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Once an American foe, now a friend: OPEC turns 60

LONDON: In 1973, Arab members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries brought the U.S. economy to its knees. Now, the cartel created 60 years ago is more likely to do Washington's bidding.

Since Saudi Arabia and other Arab OPEC members imposed their famous oil embargo as retribution for U.S. support for Israel during the Yom Kippur War, shifts in global politics and a surge in America's oil production have tamed the group.

OPEC's most hawkish members, Iran and Venezuela, have been sidelined by U.S. sanctions while its kingpin, Saudi Arabia, has shown it would rather appease Washington than risk losing U.S. support, current and former OPEC officials say. While OPEC as a bloc resisted U.S. pressure to lower oil prices for decades, notably in 2011 during the uprising against Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, its record over the past three years has largely been one of capitulation, these officials say.

Founded in Baghdad on Sept. 14, 1960 to counter the power of seven U.S. and British oil companies, OPEC has repeatedly yielded to pressure from Washington to pump more oil since U.S. President Donald Trump took office at the start of 2017.

Trump has regularly called for lower gasoline prices to help U.S. consumers.

And when prices got too low for U.S. drilling companies to make money this year, OPEC hashed out a deal to bring them back up slightly, in an agreement spurred on by Washington's threat to reduce its military backing for Riyadh, sources have told Reuters.

"Trump orders from Saudi Arabia what he needs for the oil price - and he is served," Chakib Khelil, who was Algeria's oil minister for a decade and OPEC's president in 2001 and 2008, told Reuters. "So indeed OPEC has changed."

The Saudi Energy Ministry declined to comment. The White House declined to comment.

Reuters spoke to eight current and former OPEC officials, representing over a third of the group's output, as well as analysts, traders and investors to ask how U.S. sanctions on Iran and Venezuela had affected Saudi Arabia's influence within OPEC, and whether that had changed the dynamic with Washington.

An OPEC official at the group's Vienna headquarters declined to comment, saying Reuters should ask member states. Oil and other government officials in Iran and Venezuela did not immediately respond to requests for

comment.

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