There's a certain protocol when leaders of friendly nations meet. In public, they are congenial and talk about their close relationship. There's a lot of smiling. If there are any contentious issues, they are handled in private.
One would think President Joe Biden would know this from his decades following foreign affairs as a senator and vice president. That's what makes his mistreatment of Saudi Arabia, a longtime and crucial friend of the United States, so baffling.
Biden traveled to the Middle East for one reason: to patch relations with Saudi Arabia and convince it to produce more oil to lower U.S. gasoline prices before the 2022 midterm elections. But he undermined this effort by repeatedly talking about the 2018 killing of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi and telling the press how he scolded Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), the de facto leader, about this issue and blamed him for the murder.
I don't dispute that Khashoggi's killing in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul was an outrage. But both the Trump and the Biden administrations already confronted Saudi Arabia about this. The Biden administration released intelligence on this matter in February 2021 and sanctioned and issued travel bans against Saudi citizens in response to Khashoggi's killing.
Tough talk between friendly nations about incidents like this behind the scenes are fine. But Biden's public harassment of the Saudis about it has hurt America's relationship with an important ally and is moving Riyadh closer to Russia and Iran. Biden's emphasis of Khashoggi's killing during the trip obviously irritated MBS and led him to counter by raising alleged U.S. human rights violations.
This is the main reason why Biden left Saudi Arabia empty-handed. The Saudis offered to make a very small increase in oil production but said the OPEC+ group will have to decide about any increased oil production by group members. The Saudis also did not agree to a U.S. proposal to create a new regional security alliance to counter threats from Iran.
Another issue dividing the United States and Saudi Arabia (as well as Israel) is the Biden administration's obsession with negotiating a new agreement to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA).
Former President Donald Trump withdrew from this agreement in 2018, calling it "the worst deal ever" because of its short duration, weak verification requirements and Iranian cheating on the deal. Despite increasingly generous concessions during talks in Vienna held since April 2021, Iran has refused to agree to a new deal to revive the JCPOA.
As I wrote in a recent Newsmax article, a two-day meeting to strike a nuclear agreement in Qatar in late June went nowhere because Iran used the talks to back out of previous commitments and make new demands outside the scope of the negotiations.
Saudi officials never liked the 2015 JCPOA since it rewarded Iran with over $100 billion in sanctions relief and $1.7 billion in cash that it spent on terrorism, its weapons of mass destruction programs and meddling in Middle East conflicts.
Like a growing number of Democratic and Republican members of Congress, the Saudis also don't like the new nuclear deal that Biden officials are trying to negotiate that reportedly will give Iran access to at least $90 billion in frozen foreign exchange reserves and $50 billion to $55 billion in additional revenue per year from higher oil/petrochemical exports, with no restrictions on how these funds would be spent.
Iran also reportedly will receive $7 billion in Iranian funds frozen in South Korean banks.
Saudi Arabia, Israel and other Middle East states object to the Biden administration's effort to get a new nuclear deal with Iran not just because of what the U.S. is offering is worse than the JCPOA, but also because Iran's nuclear program has surged during the Biden presidency.
But due to his determination to reverse Trump's decision to withdraw from the JCPOA, Biden won't listen to facts or the concerns of America's friends in the Middle East about the dangerous nuclear deal his diplomats are trying to negotiate.
Friendly nations take into account each other's regional security concerns. Instead of doing this, the United States is trying to ram through an agreement with Iran that the Saudis believe will harm their security.
Biden traveled to Saudi Arabia to patch relations with Riyadh and convince it to produce more oil. It is hard to see why the Saudis will do him any favors after blaming the crown price for a murder during his visit and refusing to listen to the kingdom's security concerns about Iran's nuclear program.
Fred Fleitz is a Newsmax TV Contributor and vice-chair of the America First Policy Institute Center for American Security. He previously served as National Security Council Chief of staff, CIA analyst, and as a member of the House Intelligence Committee staff. Read more reports from Fred Fleitz — Click Here Now.
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