Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) on Oct. 11 introduced legislation that would ban arms sales to Saudi Arabia for a year.
Saudi Arabia, long one of the best allies of the United States in the otherwise turbulent and hostile region, has faced attacks by Democrats recently due to a decision by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries plus Russia (OPEC+) to cut oil production sharply.
On the morning of Oct. 5, OPEC+ announced that it would be cutting its oil production by two million barrels a day—a cut in production that will have tangible consequences for American consumers.
In its statement announcing the sharp downtick in production, OPEC+ cited “uncertainty that surrounds the global economic and oil market outlooks.” The announcement marks the largest cut in oil production by OPEC+ since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Currently, the world market produces around 100 million barrels of oil a day, meaning that the OPEC decision represents approximately a two percent cut in global production. The hit on consumers will be more than two percent, however, according to experts.
Since President Joe Biden took office in January 2021, the cost of gasoline and other energy sources to consumers has already seen a substantial uptick. Though Biden managed to wrangle prices down a bit by pulling from the United States’ strategic reserves of oil, prices remain substantially higher than they were a year ago.
Republicans have placed the blame for rising costs squarely on Biden’s “anti-American” domestic energy policies.
While in office, Biden made extensive changes to the energy policies of former President Donald Trump, who led America to become energy independent for the first time in decades. Biden, who promised during his campaign to “transition away from the fossil fuel industry,” wasted no time in halting construction on the Keystone XL pipeline and placing a moratorium on leasing federal lands to natural gas and oil companies.
Extenuating the effects of Biden’s climate and energy policies is collusion by OPEC+ and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, both of which have led to further rising costs.
As Democrats prepare for the final lap of the midterms in the coming weeks, the move by OPEC+ to slash production could not have come at a worse time for the party.
Democrats were overwhelmingly critical of Saudi Arabia after the decision was revealed. Some Democrats even went a step further, calling for a U.S. withdrawal of troops from the region.
The legislation unveiled on Tuesday fits into this context.
Saudis ‘Colluded With Russia’: Sponsors
The sponsors of the legislation in each chamber of Congress, Khanna and Blumenthal, wrote an opinion piece the weekend before introducing the bill accusing the Saudis of having “colluded with Russia” in its decision to cut production.
“This week, Saudi Arabia colluded with Russia—deciding to cut 2 million barrels a day of oil production at the OPEC+ meeting, thus raising the price of gas to Russia’s advantage,” the duo wrote in an Oct. 9 op-ed for Politico. “The shocking move will worsen global inflation, undermine successful efforts in the U.S. to bring down the price of gas, and help fuel Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.”
The two called the production cut “a pointed blow to the U.S.” and called for an arms embargo on the Muslim kingdom.
“The U.S. also has a way to respond: It can promptly pause the massive transfer of American warfare technology into the eager hands of the Saudis. Simply put, America shouldn’t be providing such unlimited control of strategic defense systems to an apparent ally of our greatest enemy—nuclear bomb extortionist Vladmir Putin.”
The pair were optimistic about the bill’s prospects of passage.
After announcing their introduce the legislation, Blumenthal and Khanna wrote: “For several years now, our colleagues have been considering similar proposals, but those measures haven’t passed. Due to intense bipartisan blowback to Saudi’s collusion with Russia, we think this time is different. Based on our conversation with colleagues, our legislation is already garnering bipartisan support in both chambers.”
Further down the piece, the two wrote that “Saudi Arabia remains important to energy security and stability in the Middle East, to global economic prosperity, and as a regional ally against Iran, but it made a terrible mistake this week.”
The two noted that an arms embargo could be disastrous for Saudi Arabia’s defensive capacity.
“U.S. military collaboration with the Saudi regime is more extensive than many realize, but that also gives the U.S. significant economic and security leverage over Riyadh,” the lawmakers said. “Today, Saudi Arabia is hugely dependent on U.S. defense assistance, purchasing the vast majority of its arms from the United States. The country cannot substitute defense suppliers unless it wishes to partner with Russia, Iran or China for far inferior systems which have no interoperability with their existing weaponry.
“Given the … minimal interoperability between Saudi’s current weapons system and potential foreign replacements, Saudi can do little to respond to this proposed legislation other than come back to the table and negotiate with the U.S. in good faith.
“It would be a severe challenge, if not downright impossible, for Saudi to execute an overnight short-term sourcing pivot if faced with a ban on arms sales. And any ban could be temporary—until Saudi Arabia reconsiders its embrace of Putin.”
In an Oct. 7 tweet, Khanna made much the same point, writing: “We give Saudi Arabia 70 percent of their weapons. For them to drive up energy prices for the American people is outrageous. It’s simple. If the Saudi-led OPEC+ doesn’t reverse their decision, the US should stop sending them weapons.”
‘Playing Americans for Idiots’
Policy experts have been critical of similar efforts by Democrats to punish Saudi Arabia, which they say endangers U.S. interests in the region and misplaces the blame for rising gas prices.
