OPEC leaders speak at a press conference

Secretary-General of OPEC Haitham al-Ghais and Saudi Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman Al-Saud hold a press conference in Vienna, Austria on October 5, 2022. (Photo: Askin Kiyagan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

After OPEC Move, Sanders Says US Must 'Eliminate Military Assistance to Saudi Arabia'

Sen. Bernie Sanders accused Saudi-led OPEC of a "blatant attempt to increase gas prices at the pump."

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday called for an end to U.S. military aid to Saudi Arabia after the kingdom and other major oil-producing nations agreed to slash output by two million barrels a day, a move that could significantly drive up gas prices worldwide as a global recession looms.

In a social media post, Sanders (I-Vt.) denounced the Saudi-led OPEC cartel over its "blatant attempt to increase gas prices at the pump," which he said "cannot stand."

"We must end OPEC's illegal price-fixing cartel, eliminate military assistance to Saudi Arabia, and move aggressively to renewable energy."

"We must end OPEC's illegal price-fixing cartel, eliminate military assistance to Saudi Arabia, and move aggressively to renewable energy," the senator added.

Sanders was one of several members of the U.S. Democratic caucus who responded with outrage to OPEC and Russia's decision, which is set to take effect in November as the midterm elections kick off.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) announced Wednesday that he will be reintroducing legislation instructing U.S. officials to "initiate dispute proceedings" against OPEC members at the World Trade Organization for violating the body's price-manipulation rules.

"As we build our clean energy future, we must stand up to the oil-soaked global cartel that seeks to abuse its power to raise prices and boost their profits," Markey said in a statement. "Today's OPEC announcement is a reminder that as long as the United States is dependent on foreign oil and on domestic oil that is priced on a global market, the supply and cost of the energy Americans use to operate our cars, heat our homes, and power our economy is reliant on decisions made by and for hostile fossil-fueled regimes."

"We must hold OPEC and its allies accountable for colluding to hike energy prices on working families," Markey added, "and we must accelerate our transition to clean energy to free ourselves from their profiteering, colluding grip once and for all."

Reps. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), Sean Casten (D-Ill.), and Susan Wild (D-Pa.), meanwhile, unveiled legislation that would require the removal of U.S. troops and missile defense systems from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), another OPEC member.

"Saudi Arabia and the UAE's drastic cut in oil production, despite President Biden's overtures to both countries in recent months, is a hostile act against the United States and a clear signal that they have chosen to side with Russia in its war against Ukraine," the House Democrats said in a joint statement Wednesday.

"Both countries have long relied on an American military presence in the Gulf to protect their security and oil fields," the trio added. "We see no reason why American troops and contractors should continue to provide this service to countries that are actively working against us."

The Biden White House has thus far indicated that it is considering a number of policy responses to "reduce OPEC's control over energy prices"--signaling a possible revival of NOPEC legislation--but the administration hasn't specifically said it would target U.S. military assistance to the Saudis.

According to a recent study by the Government Accountability Office, the Pentagon delivered at least $54.6 billion of military aid to Saudi Arabia and the UAE between fiscal years 2015 and 2021, support that included missiles, helicopters, and bombs.

The U.S. has also spent hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years refueling Saudi and UAE jets as they attacked Yemen, sparking a humanitarian catastrophe that continues in the present.

Despite the president's campaign pledge to make the kingdom a "pariah" over its assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, the Biden administration has continued to approve massive weapons sales to the Saudis, including a multibillion-dollar sale of missiles in August. A month earlier, Reuters reported that the Biden administration was considering lifting its ban on "offensive" weapons sales to the Saudis.

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) has been vocally pressing the Biden administration to halt U.S. military support for Saudi Arabia in response to OPEC's coming production cut, blasting the petrostate as a "third-rate power" that is "hurting the American people."

On Wednesday, Khanna co-authored an op-ed calling for an end to "missile and weapons system sales Saudi so desperately needs."

"By siding with Russia in hiking oil prices and sabotaging our economy," Khanna and two others wrote, "the Saudis have really outfoxed themselves this time--it was a time for choosing, and they picked the wrong side."

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