Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s 37-year-old ruler, has reportedly mocked President Biden in private while questioning his mental state, a move that could fracture U.S.-Saudi relations at a time when the partnership is being tested following a move by OPEC+ to cut oil production and harsh criticism of the regime by American lawmakers.
The Wall Street Journal reported that several people inside the Saudi government said the prince preferred former President Trump and has seemed unimpressed with Biden since his days as vice president while also making fun of his gaffes.
Prince Faisal denied that Prince Mohammed had privately made fun of Biden or told aides he favored his predecessor.
“These allegations made by anonymous sources are entirely false,” Faisal said. “The kingdom’s leaders have always held the utmost respect for U.S. presidents, based on the kingdom’s belief in the importance of having a relationship based on mutual respect.”
The report didn’t specify what gaffes or instances Prince Mohanned allegedly referred to when speaking about Biden. The president has been criticized over the years for a number of them. Most recently, he was criticized when he called out a recently deceased congresswoman during a White House event in September.
“Jackie are you here? Where’s Jackie? She must not be here,” he said, referring to Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., during the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health.
During his campaign, Biden refused to talk to Prince Mohammed for over a year, and when they did meet in Jeddah in July, it seemed like Biden didn’t want to be there and was uninterested in the policy discussions, the people in the Saudi government said, according to the report.
American and Saudi interests have often aligned to form a relationship of convenience, whether it be to combat terrorism or the mutual trade worth hundreds of billions of dollars of Saudi oil and American weapon systems.
The White House has said Mr. Biden wants to review whether the Saudi relationship is serving U.S. national security interests, the Journal report said. A recent move by the Saudi-led OPEC+ to cut oil production by 2 million barrels per day at a time when gas prices are increasing has prompted several U.S. lawmakers to call for Biden to reassess the relationship.
Since the production cut could increase oil prices, many say it will help fund Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war effort in Ukraine and has undermined U.S. sanctions on Moscow.
In addition, Biden has raised human rights issues within the kingdom, including the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was dismembered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Adrienne Watson, spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, said Biden “has engaged with leaders from across the region” to establish “a more stable and integrated Middle East,” the Journal report said.