President Bush and the Saudis

Lora "Mr. Bush’s visit here was, in many respects, a reprise of a trip he made to the king’s ranch in January, when he asked for an increase in production and was rebuffed publicly by the oil minister and privately by the king. This time, the Saudis again resisted Mr. Bush, while offering at least the appearance of a concession.

The Saudi oil minister, Ali Al-Naimi, told reporters that the kingdom had decided on May 10 to increase production, not in response to Mr. Bush but because customers, mostly in the United States, had asked for it. He said that over the last few months, as supplies from other countries had declined, the Saudis had filled in the gap."  NY Times


It is most unusual for the Saudis, always the most polite of men, to act like this.  It is the measure of their unhappiness with Bush and his policies that they can bring themselves to act in so boorish a way.   It must make them uncomfortable to do so.

It used to be prattled in the media that the Saudis loved the Bushies (and the Bushes) and would always do what could be done to help them in the matter of oil production.  It should have been clear then, and it is very clear now that this was never so.  The Saudis are, like all people, concerned with their own wants and desires.

A continuing war in Iraq in which American policy has placed the despised Shia in control of the country is not among the things the Saudis would have hoped for.  An unremitting hostility towards Iran which demands Saudi acquiescence in a policy likely to involve Saudi Arabia in war with Iran is not among the things the Saudis would have hoped for.  The Saudis believe in dealing with problems like Iranian expansiveness with; some subtlety of negotiation, minimal but effective violence, and strategically useful bribery.

A presidential visit to the region which begins with an ecstatic presidential speech to the Knesset swearing undying and unconditional loyalty to Israel is not one of the things the Saudis would have wanted.

So then, he went to Riyadh to demand/beg for the Saudis to increase crude production (at some inconvenience to themselves).  They did not agree?  How can that be?  Is he not God’s pro-consul on earth?  How can that be?

Akiva Eldar wrote in Ha’aretz that he should stay home to avoid the increased mischief that the mere presence of his transcendent foolishness and that of his army of compromised and one-sided handlers would do.  He was right, as usual.

We Americans should add our own plea that he stay home home until January to avoid embarrassing us further.  pl

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35 Responses to President Bush and the Saudis

  1. JohnH says:

    It must be getting time to invade Saudi Arabia. If they won’t produce according to Bush’s dictates, then they’ll have to be “convinced” to open their spigots. After all, in Bush thinking, it worked in Iraq! They’re all the way up to 3 million barrels per day now. And it only took five years to convince them!

  2. Maureen L. says:

    GWB- an embodiment of the truest meaning of the word “pariah”:
    1. A social outcast.
    2. An untouchable.
    Yes, please stay home until January ’09, Mr. Bush. Leave the trips overseas to your (hopefully) more competent replacement.

  3. J says:

    his majesty king abdullah has been talking about saving some what they have of oil for future saudi generations. especially how that the london petrol exchange and their speculators/bookies are ripping the saudis off, i can understand his majesty’s foresight.
    bush’s behavior of a bull in a china closet, makes most polite men ‘cringe’. if only dubya would stay home and quite ripping off the taxpayer dollar with very unnecessary very expensive overseas presidential traveling. harumpf.

  4. emptywheel says:

    Col. Lang
    I’m curious about your take on the US’ apparently agreement to share civil nuclear technology with Saudi Arabia?
    While I understand the agreement includes assurances from the Saudis that they will rely on others for fuel, this does seem to risk validating the Iranian insistence that NPT guarantees them the right to develop the technology.

  5. jamzo says:

    george bush amd john mccain join the tempations: “just my imagination running away with me”
    fred kaplan at slate highlights another piece of bush speech to israeli parliament

  6. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    Eldar is correct, in my opinion. No greater blunder for the Israelis than to have Bush speak to the world from the Knesset. Tragically, Bush’s role in history is to make everything worse. So the symbolism of Bush speaking at the Knesset is horrendous for the Israelis, especially if Bush signs an executive order to launch “limited” military strikes against Iran.

