Saudis Refuse Phone Calls With Biden Amid Surging Gas Prices

March 9, 2022

The leaders of the oil-producing nations Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are refusing to speak with President Joe Biden as he seeks an audience amid the United States' surging gas prices.

Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman and Emirati sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan have both declined phone calls from the White House in recent weeks, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday. "There was some expectation of a phone call, but it didn’t happen," a U.S. official told the Journal. "It was part of turning on the spigot [of Saudi oil]." White House press secretary Jen Psaki has denied that the administration has tried to discuss oil exports with the Persian Gulf nations.

The news comes days after Axios reported Biden's advisers were considering a presidential trip to Saudi Arabia to boost oil exports. The White House dismissed this report as "premature speculation."

The United States on Monday broke the record for the national average price of gasoline, hitting $4.104 per gallon.

A Saudi official also told the Journal that the Biden administration has pushed bin Salman to mediate between Russian president Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky amid the ongoing war in Ukraine. The official confirmed that the crown prince will do so.

The Saudis have expressed a rapprochement with the Biden administration could only be reached if certain national security concerns are addressed. The Gulf nation wants support for their involvement in Yemen's civil war against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, as well as legal immunity for the crown prince, who faces lawsuits over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The nation has also expressed reservations about the revamped Iran nuclear deal, which is currently being brokered by Russian officials in Vienna.

During his campaign, Biden promised to "end subsidies," including oil subsidies, for the Gulf nation and make it a "pariah" for the killing of Khashoggi.

The White House on Monday said the president stood by those comments.