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US lawmakers pushing to cut military support for Saudi Arabia in response to OPEC+ oil cuts

A member of the US Air Force stands near a Patriot missile battery at Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia on Feb. 20, 2020. (File photo by AP)

A group of Democratic lawmakers has introduced a bill to end Washington’s military support for Saudi Arabia and the UAE as the Biden Administration is mulling a response to the recent OPEC+ decision to cut output by two millions barrels a day.

In the House, Representatives Tom Malinowski, Sean Casten and Susan Wild put forward a bill on Wednesday that seeks to slash American military support for Saudi Arabia and the UAE and the withdrawal of US troops from the oil-rich countries.

“We see no reason why American troops and contractors should continue to provide this service to countries that are actively working against us,” the lawmakers said, accusing the oil-producing countries of siding with Russia.

Pointing to Biden Administration’s efforts to “repair” relationship with Riyadh in a bid to stabilize the energy market, the lawmakers said that “Saudi Arabia and the UAE have now answered our overtures with a slap in the face that will hurt American consumers and undermine our national interests.”

OPEC+, which groups the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other producers including Russia, has refused to raise output to lower oil prices despite pressure from major consumers, including the United States.

Energy ministers from OPEC+ met in person at the group’s Vienna headquarters on Wednesday, deciding to introduce a major cut in output which experts believe can drive the oil price above $100 again.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday that Washington was “reviewing a number of response options” to OPEC+ nations.

“As for the relationship (with Riyadh) going forward, we're reviewing a number of response options. We're consulting closely with Congress,” he said at a news conference in Lima alongside his Peruvian counterpart.

Meanwhile, Senator Chris Murphy, a vocal critic of Riyadh, hit out at the nature of Washington's relationship with the kingdom, saying that, even after turning a blind eye to its human rights violations and supplying it with arms, Saudi Arabia had turned its back on the US.

“I thought the whole point of selling arms to the Gulf states despite their human rights abuses, nonsensical Yemen War, working against US interests in Libya, Sudan etc, was that when an international crisis came, the Gulf could choose America over Russia/China,” Murphy posted on Twitter on Wednesday.

Also in an interview with CNBC, he called for a “re-evaluation” of ties with Saudi Arabia. “I think it's time for a wholesale re-evaluation of the US alliance with Saudi Arabia,” said the chairman of the Senate foreign relations subcommittee on the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia is the largest customer for US-made military equipment, with billions of dollars in orders approved by the State and Defense departments each year. In August, the Biden administration announced a sale to Saudi Arabia of Patriot missile interceptors and equipment worth up to $3.05 billion.

Biden's administration worries that decreased oil output could push up the price of gasoline right before the Nov. 8 US midterm elections, when Democrats will defend their control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

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