  7. david says:

    I don’t know. I thought Schumer’s ‘threat’ to derail weapons sales to Saudia was equally embarrassing. And he did not even have to leave home to do it.

  8. Mad Dogs says:

    Junya – A ten-gallon hat-sized ego precariously perched atop a pea-sized intellect.
    I suppose that Junya thought by holding hands in public in Crawford with King Abdullah, that they were “engaged”.
    Simple minds always think simple thoughts.
    The play was so bad that even the actors booed.

  9. Paul says:

    Col. Lang,
    You forgot to mention that Mr. Irrelevant’s constant mumblings about everyone in the world yearning for freedom and liberty is not something a King and Princes want to hear.
    A change in the adminstration next January will be meaningless for many years. The Saudis keep score and they will not forget that for a long time 50 to 75 percent of the population supported the rantings of Bush and his coterie. Why even that loudmouth Schumer is going to teach the Saudis a lesson the next time they apply for arms transfers. Has it dawned on Schumer that the Saudis may not want the over-priced worthless junk and gizmos produced by our vaunted defense industrial base. (When was the last time a weapons system, ship or platform was satisfactorily completed?)
    America’s wealth, importance and influence has vanished; it has sunk well below the horizon. My wife and I live in a foreign country in Europe six months of the year and we notice the attitudes of common people of that country. In a sentence: America is the butt of most jokes.
    A few “wedgies” and an old-fashioned thrashing may just be what we need to wake us from our sloth and slumber.
    Save your money, boys and girls, it is going to get bumpy!

  10. Mongoose says:

    It would be our good fortune for him to slink away from public affairs. But he won’t. Beyond the sovereign borders of the U.S. people still pay attention to the boor. They have no choice. Not so at home. Even among stalwart Republicans (is there any other kind right now?), Bush is ignored in public and ridiculed in private. His enhanced irrelevance at home indicates that much of the public has moved on from W’s macho tartufferie. Ignoring the “decider” at home, however, may actually increase the likelihood that he’ll launch some sort of assault on Iran, just to remind everyone of his ever-present Vaudevillian “relevance.” Would that the gods could help us. Now.

  11. Probably basic but the President should have visited Saudi Arabia first just to make clear that neither Saudis or Israelis are first in the hearts and minds of Americans but instead the amount they pay for each tank of gas. The so-called American Century (if it ever was) was premised on cheap supply of energy. My guess is that in the long run if those countries believe they exist and will exist because of their American protector someone, someday, somewhere will be in for a rude shock. Clearly a new history of Islam and the West started on 9/11. Probably a new history of American/Israeli relations. It is very obvious the AQ’s estimate of the economic impacts on the US direct and indirect of the WTC attack as being in the range of $500B is quite correct and other figures are just slight of hand to keep the American people from understanding the permanent change in their lives caused in part by just 19 Saudi citizens. Those of us with some expertise in targeting are just glad they picked the WTC rather than better targets. It does now appear that oil, not war (and of course long have conceded their real politic interesection) may dictate the outcome of the 2008 election. The trip was designed to help McCain and does and had nothing to do with Bush. Suspect McCain is already being given clearance on major Bush foreign policy events. If not he should be.

  12. Green Zone Cafe says:

    As is always the case, everything Bush said and did is for domestic political considerations, to please the “base” which Rove built.
    John DeIulio, a serious thinker, wrote about his experience on the domestic policy side in the early Bush administration. He said there was no substantive policy discussion. Every decision was made on political grounds, so he left. The term he used to describe them was “Mayberry Machiavellis.” After the last years, I think that was not only unfair to Machiavelli, but to Andy Griffith and Don Knotts.

  13. Marcus says:

    Bush is like a defeated bully . Blind faith and hanging out with toadies is his only refuge now.
    Used to be the fool had the scary specter of the US military behind him. Now that he’s ground the military down in Iraq, and has a 28% rating at home (it is still a democracy, ain’t it) the dog is de-fanged.
    What an absolute disgrace of a man, much less an American president.

