Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: US diplomacy with Saudi Arabia and UAE hits new low

As Joe Biden moved to open US strategic oil reserves, his two biggest oil-producing allies have kept their tanks firmly shut. The UAE and Saudi Arabia continue to rebuff the US president as he attempts to counter soaring oil prices prompted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And both countries have been unusually frank about their refusal to step in. The five-week-old war is bringing tensions to a head in several parts of the world, but perhaps nowhere is a regional order more under strain than the Middle East, where two of America’s biggest allies are now seriously questioning the foundations of their relationship. Usually opaque and often inscrutable, officials in Abu Dhabi and Riyadh have in recent weeks been uncharacteristically blunt to visiting diplomats about the nature of their grievances, and how far they are prepared to take them. One western diplomat told the Guardian that a Saudi counterpart had said: “This is the end of the road for us and Biden, but maybe the US also.” (https://news.yahoo.com/biden-rebuffed-us-relations-saudi-050011622.html) The Saudi and Emirati refusal to bail Biden out – or even to take his calls – has pushed relations between the Gulf states and Washington to an unprecedented low. The extraordinary flow of Russian wealth to Dubai, just as the US and Europe try to strangle Putin’s economy, has inflamed things further. Add to that the still-sputtering talks between Washington and Tehran, which could see sanctions reprieves in return for Iran returning to the Obama-era nuclear deal, and there are clear signs of a faltering friendship – with the potential to rewrite the geopolitics of the region.

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