin by making drastic production cuts," said Congressman Ro Khanna.
Senator Chris Murphy, a vocal critic of Riyadh, hit out at the nature of Washington's relationship with the kingdom, saying that, even after turning a blind eye to its human rights violations and supplying it with arms, Saudi Arabia had turned its back on the US.
"I thought the whole point of selling arms to the Gulf states despite their human rights abuses, nonsensical Yemen war, working against US interests in Libya, Sudan etc, was that when an international crisis came, the Gulf could choose America over Russia/China," Murphy posted on Twitter.
Senator Bernie Sanders, who has led multiple legislative bids aimed at ending US support for the Saudi-led coalition's war efforts in Yemen, agreed that Washington needed to respond to Opec+'s decision by eliminating military assistance to Saudi Arabia.
"Opec's decision to cutback on production is a blatant attempt to increase gas prices at the pump that cannot stand. We must end Opec's illegal price-fixing cartel, eliminate military assistance to Saudi Arabia, and move aggressively to renewable energy," he said.