Last fall, President Biden vowed to impose “consequences” on Saudi Arabia for its decision to slash oil production amid high energy prices and fast-approaching elections in the United States.
In public, the Saudi government defended its actions politely via diplomatic statements.
But in private, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman threatened to fundamentally alter the decades-old U.S.-Saudi relationship and impose significant economic costs on the United States if it retaliated against the oil cuts, according to a classified document obtained by The Washington Post.
The crown prince claimed “he will not deal with the U.S. administration anymore,” the document says, promising “major economic consequences for Washington.”
Eight months later, Biden has yet to impose consequences on the Arab country and Mohammed has continued to engage with top U.S. officials, as he did with Secretary of State Antony Blinken in the seaside Saudi city of Jiddah this week.
It is unclear whether the crown prince’s threat was conveyed directly to U.S. officials or intercepted through electronic eavesdropping, but his dramatic outburst reveals the tension at the heart of a relationship long premised on oil-for-security but rapidly evolving as China takes a growing interest in the Middle East and the United States assesses its own interests as the world’s largest oil producer.
The U.S. intelligence document was circulated on the Discord messaging platform as part of an extensive leak of highly sensitive national security materials.
A spokesperson with the National Security Council said “we are not aware of such threats by Saudi Arabia.”
“In general, such documents often represent only one snapshot of a moment in time and cannot possibly offer the full picture,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss an intelligence matter.
“The United States continues to collaborate with Saudi Arabia, an important partner in the region, to advance our mutual interests and a common vision for a more secure, stable, and prosperous region, interconnected with the world,” the official added.
The Saudi Embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.