Jim Carafano, the vice president for national security and foreign policy at the Heritage Foundation, was highly critical of the foreign policy outcomes that such a policy would bring about. Carafano accused Democrats of floating the proposal of “playing Americans for idiots” and avoiding the true issue—Biden’s energy policies.
Rather than punishing Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Carafano told The Epoch Times, the proposed troop withdrawal would only embolden America’s adversaries.
“If the United States withdrew its military footprint for the Middle East, the number one beneficiaries of that would be Russia, Iran, and China,” Carafano said. “So all of America’s enemies—the countries that go to sleep at night dreaming to wake up in the morning with a world without America—they would be the chief beneficiaries of this.
“So on its face, it’s a nonsensical policy that would actually completely compromise America’s vital interests,” he added.
Rather than blaming the Saudis and the UAE, Carafano said, Americans should look to the Oval Office to find the culprit for rising prices.
“Look, if you’re unhappy with [energy prices], the person that you should want to blame is in the White House,” Carafano said. “To blame the Saudis for this and expect the Saudis essentially to pump oil and reduce their profits in order so Joe Biden can do better at the midterms—which is what Biden really cares about; he doesn’t really care about the price of gas. He cares about gas price reductions before the midterms so he can get Democrats elected.
“The whole world knows if the United States wants to influence the price of oil and gas, all they have to do is increase the production of oil and gas.”
‘Stabbing Saudis in the Back’
At the same time, Carafano contended, the Biden administration is “stabbing [Saudi Arabia] in the back” with its ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran, which Carafano said would “not only not limit their nuclear project, but would actually enrich and empower the regime and give them a lot more money to go after everybody, including the Saudis.”
Carafano added: “I think the other thing the Saudis are doing is rightly embarrassing this president by saying: ‘Look, we all know that the reason why the price of oil and gas in the world is high is because the United States won’t produce more oil and gas.’
“So this is really about tit-for-tat politics. And, because the administration wants it both ways—they want to pretend like they are working to rid the world of oil and gas, but they don’t want to suffer the vote—the political pain of paying for that at the ballot box, because the price is high.
“So [Democrats] want other [nations] essentially to cover for them. And other people are saying, ‘Why should we do that? What have you done for us lately?’”
The bill, Carafano said, is not about Americans’ interest but Democrats’ political interests.
“This Democrat proposal is preposterous on its face,” Carafano said. “It’s detrimental to U.S. interests, and it’s really not about protecting the American consumer or the American taxpayer. It’s about trying to get more blue seats in Congress. This is reprehensible.
“This is this is political messaging legislation in the run-up to the election to pretend that they’re doing something for consumers and taxpayers, but the chances of this actually ever being acted on are zero.”
He added, “What it really is, is it’s an incredible insult to the American people and to voters and essentially playing them for idiots. That’s what it is.”
Biden Begs for Dirtier Oil: Critic
In comments to The Epoch Times Dan Kish, a senior fellow at the Institute for Energy Research, also blamed the situation on Biden’s energy policies, and criticized Biden’s reliance on foreign, dirtier oil to save face among environmentalists at home.
“What’s so astounding about this is [Biden] runs around begging other people for more oil,” Kish said.
He then cited Biden’s plan to lift sanctions on the socialist nation of Venezuela, an oil-rich nation but one with some of the dirtiest oil in the world. Recently, Biden has been trying to court Venezuela as part of the effort to get domestic energy prices under control.
At the same time, Kish noted, Biden has made a series of decisions that harm U.S. production and end in the U.S. taking oil from dirtier sources.
“Well, today the story is that Venezuela, you know, he’s gonna lift some impediments on Venezuelan oil coming to the United States,” Kish said. “And he does this after stopping Anwar—the Alaska pipeline—[which is now] running on a quarter of its capacity, 500,000 barrels a day versus two million barrels a day.
“First thing he did when he came in was shut down Anwar. He shut down the Keystone XL Pipeline.
“Canada’s our largest supplier [of oil],” Kish continued. “And he [shut down the Anwar pipeline and reduced energy trade with Canada] because he said it wasn’t in the national interest because of the carbon dioxide that would come from the oil. And yet the oil that he wants to bring from Venezuela is the dirtiest oil in the world. It has more, much more carbon than oil sands from Canada.”
The effects of Biden’s energy policies, Kish said, have been to “basically unilaterally disarm the United States.”
Specifically, Kish cited Biden’s controversial November 2021 decision to draw millions of barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a reserve of oil intended for use in times of war or global calamity. Biden is currently pulling around one million barrels a day to keep U.S. prices under control.
“He’s taken our emergency supplies and sold them off so that he could get to election day,” Kish said. “And I mean, honestly, if you wanted to make a bigger mess of things, I don’t know how you would do it.”
The policies pushed by Biden and Democrats, Kish said, are more designed to appeal to radical environmentalists than to aid American citizens.
“Nothing [Democrats have done] with respect to energy has made any sense except on an ad hoc basis—it’s all politics,” Kish said. “It’s all you know, they want to appeal to their radical green base.”
Instead, Kish called for the United States to reverse its current energy policies rather than playing “tit-for-tat politics” with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Venezuela.