Biden and Saudi have a lot to lose if talks are a bust

US President Joe Biden in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on April 21 in Washington, DC.

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London (CNN)Most Saudi officials start any conversation about the United States with the preface, "a long and historic relationship." Some point proudly to photos of themselves with past US presidents.

Against his own expectations, President Joe Biden is on track to join that pantheon of carefully posed smiling snapshots adorning Saudi palace bookcases and office walls.
The White House announced on Tuesday that the President would visit Saudi Arabia for gathering of regional leaders in Jeddah. Biden is expected to engage in some capacity with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), the son of King Salman.
    On his presidential campaign trail, fired up by a Saudi hit team's brutal 2019 murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi and other human rights violations, Biden said he'd turn Saudi Arabia into a "pariah."
      Instead, he's doing what many Saudi officials privately expected him to do when he got into the White House, which is dial down his tone and deal with the kingdom according to America's interests, not its ideals.
      Even so, it has been a longer and rougher ride than many Saudi officials imagined.
      The two nations' relationship goes back decades, solidified aboard the USS Quincy in 1945 in a meeting between US President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Saudi King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud, the founder of the modern Saudi state and conqueror of the oil-rich desert kingdom's disparate tribes.
        Roosevelt wanted Saudi oil; Ibn Saud got a powerful global ally.
        Billions of barrels of oil later, that fundamental balance of national interests remains, and it is that same realpolitik which, despite denials from the White House, has heavily forced Biden's reversal on Saudi Arabia.
        The Saudis are driven by those historic ties too. In an Op-Ed for Saudi Arabia's leading English language newspaper Arab News, the kingdom's former long-standing intelligence chief and diplomat Prince Turki al Faisal, wrote: "I am certain that our leadership will still consider the benefits accruing from our relationship as a continuing story that justifies hosting the US President".
        Al Faisal's words strongly hint at the frustrations Saudis have with Biden, but are diplomatic enough to smother disappointments with appreciation. "I am pleased that Mr. Biden recognizes the importance of the relationship in containing disruptive Iranian conduct in general, the threat of terrorism, achieving peace in Yemen, shared military operations and other considerations," he added.
        Biden's basis for shunning Saudi Arabia has been its human rights record under its de facto ruler, MBS, who according to US intelligence authorized the hit on Khashoggi (an allegation MBS has denied).
        Khashoggi's murder was a particularly low point in US-Saudi relations, but there were others, including the ousting of the previous Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef, a strong ally of the US in the war on terrorism, and locking up political opponents and rights activists.
        Until now, Biden has pointedly avoided dealing with MBS, preferring to talk with his father, which for many Saudis seems an obvious and unwelcome snub. But when they meet in mid-July, all of that could change.
        Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing sanctions on Moscow have left the world short on oil. As a swing producer with spare capacity, Saudi Arabia, and specifically MBS, can help shore up the shortage.
        Biden could get the oil he wants and at the same time confer on 36-year-old MBS the presidential recognition he craves as future long-term leader of the Gulf's most powerful nation, setting him on his ambitious path to become the principal regional power broker.