Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman mocked Biden in private questioned mental state: report

An unwritten pact binding the U.S. and Saudi Arabia has survived 15 presidents and seven kings through an Arab oil embargo, two Persian Gulf wars and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Now, it is fracturing under two leaders who don’t like or trust each other.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s 37-year-old day-to-day ruler, mocks President Biden in private, making fun of the 79-year-old’s gaffes and questioning his mental acuity, according to people inside the Saudi government. He has told advisers he hasn’t been impressed with Mr. Biden since his days as vice president, and much preferred former President Donald Trump, the people said.

Mr. Biden said on the campaign trail in 2020 that he saw “very little social redeeming value in the present government in Saudi Arabia.” He refused to talk to Prince Mohammed for over a year, and when they finally did meet in Jeddah in July, Saudi officials present felt that Mr. Biden didn’t want to be there, and was uninterested in the policy discussions, the people said. U.S. officials said Mr. Biden devoted significant time and energy in the meetings.

Geopolitical and economic forces have been driving wedges into the relationship between America and Saudi Arabia for years. But the enmity between Mr. Biden and Prince Mohammed has deepened the tension, and it is likely to get only messier.

“Rarely has the chain of broken expectations and perceived insults and humiliations been greater than they are now,” said Aaron David Miller, a veteran U.S. diplomat in the Middle East now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “There’s almost no trust and absolutely no mutual respect.”

The decision by Saudi-led OPEC+ to cut oil production—raising crude prices at a time of high inflation just before an American election and despite U.S. pleas to hold off—has cemented both leaders’ resolve to reconsider a strategic relationship that has underpinned the global economy and Middle East geopolitics for almost 80 years, with once-unthinkable retaliatory measures now on the table. The White House has said Mr. Biden wants to review whether the Saudi relationship is serving U.S. national security interests, on top of an administration reassessment last year. Saudi officials say it may now be time for them to reassess the U.S. relationship, too.

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