  14. arbogast says:

    On bended knee, with abject humility and covering my head with ashes, I disagree with Colonel Lang.
    He is right and I am wrong. But I believe now is the time for George Bush to be in the headlines every night, causing as much meaningless mischief as possible.
    I do not believe that the Democratic Party is morally superior to the Republican Party. But I believe they will do a better job, and the best way to elect the most Democrats is to have George Bush speak before the Knesset every day.

  15. condfusedponderer says:

    as the Bushies are quite conpersistent in their own demented peculiar way, they will probably require the Saudis to not bother about the NPT in any way.
    I find it utterly unsurprising that the press release talks about the IAEA (the pre-existing agency that was eventually tasked with implementing the NPT and it’s inconvenient ‘inalienable rights’) and in the same breath mentions what is effectively a counter-NPT – the PSI (John ‘treaty buster’ Bolton’s brainchild).
    The NPT gives the signatory nation a right to pursue any nuclear technology for peaceful uses – what they need or not need is at their discretion. Where does the PSI fit in? The PSI is an instrument to sanction target countries and to deny them nuclear technology the US doesn’t want them to have. At the very least as far as ‘dual use’ technology is concerned, the PSI conflicts with the NPT, and does infringe those inalienable rights. Considering that, a signatory nation does have inalienable rights only if they are deemed by the powers that be in D.C. to be deserving of those rights.
    If a nation doesn’t bend over/ fails to regime change/ vows vassalship and eternal brotherly love doesn’t meet D.C.’s test, its rights are indeed quite ‘alienable’. The PSI, in my understanding, appears to be incompatible with the NPT because of the very different goals both pursue. I do not think that those goals can be reconciled without a fundamental shift in US foreign policy.

  16. Grimgrin says:

    My question isn’t “Why didn’t the Saudis raise production?” but “What if the Saudis cannot significantly raise production?”.
    After all OPEC has traditionally tried to keep prices from getting to high as a way of discouraging the development of other sources of fuel, whether those are renewable ‘alternatives’ or things like tar sands, shale oil or other marginal sources of fossil hydrocarbons that suddenly become attractive during periods of high oil prices.
    I hope the Saudi refusal to raise production levels indicates disgust with Bush. Bush will be gone soon. The possibility that the Saudis lack the capability to significantly increase production, or that they lack the capability to increase production enough to cope with demand is much scarier. That means oil prices are not coming back down until demand starts to contract.

  17. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Pigs will fly before any nuclear technology is made available to the Arab states by the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

  18. We Americans should add our own plea that he stay home home until January to avoid embarrassing us further.
    Bush is quite capable of embarrassing us while stateside, as he he has demonstrated too many times to count.
    The only interesting question is how, and under what circumstances, he will embarrass us after he leaves office.

  19. Farmer Don says:

    While this excellent blog details the squandering of US foreign policy capital, another blog
    details how the same thing is happening to the US economy.
    What a waste.

  20. par4 says:

    We should give Bush a trip to the Hague

  21. Montag says:

    I thought the Saudis made a good point that it isn’t the amount of crude oil on the market that determines the supply of gasoline, but refining capacity, which is limited. So increasing production might just be a feel-good measure, like a gas tax holiday, which does nothing to address the underlying problem.

  22. meletius says:

    I think Grimgrin gets to the heart of the matter.
    If the Saudis refrain from increasing production in the current environment, with crude prices at record levels, bringing on recessions in the Western democracies and massively enriching their chief opponent Iran, then the only real conclusion that can be made is that they cannot increase production any longer.
    I’ve read some speculation by oil writers that the Saudis are at peak. They are thus no longer the “swing producer” and can no longer control prices. That means the years of relentless, implacable price rises have begun and spell the end of Gas Guzzlin’ Nation and its hallucinated economy.
    I’m also curious what exactly the Saudi’s views are about the imperial garrison in Iraq. Do they actually approve of the Bush Quagmire now that Iran’s position has been enhanced? Do they see our garrison as benefitting the minority sunnis? Do they wish the troops would begin to be withdrawn? Do they wish to see 50,000 US troops in Koraq for another 50 years ala McCain?
    Any thoughts by the great team of strategists here would be welcome. I haven’t seen anything on this topic.

