Democrats Float an End to US Troop Protection for Gulf Nations After OPEC+ Production Cut

Some Democrats are floating the idea of removing U.S. troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) over a recent decision by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries plus Russia (OPEC+) to substantially slash oil production.

Since President Joe Biden took office in January 2021, the cost of gasoline and other energy sources to consumers has seen a substantial uptick.

Republicans have placed the blame for rising costs squarely on Biden’s “anti-American” domestic energy policies.

While in office, Biden made extensive changes to the energy policies of former President Donald Trump, who led America to become energy independent for the first time in decades. Biden, who promised during his campaign to “transition away from the fossil fuel industry,” wasted no time in halting construction on the Keystone XL pipeline and placing a moratorium on leasing federal lands to natural gas and oil companies.

Extenuating the effects of Biden’s climate and energy policies is collusion by OPEC+ and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, both of which have led to further rising costs.

On the morning of Oct. 5, OPEC+ announced that it would be cutting its oil production by two million barrels a day—a cut in production that will have tangible consequences for American consumers.

In its statement announcing the sharp downtick in production, OPEC+ cited “uncertainty that surrounds the global economic and oil market outlooks.” The announcement marks the largest cut in oil production by OPEC+ since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Currently, the world market produces around 100 million barrels of oil a day, meaning that the OPEC decision represents approximately a two percent cut in global production. The hit on consumers will be more than two percent, however, according to experts.

Dan Kish, a senior fellow at the Institute for Energy Research, a nonprofit which leans right, told the Epoch Times as much.

“Well, it’s two percent of total world supply, which is running at about 100 million barrels a day now,” Kish said. “So it’s  substantial—you won’t have a two percent effect [on consumer prices]. It’ll have a much higher effect than that because taking two million barrels a day off the market is a significant hit.”

The Biden administration immediately made a statement on the announcement, expressing disappointment and calling the change “shortsighted” in view of the ongoing energy crisis in Europe and the diplomatic crisis over the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

After the announcement, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)—one of the most pro-fossil fuel Democrats in Congress—called for the White House to reverse its energy policies and ramp up domestic energy production.

‘A Turning Point’

Now, some Democrats are floating a different approach—removing U.S. troops from Saudi Arabia and the UAE altogether.

Legislation put forward by Reps. Sean Casten (D-Ill.), Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.) and Susan Wild (D-Pa.) would do just that, moving U.S. troops and supplies to other bases in the region.

Rep. Sean Casten (D-Ill.) speaks during a news conference to introduce legislation on safe gun storage outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C., on Feb. 8, 2022. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

In a statement, the trio called the Oct. 5 decision by OPEC+ “a turning point in our relationship” with allied Gulf nations, and accused the longtime U.S. allies of trying to benefit Russia.

“This decision is a turning point in our relationship with our Gulf partners,” the three lawmakers wrote. “If Saudi Arabia and the UAE hope to maintain a relationship with the United States that has been overwhelmingly beneficial to them, they must show a greater willingness to work with us—not against us—in advancing what is now our most urgent national security objective: the defeat of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.”

They added, “Instead, by significantly boosting global oil prices, OPEC’s decision appears designed to increase Russia’s oil export revenues, enabling Putin to continue his war crimes in Ukraine, and undercutting Western sanctions,” echoing the concerns of Republicans when they opposed the closure of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The Keystone pumping station, into which the planned Keystone XL pipeline is to connect to, is seen in Steele City, Neb., Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015. TransCanada, the company behind the project, said Monday it had asked the State Department to suspend its review of the Canada-to-Texas pipeline, citing uncertainties about the route it would take through Nebraska. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

In an Oct. 5 post announcing the bill, Malinowski wrote, “This is a hostile act by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, designed to hurt the United States and our allies and to help Russia, despite President Biden’s overtures.”

Several Democrats, and a handful of Republicans, agreed with the trio.

“Think it’s time we take back our Patriot batteries that are in Saudi Arabia,” Rep. Ruben Gallago (D-Ariz.) wrote in a Twitter post. “If they like the Russians so much, they can use their very ‘reliable’ military technology.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) expressed the same sentiments in a Twitter thread.

“This unnecessary, self-destructive cut should spur a prompt far reaching review of our relationship w/Saudi Arabia,” Blumenthal wrote. “Especially as they try to ‘sports wash’ their international image in the wake of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder & the humanitarian disaster caused by their war in Yemen.”

He added: “The US must revisit & revise military supplies & sales, & other security aid to Saudi Arabia & rebalance this one-sided relationship. Saudi Arabia cannot turn to other defense suppliers unless they wish to partner with Russia, Iran, or China for far inferior systems.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the Senate’s most prominent progressive, went a step further in an Oct. 5 post.

“OPEC’s decision to cutback on production is a blatant attempt to increase gas prices at the pump that cannot stand,” Sanders, who has long been vocal in his opposition to the fossil fuel industry, wrote. “We must end OPEC’s illegal price-fixing cartel, eliminate military assistance to Saudi Arabia, and move aggressively to renewable energy.”

