Sen. Dick Durbin said Wednesday he would advise President Biden that Saudi Arabia cannot be trusted and told reporters the president’s previous efforts to reach out to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “didn’t work.”
In July, Biden received widespread and bipartisan criticism for stopping to fist bump the leader who has been associated with human rights abuses.
“I mean, it’s kind of natural, you don’t just meet with your friends who occasionally meet with those that are not your friends,” the Illinois Democrat said on Capitol Hill. “He tried his best to reach out to him, and it didn’t work. And I think he’s having second thoughts about our relationship, and I certainly am too.”
Earlier this month, Biden said an announcement by the oil-rich country and its fellow OPEC+ members, including Russia, to cut oil production was a “disappointment” and that it says “there are problems” in the United States’ relationship with Saudi Arabia.
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The Saudi- and Russian-led cuts help prop up high oil prices that are allowing President Vladimir Putin to keep paying for his eight-month invasion of Ukraine.
In addition, the cuts hurt U.S.-led efforts to make the war financially unsustainable for Russia, threatens a global economy already destabilized by the Ukraine conflict and risks saddling Biden and Democrats with rising gas prices ahead of the midterm elections.
Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud told Saudi-owed Al Arabiya Tuesday that his government’s justification of the production cuts was “purely economic.”
In an interview Tuesday with CNN, the president said he would look to consult with Congress on what path to take going forward but stopped short of endorsing the Democratic lawmakers’ call to halt weapons sales.
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“There’s going to be some consequences for what they’ve done with Russia,” Biden said. “I’m not going to get into what I’d consider and what I have in mind. But there will be — there will be consequences.”
Legislation has been introduced that would immediately pause all U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia for one year, and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez pledged to use his position to block any future arms sales to the Saudis.
John Kirby, a White House National Security Council spokesman, said the New Jersey Democrat did not warn the White House before announcing his intention to block future sales.
According to The Associated Press, the White House noted that its weapon sales to Riyadh serve, in part, as an important counterweight in the region to Iran.
Durbin said Wednesday he would counsel Biden that “we’ve all learned a lesson from Saudi Arabia in the last week or so, so they cannot be trusted themselves.” Durbin pointed out he feels leaders there have “decided their future’s with Vladimir Putin.”
Echoing previous tweets, he called that strategy “malevolent” and “purely driven by greed,” adding that Saudi Arabia’s leadership has “basically said they’re against people fighting for their lives in Ukraine.”
“They’re for Vladimir Putin. We can’t have a world that is driven by Vladimir Putin’s agenda. And, the Saudis are prepared to accept that if it means more profits for the royals,” Durbin said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.