  23. Dana Jones says:

    GrimGrin: Check out Twilight in the Desert by Matthew Simmions regarding the possible reasons that the Saudi’s are unable to increase production. According to MS, the Saudi’s main oil field is at or nearing peak production capacity, and even with water injection at the fringes, they have just about tapped out that resource. So if they are saying that they won’t increase production now so that there is continuing production for the next couple of generations, then they are in reality quite happy with the price of oil, as the price keeps going up and they don’t have to do anything.
    The other main concern is in what currency they get paid in. Will they keep getting paid in devaluing dollars, or will they move to a “basket” of currencies, as the Chinese have done, but which means that oil will cost us even more. Just Google ‘peak oil’, and also check out The Oil Drum site.
    Montag, you would think that with the huge profits the big oil companies have been posting the past few years that they would be investing in more refining capacity, because it takes a long time to bring it online. But oddly, they aren’t, as least as far as I know. Perhaps they feel that there is no point in making such an investment as decreasing oil supplies will make the new refineries redundant. Also increased capacity means lower prices at the pump, and lower profits, and smaller multi-million bonuses for the executives. Talk about putting personal gain ahead of the national well being.

  24. Cloned Poster says:

    That he served one term, shame on USA, that he served two terms, shame on USA twice.

  25. parvati_roma says:

    Re Babak Makkinejad’s comment “Pigs will fly before any nuclear technology is made available to the Arab states by the Nuclear Suppliers Group. ”
    Dunno? See:
    “On January 15, 2008, the Associated Press announced that France and the United Arab
    Emirates (UAE) had signed an agreement that establishes a framework for the construction of two nuclear reactors in the UAE. [1] The announcement follows a series of similar tentative agreements between France and other Arab states pledging nuclear cooperation, which have been signed since Nicolas Sarkozy assumed the French presidency in May 2007. In response to France’s newest agreement, many experts and politicians, including International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, have issued statements warning that France’s aggressive efforts to provide nuclear technology may pose proliferation risks…” etc.

  26. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    I happened to be out in Saudi in June 2002. I met with Mr. Al-Naimi, who is an excellent man, and several of his fine staff at the ministry. At that time, he indicated the preferred price band per barrel was $22-28, as I recall. Several years later at a conference in Washington, DC I sat next to a top executive of a non-US major international oil company at lunch. When I queried about the then price of $60 a barrel he said that his company calculated that fundamentals accounted for about $45 and hedge fund and other speculation for $15.
    Today, OPEC and the Saudis have pointed to just such international speculation with respect to the price of oil as well as to the relative decline of the dollar. With respect to fundamentals placing an upward pressure on oil, obviously China and India have an impact. Perhaps the Decider should tell them to halt their economic growth so they don’t consume so much oil so we can have it at a lower price?
    Refined product? Gasolene for example? Has anyone noticed what the greenie-enviros have done over the last three decades to curtail the ONSHORE refining industry in the US??? Just why do we not have ONE NATIONAL standard for refined petroleum products? What about our substantial undeveloped, even unexplored, natural gas reserves? What about our vast coal reserves?
    Responding to GLOBAL demand, significant refinery capacity is being built now in other parts of the world. Also, the world fleet of modern double-hull product tankers is being expanded to accomodate increased global movement of refined prodect. There are a lot of such ships being built in yards these days in Korea, China, and Japan and a lot on the order books for 2010-2012, etc.
    On my 2002 visit to Saudi I also met, with several colleagues, the then Crown Prince and now King. My impression of him was of a serious and forward looking international leader. When I raised the Iraq issue with various contacts there, the answer came back “Iraq is contained and weaker than it was before the Gulf War(1990-91).” I am quite confident that today those on our country team in Riyadh reponsible for bi-lateral security cooperation would would speak highly of the very close, positive, and effective ongoing cooperation we have between the two countries.
    It is understandable that the Saudis, and others in the region, are shocked by Bush’s aberrant behavior and policies. Many Americans are shocked and ALL Americans, and their children, will be paying the price over the next several decades for a $5 trillion fiasco in Iraq not to mention elsewhere.
    As Col. Lang indicates, the regional powers are certainly capable of working out (in their own ways and with their own means) reasonable understandings leading to stability and progress. But the US is PREVENTING this. Why?