Former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, an Illinois Republican, also agreed in a post.

“Every American President in my lifetime, Republican and Democrat, has obediently bowed to & curried favor with Saudi Arabia,” Walsh wrote. “This has got to [expletive] stop. The Saudis sided with Russia today. Our relationship with them must change immediately. We must treat them like an enemy.”

Midterm Headache for Democrats

Democrats’ demands for action are unsurprising in light of the proximity of the midterm elections.

As Democrats prepare for a tough midterm battle, where observers expect Democrats to lose at least one chamber of Congress, the OPEC+ announcement is bad news.

Over the past few months gas prices—one of the biggest indicators of voting by moderates—have begun to drop from their zenith earlier this year.

Gas prices are advertised at a Chevron station as rising inflation and oil costs affect the consumers in Los Angeles, California, on June 13, 2022. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

But less OPEC+ oil, at a time when the United States is also extracting substantially less of its own reserves than in the past, will almost certainly mean higher prices at the pump. Higher prices, in turn, could mean worse results for Democrats.

Republicans are already taking advantage of the moment to blame the situation on Biden’s energy policies and to call for the U.S. to ramp up its own energy production.

In a post, Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) did just that.

“Instead of increasing U.S. production, Joe Biden and administration officials begged Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Russia to produce more oil,” Kennedy wrote, citing efforts by Biden to get foreign nations to increase their oil production while substantially bottlenecking U.S. production. “These dictators ignored Biden’s pleas, slashed supply, and sent energy prices for Louisianians soaring.”

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) responded before OPEC+ even made the announcement.

In an Oct. 3 post, Blackburn wrote, “OPEC is reportedly considering cutting oil production by more than 1 million barrels a day, which would likely cause gas prices to skyrocket again.

“Why is the U.S. still relying on countries like Saudi Arabia and Mexico for oil?”

“Make America energy independent again,” Blackburn concluded her post.

‘Playing Americans for Idiots’

Pump jacks operate at dusk near Loco Hills in Eddy County, New Mexico, on April 23, 2020. (Paul Ratje/AFP via Getty Images)

Jim Carafano, the vice president for national security and foreign policy at the Heritage Foundation, was highly critical of the foreign policy outcomes that such a policy would bring about. Carafano accused Democrats floating the proposal of “playing Americans for idiots” and avoiding the true issue—Biden’s energy policies.

Rather than punishing Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Carafano told the Epoch Times, the proposed troop withdrawal would only embolden America’s adversaries.

“If the United States withdrew its military footprint for the Middle East, the number one beneficiaries of that would be Russia, Iran and China,” Carafano said. “So all of America’s enemies—the countries that go to sleep at night dreaming to wake up in the morning with a world without America—they would be the chief beneficiaries of this.

“So on its face, it’s a nonsensical policy that would actually completely compromise America’s vital interests,” he added.

Rather than blaming the Saudis and the UAE, Carafano said, Americans should look to the Oval Office to find the culprit for rising prices.

“Look, if you’re unhappy with [energy prices], the person that you should want to blame is in the White House,” Carafano said. “To blame the Saudis for for this and expect the Saudis essentially to pump oil and reduce their profits in order so Joe Biden can do better at the midterms—which is what Biden really cares about, he doesn’t really care about the price of gas. He cares about gas price reductions before the midterms so he can get Democrats elected.

“The whole world knows if the United States wants to influence the price of oil and gas, all they have to do is increase the production of oil and gas.”

‘Stabbing Saudis in the Back’

At the same time, Carafano contended, the Biden administration is “stabbing [Saudi Arabia] in the back” with its ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran, which Carafano said would “not only not limit their nuclear project, but would actually enrich and empower the regime and give them a lot more money to go after everybody, including the Saudis.”

Carafano added: “I think the other thing the Saudis are doing is rightly embarrassing this president by saying, ‘Look, we all know that the reason why the price of oil and gas in the world is high is because the United States won’t produce more oil and gas.’

“So this is really about tit for tat politics. And, because the administration wants wants it both ways—they want to pretend like they are working to rid the world of oil and gas, but they don’t want to suffer the vote—the political pain of paying for that at the at the ballot box, because the price is high.

“So [Democrats] want other [nations] essentially to cover for them. And other people are saying, ‘Why should we do that? What have you done for us lately?’”

The bill, Carafano said, is not about Americans’ interest but Democrats’ political interests.

“This Democrat proposal is preposterous on its face,” Carafano said. “It’s detrimental to U.S. interests and it’s really not about protecting the American consumer or the American taxpayer. It’s about trying to get more more blue seats in Congress. This is reprehensible.

“This is this is political messaging legislation in the run up to the election to pretend that they’re doing something for consumers and taxpayers, but the chances of this actually ever being acted on are zero.”

He added, “What it really is, is it’s an incredible insult to the American people and to voters and essentially playing them for idiots. That’s what it is.”

