Saudis can boost oil production as Biden backs MBS immunity against Khashoggi suits: report

Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members are reportedly considering an increase in oil production just days after the Biden administration said it prefers to shield Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman from civil lawsuits related to the murder of a journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

A production increase of up to 500,000 barrels per day is being discussed for the December 4 OPEC+ meeting, delegates said, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The increase in production would help offset the effects of the embargo on Russian oil that the European Union and other industrialized countries will announce on December 5.

However, a member of the Saudi royal family, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, denied the Journal’s report, saying OPEC+ could decide to cut oil production instead.

The Post has sought comment from the Saudi government and the White House.

The Biden administration said last week that the crown prince, known as MBS, should be shielded from a lawsuit over his suspected role in the murder of Khashoggi, a US-based columnist for the Washington Post.

US and Western intelligence agencies claim that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s assassination.
The Asahi Shimbun

The government spoke out in support of a claim for legal immunity from MBS, who also recently assumed the title of Prime Minister, against a lawsuit brought by Khashoggi’s fiancé and the rights group, Democracy for the Arab World Now, founded by Khashoggi.

“Jamal passed away again today,” Khashoggi’s fiancé, Hatice Cengiz, tweeted after the US filed its lawsuit late Thursday.

The US government’s determination of immunity for MBS is non-binding and a judge will ultimately decide whether to grant immunity. But it angered rights activists and risked backlash from Democratic lawmakers.

Biden had long promised to hold MBS responsible for Khashoggi’s death. The president told reporters in July that the Saudi king told him he was “not personally responsible” for Khashoggi’s murder.

“I indicated that I thought he was,” Biden said.

President Biden's administration says it favors granting sovereign immunity to bin Salman.
President Biden’s administration says it favors granting sovereign immunity to Bin Salman.
Getty Images

Last month, OPEC+ slashed oil production by some 2 million barrels a day — facing the Biden administration after the president and MBS were photographed punching each other over the summer.

The White House was keen to see oil-producing states ramp up production ahead of the recent midterm elections, especially as rising gas prices were seen as a vulnerability for Democrats.

Although the Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives, they performed better than expected in Senate races — helping them maintain their razor-thin upper chamber majority.

The Biden administration’s relationship with MBS and the Saudi government was frosty from the start.

The Biden White House has long sought to get the Saudis to boost oil production.
The Biden White House has long sought to get the Saudis to boost oil production.
Getty Images

During his presidential campaign, Biden vowed to exile bin Salman and make him an international “outcast” for his role in Khashoggi’s death.

US and Western intelligence agencies believe MBS ordered the brutal murder of Khashoggi, a former Saudi insider turned critic of the royal family.

Khashoggi was allegedly abducted and dismembered during a consular visit to the Saudi diplomatic mission in Istanbul in 2018. MBS has denied involvement in his death.

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