  27. meletius says:

    Let’s not forget that the “people” voted for Gore in 2000, cloned poster, including the people of FL.
    So the shame of Bush likely belongs somewhere else. The ridiculous electoral college is the chief culprit, the 90,000 FL Naderites another, and 5 radical right-wing “judges” on the Supreme Court another…

  28. Cieran says:

    Not very often I find myself in disagreement with Dr. Kiracofe, but this one needs some clarification:
    Has anyone noticed what the greenie-enviros have done over the last three decades to curtail the ONSHORE refining industry in the US???
    Environmentalists have certainly opposed addition of new refining capacity in the U.S., but their effect has been minimal compared to that of the big refiners.
    In fact, the only truly “green” interests served by the fact that the U.S. hasn’t seen a new refining plant built in over three decades has to do the color of money, not the color of trees. Refining capacity in this country has steadily increased during that period by adding capacity in places like Houston, which aren’t exactly Sierra Club outposts.
    Refiners don’t want much additional capacity for two important reasons, namely (1) they are profiting wildly from tight gasoline supplies (e.g., Valero’s profits recently went up as its production went down!)), and (2) concern in the refining community that prices could go down if drivers shift away from gas guzzlers, which could hurt ROI for new refining capacity.
    So the big refiners are both fat and happy with current supply constraints.
    The most important exception to this situation for the on-shore case is the West Coast, where oil companies have a long history of shorting supplies to drive up the price of gas (BP Amoco got in trouble in the 1990’s by shipping Alaskan crude to Asia at a loss in order to drive up prices for their refined products in California, and they netted plenty on the bait-and-switch deal), so even this exception has a rich history of supply manipulation by the major oil companies.
    Thus the problem is correctly identified, but the primary cause is not. And let’s face it, environmental interests are not exactly in the driver’s seat in the Bush administration… if the refining industry wanted to build entirely new facilities since the GOP took over the White House, they could easily have done so.
    Finally, I’m really looking forward to Dr. Kiracofe’s new book. It looks like it will be a great help to those of us trying to make sense out of Bush and company…

  29. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Thanks for your insights and clarifications per the onshore the US refinery sector. Just paid over $4 a gallon for premium this weekend in the Outer Banks at Hatteras. I get about 31 miles per gallon on average and am resigned to the fundamentals affecting global oil prices. (I prefer a clean and healthy environment myself.)
    High (for the US) gasolene prices may well impact to reduce gas guzzlers on the road. Perhaps, as happened after the oil shocks of the 1970s, more fuel efficient cars, like those Japanese imports back then, will become more popular.
    What federal policy initiative(s) would it take in the US to deal with inflated-manipulated gasolene prices you indicate? Would this make much difference given the inexorably rising global oil (crude) prices? Perhaps rising gasolene prices are ok as they will cause increased efficiencies? (inflation effect though?)

  30. Babak Makkinejad says:

    parvati roma:
    We shall see.