Biden Begs for Dirtier Oil: Critic

In his comments to The Epoch Times, Kish also blamed the situation on Biden’s energy policies, and criticized Biden’s reliance on foreign, dirtier oil to save face among environmentalists at home.

“What’s so astounding about this is [Biden] runs around begging other people for more oil,” Kish said.

He then cited Biden’s plan to lift sanctions on the socialist nation of Venezuela, an oil rich nation but one with some of the dirtiest oil in the world. Recently, Biden has been trying to court Venezuela as part of the effort to get domestic energy prices under control.

At the same time, Kish noted, Biden has made a series of decisions that harm U.S. production and end in the U.S. taking oil from dirtier sources.

“Well, today the story is that Venezuela, you know, he’s gonna lift some impediments on Venezuelan oil coming to the United States,” Kish said. “And he does this after stopping Anwar—the Alaska pipeline—[which is now] running on a quarter of its capacity, 500,000 barrels a day versus two million barrels a day.

The Iranian oil tanker Fortune is anchored at the dock of the El Palito refinery near Puerto Cabello, Venezuela on May 25, 2020. (Ernesto Vargas/AP Photo)

“First thing he did when he came in was shut down Anwar. He shut down the Keystone XL Pipeline.

“Canada’s our largest supplier [of oil],” Kish continued. “And he [shut down the Anwar pipeline and reduced energy trade with Canada] because he said it wasn’t in the national interest because of the carbon dioxide that would come from the oil. And yet the oil that he wants to bring from Venezuela is the dirtiest oil in the world. It has more, much more carbon than oil sands from Canada.

The effects of Biden’s energy policies, Kish said, have been to “basically unilaterally disarm the United States.”

Specifically, Kish cited Biden’s controversial November 2021 decision to draw millions of barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a reserve of oil intended for use in times of war or global calamity. Biden is currently pulling around one million barrels a day to keep U.S. prices under control.

“He’s taken our emergency supplies and sold them off so that he could get to election day,” Kish said. “And I mean, honestly, if you wanted to make a bigger mess of things, I don’t know how you would do it.”

The policies pushed by Biden and Democrats, Kish said, are more designed to appeal to radical environmentalists than to aid American citizens.

Environmental activists protest against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline in front of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (SCIS) where former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is speaking on March 23, 2015. (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

“Nothing [Democrats have done] with respect to energy has made any sense except on an ad hoc basis—it’s all politics,” Kish said. “It’s all you know, they want to appeal to their radical green base.”

Speaking on Democrats’ calls to pull out of the Gulf states, Kish was critical of the proposal.

“We don’t just put troops in other countries to help them—the reason we do it is to help ourselves,” Kish said. “So you know, I’m no expert on the foreign policy of things, but I know enough to know what those people are proposing is just plain stupid.”

‘Stop Playing Politics’

Instead, Kish called for the United States to reverse its current energy policies rather than playing “tit for tat politics” with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Venezuela.

“The logical thing to do would be to stop doing all the bad things that [Biden has] done to domestic production of oil,” Kish said. “Instead of going to Venezuela—which, by the way, is the number one debtor nation to China—and allowing them to make payments to their loans with China with cash raised by selling oil in the United States, the dirtiest oil on the planet—Biden would instead go back to the Canadians and say, ‘You know, I made a big mistake. We need to build that pipeline. It’s good for the United States. It’s good for Canada. You’re our number one trading partner and ally. We speak the same language everything’s good.’”

Kish continued, “We can transport oil by pipeline, which is the way it should be because it’s the safest and best for the environment. But instead, they’re playing this game by cutting off supplies hoping that everybody will be forced to buy an electric car. Electric cars already cost too much for most Americans.”

Summing up his solution to the problem of rising energy costs, Kish said simply, “Drill, baby, drill, [and] build, baby, build.”

He added, “Do it here in North America—it makes our country stronger, makes our energy supplies safer, makes energy cheaper for Americans who are going to be suffering this winter—and stop pretending as though they’re somehow in charge of the weather and using that as an excuse to just reward their friends in the green energy business, which is exactly what they’re doing.

As far as environmental concerns go, Kish noted that U.S. oil is “the cleanest in the world.”

“There’s nobody close,” Kish said. “We produce it better here with less environmental degradation than anyplace in the world.”

Unlikely to Go Far

Ultimately, the legislation to withdraw U.S. troops from the Gulf states is unlikely to go far.

In the House, only a handful of Democrats have signed onto the measure. Republicans, in turn, have emphasized ramping up U.S. production rather than punishing the United States’ erstwhile allies.

Even if the legislation had a wide swath of support in the House, which seems unlikely, it would almost certainly fail in the Senate. In the upper chamber, which is on average more moderate than the House, it’s highly unlikely that the bill would be able to win enough bipartisan support to overcome the 60-vote filibuster threshold.

And even if it overcame that hurdle, Biden’s position on the move is unclear.

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Joseph Lord is a congressional reporter for The Epoch Times.

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