Saudi crown prince privately mocks Biden – WSJ
US-Saudi relations are “fracturing” due to the dislike and distrust between President Joe Biden and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday, citing government sources in Riyadh.
The 37-year-old crown prince, who is the day-to-day ruler of the Gulf monarchy and son of King Salman, “mocks President Biden in private,” makes fun of his plentiful public gaffes, and “questions his mental acuity,” according to the paper's sources.
The pair “don’t like or trust each other” and the prince reportedly “much preferred” former President Donald Trump.
Biden has fought off accusations that his physical and mental health have deteriorated – claims exacerbated by numerous public mishaps where the president has stumbled over his words and appeared visibly confused at events.
In an interview with MSNBC on Sunday, Biden admitted it was “legitimate” for Americans to have concerns about his advanced age, but insisted he is fit and healthy.
While geopolitical and economic forces have been driving a wedge between Washington and Riyadh for years, the personal enmity between Biden and MBS has “deepened the tension,” the paper said.
The Saudi decision to cut oil production and raise crude oil prices amid high inflation ahead of US midterm elections has cemented the bad feeling, with the White House recently admitting it is “re-evaluating” its relationship with the kingdom.
The Biden administration also viewed the oil production cut as Riyadh offering a helping hand to Russian President Vladimir Putin amid Moscow’s ongoing offensive in Ukraine, since it raised oil prices and “helped fund” Russia’s military effort, undermining Western sanctions. Saudi Defense Minister Khalid bin Salman has said he was “astonished” by accusations that Riyadh was taking Moscow’s side in the conflict.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan denied the claims that the crown prince had mocked Biden, calling them “entirely false” allegations made by anonymous sources. Riyadh’s leaders always have the “utmost respect” for US presidents, he told the Journal.
The breakdown in relations bodes well for neither party, with the WSJ noting it puts counterterrorism operations at risk, as well as US and Saudi efforts to “contain Iran.”
While Biden publicly fist-bumped MBS during his trip to Jeddah in July, the prince was reportedly angered that the US president repeatedly brought up human rights issues, including the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, in 2018.