  31. Curious says:

    I am surprised nobody has made comment about oil price keeps climbing. (The reason why Bush went to Riyadh and bend over.)
    Incidentally, we are entering unknown territory, the dollar is not sustainable at such high oil price. The trade deficit can’t be financed if it collapses.
    The Dow Jones industrials fell more than 200 points.
    Crude jumped after OPEC’s president was quoted as saying his organization won’t raise its output before its next meeting in September. That sent a barrel of light, sweet crude to a trading high of $129.58 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
    Meanwhile, the Labor Department’s producer price report, which indicated higher energy and food prices might be seeping into other parts of the economy, compounded the concerns raised by higher oil. The department said wholesale inflation edged up by 0.2 percent in April following a 1.1 percent jump in March, but outside of food and energy, prices rose by a faster 0.4 percent _ double what analysts expected.

  32. Cieran says:

    Good questions all. And knowing the answers would certainly go a long way towards solving one of the bigger problems the U.S. faces.
    The main problem in both crude and gasoline supplies is that the elasticity of demand is so low that it’s easy to short the market to produce wildly inflated prices (and profits, since when the market is tight, oil still costs the same to pump out of the ground, and gasoline doesn’t cost any more to refine at low prices than it does at high prices).
    So a slight decrease in supply (or increase in demand) in a tight market produces a large increase in pump prices, oil-company revenues, and profits. This is what California’s so-called Energy Crisis was about a few years ago, as Enron and other corporate miscreants found novel ways to restrict supplies of electricity and natural gas to drive up prices.
    What we can do to help lower costs (individually and collectively) is to find alternatives (e.g., fuel-cell research funded by DOE) or to shift our individual consumption patterns (e.g., towards your 31-mpg car and away from Hummers), or to disrupt the transportation energy market via choices like living within walking distance of work, or riding bikes for trips less than a few miles.
    With all these alternatives in place, demand can decrease in the face of more-or-less constant supply, and then that inelastic demand works for the citizenry, in that small decreases in demand can create large decreases in price, which effectively reverses the wild price hikes we’ve seen of late.
    (tho in real-world practice, prices almost always go up faster than they decrease, so that we say that prices are “sticky on the downside”, but the reversibility of the price behavior is eventually reached if demand is lowered sufficiently and consistently).
    So the bottom line is that almost anything helps, be it more efficient cars or driving less or (best of all) creating alternatives to gasoline for transportation purposes. But when you have oil-men in the White House, you don’t expect policies that will break the stranglehold that oil interests have on our economy. Such change will have to wait until the next administration, at least…
    And finally, I’ve been doing my homework in preparation for reading your upcoming book, by tracing the origins of dispensationalist thought in the U.S. (I grew up near Holland, Michigan, so I saw this stuff up-close-and-personal). What an interesting topic! I’m really looking forward to seeing what you’ve learned and written.

  33. john in the boro says:

    President Bush gave us a “tax rebate” during his first year in office and a “stimulus payment” during his last year in office–both borrowed. For me that pretty much sums up his political ideology and his legacy.

  34. Babak Makkinejad says:

    john in the boro:
    But in both cases at least the money was going in the right direction (no pun intended) – back to oneself.
    I think his main domestic agenda was dismantling the US Social Security under the guise of privatization – which was dropped after the 9/11/2001 attacks against US.

  35. Curious says:

    War with Iran is on the making. August.
    Oil is going to hit $160-$200.
    air strike against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). The air strike would target the headquarters of the IRGC’s elite Quds force. With an estimated strength of up to 90,000 fighters, the Quds’ stated mission is to spread Iran’s revolution of 1979 throughout the region.
    Targets could include IRGC garrisons in southern and southwestern Iran, near the border with Iraq. US officials have repeatedly claimed Iran is aiding Iraqi insurgents. In January 2007, US forces raided the Iranian consulate general in Erbil, Iraq, arresting five staff members, including two Iranian diplomats it held until November. Last September, the US Senate approved a resolution by a vote of 76-22 urging President George W Bush to declare the IRGC a terrorist organization. Following this non-binding “sense of the senate” resolution, the White House declared sanctions against the Quds Force as a terrorist group in October. The Bush administration has also accused Iran of pursuing a nuclear weapons program, though most intelligence analysts say the program has been abandoned.

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