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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Mohamed bin Salman, left, and Vladimir Putin

Only suckers believe that Joe Biden is responsible for the price of gasoline, but then we all know that a sucker is born every minute (which explains a lot about our politics). The propaganda about oil prices now emanating from the Republican Party, which blames Biden for energy costs, is designed to conceal a much more sinister reality.

Oil prices are rising again because the Saudi monarchs and the Kremlin dictator want Republicans to win the midterm elections and eventually regain the White House, preferably with Donald Trump as president again. In fact, the latest decision by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to curtail production only weeks before Election Day is the petrocrats’ most brazen attempt to manipulate American politics in recent memory -- well, at least since the Russian intervention to install Trump in 2016.

In response to the emergence of this new political axis, media outlets have featured myopic analysis focused on Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia and his “fist bump” moment with the Saudi crown prince, Mohamed bin Salman, reiterating a narrative of recrimination. Yet Biden made a responsible diplomatic effort to moderate energy prices in wartime – and then was betrayed by a dubious “ally” whose regime we have spent hundreds of billions to protect.

It is fair to say the United States should have begun to disengage from the corrupt Saudi monarchy years ago, not only because of that regime’s egregious abuses of human rights, but because those abuses reflect a violent and dangerous fanaticism that it has exported around the world to universal peril. The Saudis still have not been held accountable for their horrific murder of the journalist Adnan Khashoggi, their murky role in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, or the countless Islamist atrocities allowed and even encouraged by their Wahhabi extremism.

Biden inherited the policy that had backed the Saudi government with weapons and prestige in exchange for Western energy security. That devil’s deal is no longer a reliable guide for American policymakers, who are coming to understand that the interests of the world’s democracies – as well as the prospects for mitigating climate change – conflict with the self-serving Saudi agenda.

Perhaps the most obvious reflection of that clash is the burgeoning alliance between Moscow and Riyadh, which supports Vladimir Putin and his murderous assault on democratic Ukraine. The Saudi ruler reportedly admires the Kremlin boss, whose brutality and greed so closely resemble his own style of butchery.

International analysts foresaw that the Saudi government would assist the Republicans months ago. Writing in Modern Diplomacy last April, James M. Dorsey noted that “Saudi Arabia appears to be looking forward to a time when US President Joe Biden’s wings may be clipped…The kingdom seems to be betting on a better reception in Washington if Democrats lose control of Congress in this year’s midterm elections and/or Donald J. Trump or a Republican candidate with similar inclinations wins the White House in the 2024 presidential election.” Subsequent events have amply confirmed his prediction.

But the troubling collaboration between the Republican Party and the Saudi monarchy goes much deeper – and raises serious ethical questions for the GOP leadership, or would if they still evinced any semblance of ethics.

As Eli Clifton reported in The Intercept last month, the Congressional Leadership Fund, a major party super PAC founded and chaired by former Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman – who also happens to be a highly paid lobbyist for Saudi Arabia. It’s a sleazy arrangement that allows Coleman to distribute hundreds of millions of dollars to Republican candidates in this cycle, to turn around and seek the support of those same elected officials for various initiatives “on behalf of the Embassy of Saudi Arabia.”

The Congressional Leadership Fund is closely allied with American Action Network, a dark-money “nonprofit” that funnels up to $30 million annually from unspecified donors to CLF and its candidates. Although its spokesman swears that those funds are all raised from domestic donors – since foreign donations are illegal – nobody really knows whether Coleman’s Saudi patrons have figured out a way to grease his super PAC. What we do know is that domestic allies of Saudi Arabia, notably the Chevron Corporation, which operates oil production facilities for the monarchy, have shoveled millions of dollars into the Congressional Leadership Fund.

Is this picture becoming clearer now? If not, consider the $2 billion investment of the Saudi Sovereign Wealth Fund in Jared Kushner’s fund, or the Saudi funded LIV golf tournament at the Trump clubs for an unknown amount.

The corrupt and authoritarian monarchy in Saudi Arabia, like the crooked dictatorship that rules Russia, strongly favors the Republican Party, especially as defined by Trump – a would-be autocrat and lifelong grifter. They hate President Biden, who opposes their vicious conduct and aims to wean us from the fossil fuels that are destroying the planet.

Put simply, the Saudi despots and their Russian allies are raising energy prices, hoping that will dupe angry American consumers into voting Republican. Those consumers would have to be very, very stupid to believe that electing Republicans will reduce their gas and oil bills – or result in anything except ruin for themselves and their families. The axis is betting that P.T. Barnum was right.

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