Saudis may boost oil output as Biden backs MBS immunity from Khashoggi suits: report

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Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members are reportedly considering a boost in oil production just days after the Biden administration said it favors shielding Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman from civil litigation related to the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

A production increase of up to 500,000 barrels a day is under discussion for OPEC+’s Dec. 4 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 nations are set to announce on Dec. 5.

However, a member of the Saudi royal family, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, denied the Journal’s report, saying that OPEC+ may resolve 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 killing of Khashoggi, who was a US-based columnist for the Washington Post.

US and Western intelligence agencies allege that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman ordered the murder of Khashoggi.
The Asahi Shimbun

The administration spoke out in support of a claim of legal immunity from MBS, who also recently took the title of prime minister, against a suit brought by Khashoggi’s fiancée and by the rights group Khashoggi founded, Democracy for the Arab World Now.

“Jamal died again today,” Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, tweeted after the US filing late Thursday in her lawsuit.

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

Biden had long pledged to hold MBS accountable for Khashoggi’s death. The president told reporters in July that the Saudi royal proclaimed to him that he was “not personally responsible” for Khashoggi’s killing.

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

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

Last month, OPEC+ slashed oil production by some 2 million barrels a day — thumbing its nose at the Biden administration after the president and MBS were photographed giving each other a fist bump over the summer.

The White House was keen to get oil-producing states to ramp up production ahead of the recent midterm elections — particularly as rising gas prices were viewed as a vulnerability for Democrats.

While Democrats did lose control of the House of Representatives, they performed better than expected in Senate races — enabling them to hold on to their razor-thin majority in the upper chamber.

The Biden administration’s relationship with MBS and the Saudi government has been frosty from the outset.

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

During his presidential campaign, Biden vowed to ostracize bin Salman and render him an international “pariah” for his role in the death of Khashoggi.

American 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 kidnapped and dismembered during a consular visit to the Saudi diplomatic mission in Istanbul in 2018. MBS has denied involvement in his death.

With Post wires

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