Biden Administration Warns Saudi Arabia of ‘Consequences’ for Reducing Oil Production

The Biden administration has warned Saudi Arabia it will face ‘consequences’ following the OPEC+ to cut oil production significantly last week. The cut will lead to higher oil prices, a move that will benefit Russia significantly as the war in Ukraine continues on. Since Saudi Arabia is the de facto leader of OPEC+ it has become a target for US frustration over the oil cartel’s latest move. President Biden issued the warning yesterday on the heels of a comment by the White House press secretary earlier in the day that the United States will move to reevaluate its relationship with Saudi Arabia. Policies will be reviewed in the coming weeks as Democratic politicians call for immediate actions to be taken against the Kingdom.

The heavy-handed rhetoric is intended to send a message. The administration has not had anywhere near the close relationship with Riyadh that President Trump enjoyed. Whether by happenstance or design, Biden has treated the Saudis with indifference and sometimes almost outright hostility since January, 2020. Yemen, the suspicious death of Jamal Khashoggi and early attempts to restart the nuclear deal with Iran have all caused suspicion and in some cases even damage to the US-Saudi alliance and relationship.

The impression I get is that the US is attaching a greater value to Ukraine rather than its strategic relationship with Saudi Arabia. In the short term this is understandable, given the rather precarious conditions of Ukrainian sovereignty until late in the summer of 2022. Yet the Biden administration needs to remember that Saudi Arabia is a long-term partner and ally of the US. Riyadh and Washington share a number of common interests. Some economic, and others of a more strategic, geopolitical nature. As I spoke of in an earlier post, Ukraine’s strategic value to the United States does not go beyond serving as an instrument to whittle down the Russian military and Moscow’s international influence and prestige.

The Biden administration does not have to select either or. If American diplomacy was more polished than it currently is, the needs and desires of both nations could be balanced and accommodations created. Unfortunately, the Biden administration and its foreign policy team has proven time and time again it is not up to the challenge of creating and pushing forward unilaterally to strengthen relationships and alliances vital to the United States.

Mookie’s (Muqtada al-Sadr) ‘Retirement’ From Politics Is Causing Chaos In Iraq. Color Me Surprised

I was going to post a brief entry on the riots and violence in Iraq brought on by Muqtada al-Sadr’s abrupt retirement from Iraqi politics. But as the situation there seems to be stabilizing for now at least, I’m going to hold off on delving into Iraq’s ongoing political crisis and Muqtada’s role in it.

However, I will say that for anyone who served in Iraq between 2003 and 2009, the fact that Mookie’s (Mookie being Muqtada al-Sadr’s coalition-wide nickname back in the day) ‘retirement’ spurred swift violence and threatened to destabilize the entire country should come as no surprise. I’ll leave it at that for now. 😊

Expect to see a Ukraine update tomorrow. Looks like things are ramping up over there to an extent. Definitely worth a post.

Growing Food Concerns Worldwide

It was only a matter of time before growing anxiety over food supplies and prices across the globe induced action by nation-states and citizens alike. As 2022 motors along, concerns about the health of the global economy, the lingering hangover of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as its recent return to China, and the economic consequences of the war in Ukraine have come together to create a perfect storm. Food prices are going through the roof in a number of nations, and it was only a matter of time before citizens took to the streets and protested.

Over the weekend Iran saw a wave of protests break out across the country over cuts in state subsidies on food. To be fair, Iranians already have a laundry list of grievances with their government and economic conditions always serve as a barometer of the population’s feelings. It comes as no surprise to see Iranian citizens come out in large numbers to protest the subsidy cuts, as well as other issues. The swift and brutal response by the Iranian government, however, has raised some eyebrows around the world. Tehran’s readiness to clampdown on and make an example of anti-government protesters is an indication the government expects prices to rise even more in the coming weeks. With the cut of subsidies last week, prices on a number of flour-based food staples rose in excess of 300%

There are also protests and street violence over rising food prices and inflation going on in Sri Lanka and Tajikistan. Those situations will be discussed in more detail later in the week.

Then there is the increasing worry over food supplies. India is moving to take pre-emptive action by restricting exports of wheat to create a safety cushion of sorts for its own population. The Indian government seeks to control rising prices and diminishing output due to global economic conditions and the extreme heat wave that has affected Indian wheat production. Predictably, India’s move has sent global prices skyrocketing and prompted the US and European Union to begin searching for solutions to improve food supply chains. Given the current conditions, Washington and Brussels need to hurry. At the present time, the situation worldwide appears fated to become significantly worse unless measures are taken within weeks.

Kandahar Falls

The Afghan government has been dealt a crippling blow in the last 24 hours with two major cities falling to the Taliban. Kandahar, the second largest city in the country, and Herat are now under the control of Taliban forces. Ghanzi, Laskar Gah, and Ghor have fallen as well. The United States, Great Britain and other Western nations are preparing to evacuate their embassies in Kabul. The number of US troops to be deployed will number 3,000. They have reportedly already started arriving in the Afghan capital and according to some reports this evening, US airstrikes against government military installations in Kandahar have been launched. The purpose of these strikes was to destroy government military facilities and deny use of equipment and weapons to the Taliban. If further strikes are launched, their purpose will likely be to slow the Taliban advance down and buy time for the US and its allies to complete the embassy evacuations.

The writing is on the wall now. Kabul will fall and the current government will be replaced by the Taliban in a matter of days. China has already stated it will recognize a Taliban government in the event Kabul is taken. There are reports coming out of the country now that the Afghan government has proposed a power-sharing arrangement with the Taliban. If accurate, this can only be viewed as a plea of desperation in the eleventh hour. Which means the government in Kabul is keenly aware the end is in sight.

As the situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate and governments around the world prepare for the return of the Taliban to power, I think we might be discussing related subjects here through the weekend at least.

Israel Warns Lebanon About Future Rocket Attacks

Today, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett placed the Lebanese government in the hotseat when he stated to his Cabinet that Israel will hold that government responsible for any future rocket attack launched from its soil, no matter if Hezbollah launched the rockets or not. The matter of rocket fire from Lebanon was a topic pushed to the forefront in the last week as militants launched a large number of rockets into Israel, prompting Israeli airstrikes and artillery fire missions in return.

Bennett’s remarks come just 24 hours after Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah announced that his group will retaliate against any future Israeli airstrikes on Lebanon. Nasrallah also warned Israel that Hezbollah will not be restricted by the economic crisis and political divisions now affecting Lebanon. If anything, the turmoil engulfing Lebanon at present offers Hezbollah the opportunity to act with impunity. Israel understands this, and it is likely a factor that motivated Bennett’s comments today. Israeli pressure placed on the Lebanese government gives it more motivation to rein in Hezbollah. Lebanon has enough problems to deal with at the moment without having to worry about a large-scale Israeli military response.

Whether or not the government can put Hezbollah in check is another matter altogether.

Author’s Note: This weekend has gotten away from me so I’ll push Part II of the North Korea Collapse Project to net weekend. Apologies.