Saudis and their Persian Gulf neighbors "feel pretty satisfied," Hady Amr, director of the Brookings Institution's Doha Center, said in an interview from Qatar. "They're relishing their prominence on the world stage."
In mid-May, President Bush went to Saudi Arabia for the second time this year to seek increased oil production, but officials in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, said no large increases were planned. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) criticized Bush in her presidential campaign appearances, saying she found it embarrassing that a sitting president was "begging" the Saudis.
U.S. lawmakers, meanwhile, have proposed various measures to force the Saudis to boost production. One, sponsored by Senate Democrats, threatens withdrawal of a proposed $1.4 billion in pending arms sales.
"We have to shove it in the face of the Saudis and the others in the international criminal cartel," Rep. Donald Manzullo (R-Ill.) said May 22 at a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He decried Saudi Arabia and other members of OPEC as "bandits."
The Saudis, for their part, have told U.S. officials that they understand that this is an election year, and seem to largely discount the rhetoric. But there also have been hints of indignation that Americans are pressing them.
Even without the passage of punitive legislation this year, diplomatic efforts could suffer if the Saudis react badly to the American outcry, Saunders said. One that could be affected is Bush's insistence on a Mideast peace pact by the time he leaves office in January.
"You couldn't have any real expectation of [a peace deal] if the Saudis are seriously alienated from the U.S.," Saunders said.
Times staff writers Kim Murphy in London and Borzou Daragahi in Beirut contributed to this report.