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IPFS News Link • Trump Administration

Trump's Fawning Over Saudi Ties Backfires


The G20 is an economic club and it has traditionally stuck to that groove. And Saudi Arabia has traditionally been represented at G20 events by government ministers, usually the oil minister. But this time around, the Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman, who is just a heartbeat away from becoming the king of Saudi Arabia, showed up.

By doing so, Riyadh was pushing the envelope. It was insisting that the international community had better come to terms with the reality that MBS is the prince who counts in the House of Saud and should learn to deal with him as their principal interlocutor. No doubt, this also was a calculated signal that in Riyadh's estimation, MBS has weathered the Jamal Khashoggi storm.

The western countries face the dilemma that they have to normalize their relationship with MBS if it is to be business as usual with Saudi Arabia. Now, that is a bitter pill to swallow. It is one thing not to criticize MBS or Saudi Arabia publicly but it is another thing that under duress, they conduct business with the Crown Prince.

So far, the international reprisal against Saudi Arabia over the Khashoggi affair has been rather muted. The US, Germany, France and Canada have imposed targeted sanctions against 17 Saudi nationals over Khashoggi's killing. But they have neatly sidestepped MBS himself. Evidently, there is an honesty deficit here, considering that Turkey had shared the recordings of Khashoggi's killing with all these 4 countries at their specific request. Diplomatic considerations and geopolitical interests dampen their spirit to go after Saudi Arabia's jugular veins.

Of course, the G20 picture that became viral was the 'high-five' between MBS and Russian President Vladimir Putin with President Trump in the backdrop watching with a worried look. The Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov later explained that "good personal relations are the basis for effective bilateral cooperation." In fact, Putin and MBS also had a productive 'bilateral' meeting on the sidelines of the G20 on December 1.

Putin later disclosed that the two countries have agreed to extend into 2019 their deal to manage the oil market, known as OPEC+. Putin told reporters, "There is no final decision on volumes, but together with Saudi Arabia we will do it. And whatever number there will be based on this joint decision, we agreed that we will monitor the market situation and react to it quickly."

Following up on Putin-MBS talks, technical teams are working on the level of the cuts necessary and the reference baseline for the reduction. There is growing confidence that OPEC+ will reach an agreement over a cut in production for 2019 when they meet in Vienna next week.

Anarchapulco 2023