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Have U.S.-Saudi Relations Hit a New Low?

The two countries’ ties have long been rocky.

By , a reporter at Foreign Policy.
U.S. President Joe Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrive for a family photo.
U.S. President Joe Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrive for a family photo.
U.S. President Joe Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrive for a family photo during the Jeddah Security and Development Summit at a hotel in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on July 16. MANDEL NGAN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at the tenuous U.S.-Saudi relationship, Israel and Lebanon’s historic agreement, and how extreme heat will transform the world. 

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Biden Prepares to “Reevaluate” U.S.-Saudi Relationship 

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at the tenuous U.S.-Saudi relationship, Israel and Lebanon’s historic agreement, and how extreme heat will transform the world. 

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


Biden Prepares to “Reevaluate” U.S.-Saudi Relationship 

The U.S.-Saudi relationship plunged deeper into uncertainty on Tuesday when Biden administration officials said Washington planned to “reevaluate” relations over OPEC+’s decision to slash oil production. 

Led by Saudi Arabia, the group of top oil producers had decided to slash oil production by 2 million barrels per day—although the actual difference will likely be smaller since many were already missing their output targets. U.S. President Joe Biden had previously pushed to boost production to drag down prices and shake Russia’s finances, which depend on oil export revenues. 

“The U.S. has definitely taken this as a snub,” said Amrita Sen, the co-founder of Energy Aspects, an energy consultancy. “Theres a lot of anger against Saudi Arabia right now.”

But as fears of a global recession grow, experts say Saudi Arabia also has key economic reasons for propping up pricesnamely that elevating prices now could help shield it from lower revenues due to an economic slowdown. Oil producers are also rattled by Washingtons push for a Russian oil price cap, which would effectively create a situation where consumers set a lower market price at which the commodity is sold.

“For OPEC, this is a preemptive cut,” Sen said, who noted that the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank’s interest rate hikes have helped spur a slowdown in the global economy. “They want to get ahead of it. Thats why they did it.”

Within Washington, OPEC+’s decision fueled pressure for Biden to halt weapons sales to Riyadh, with Sen. Bob Menendez urging him to “immediately freeze all aspects of our cooperation with Saudi Arabia.”

“Enough is enough,” he added.

Such turmoil has long roiled the U.S.-Saudi relationship. In April 2020, FP’s Keith Johnson and Robbie Gramer chronicled how the two countries’ “rocky marriage of convenience” evolved—and came close to a breaking point—in the decades since its inception. 

“Today’s tensions stem, in many ways, from the original foundations of the odd-couple relationship: an oil-for-security bargain that always sought, but never fully managed, to bridge the divide between a liberal democracy and a conservative religious monarchy,” they wrote.

The same tensions are now making a resurgence—although, like before, their ties may ultimately withstand the pressures. 

Even though the relationship has had its difficulties, both countries have come back as well, Sen said. Both countries do need each other—one for the energy, one for security.


What We’re Following Today

Historic Middle East gas deal. Israel and Lebanon have reached a preliminary deal that could end a historic territorial disagreement over their contested maritime border and gas fields. Under the U.S.-brokered agreement, the countries will each hold drilling rights to different fields.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid lauded the deal as a “historic achievement” while Biden said it was a “breakthrough.” The agreement is “setting the stage for a more stable and prosperous region and harnessing vital new energy resources for the world,” Biden said in a statement

Uninhabitable world. Before the end of the century, large swaths of Africa and Asia will be engulfed in climate change-fueled extreme heat—making them unlivable for as many as 600 million people, according to a new report by the United Nations and Red Cross. 

“Heatwaves already kill thousands of people every year, and they will become deadlier with every further increment of climate change,” the report said. “We hope this report serves not only as a wake-up call but also as a road map.”


Live Taping of Ones and Tooze

Adam Tooze and Cameron Abadi will be taping an episode of FPs popular economics podcast, Ones and Tooze, in front of a live audience. Come for the unvarnished repartee, the bookish asides, and (of course) the two data points that explain the world. Join us live in New York or tune in virtually to the livestream. Oct. 25, 7-9 p.m. | Purchase tickets.


Keep an Eye On 

Venezuela’s landslide tragedy. Rescuers are searching for survivors after a devastating landslide struck a central Venezuelan town on Saturday, killing at least 43 people and leaving around 60 more people missing. The disaster damaged hundreds of homes and more than a dozen businesses. 

Pakistan’s protests. Demonstrations erupted in northwestern Pakistan on Tuesday over a school van shooting that killed the driver and left a child in critical condition. Thousands of protesters called for accountability and the attacker’s arrest, although it is still unclear as to who was behind the attack.


Tuesday’s Most Read

Ukraine Wants to Be NATO’s Friend—With Benefits by Amy Mackinnon and Robbie Gramer

Liz Truss’s Britain Is a Morbid Symptom of the World’s New Era by Adam Tooze

The Solution to the Global Food Crisis Isn’t More Food by Sarah Taber


Odds and Ends 

An impressively large brown bear named 747 has emerged as the champion of Fat Bear Week, a competitive single-elimination contest that saw 12 tubby bears living in Alaska’s Katmai National Park vying for the title of Fattest Bear™️. Also the 2020 winner, 747 was widely known as the chunkiest competitor and is believed to weigh around 1,400 pounds. He ultimately secured 11,000 more votes than the runner-up, who was named 901. 

But this year’s competition wasn’t without scandal: Organizers revealed that the tournament had been plagued by voter fraud, though they quickly reassured fans that they were able to identify and eliminate the fake votes. “Like bears stuff their face with fish, our ballot box, too, has been stuffed,” it tweeted

Christina Lu is a reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @christinafei

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