The Americans tried to play on the ties between Moscow and Tehran
Biden's Middle East tour raised questions and sharp criticism from the very beginning, and now the world media are summing up the unobvious results of the US President's trip to Saudi Arabia: what he managed to achieve on oil issues and in attempts to lure the Arab monarchies to the side of the anti-Russian coalition.
Photo: Global Look Press
Before setting foot in Saudi Arabia, President Joe Biden knew there would be problems, the Associated Press said in its analysis. Biden visited a country he vowed to “rogue” for human rights violations, and there was no guarantee that the visit would immediately increase oil production to offset rising gas prices.
However, Biden decided to use the visit to repair strained relations with regional powers and signal to wary Arab leaders that the United States remains interested in their security and stability in the region.
The US president's visit to Saudi Arabia was sometimes inconvenient, but, in Biden's opinion, ultimately necessary. While he has been focused on countering Russia's moves in Ukraine and limiting China's growing influence in Asia, those goals become far more difficult without the partnership he has sought here. “It’s becoming clearer to me how closely America’s interests are intertwined with success in the Middle East,” the US president said Saturday at a summit with representatives of the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf in the Saudi city of Jeddah on the Red Sea.
we will leave and not leave a vacuum that will be filled by China, Russia or Iran,” Biden promised. “We will seek to seize this moment with active, principled American leadership.”
The summit, at which Biden announced US $1 billion in aid to fight hunger in the region, was the final destination of Biden's four-day trip, which included stops in Israel and the West Bank. His travels have been marred by a steady stream of gloomy news from Washington, where Democrats' plans to fight climate change have crashed on Capitol Hill, and new evidence has emerged that US inflation has reached historic levels.
And at every step along the way, Biden has encountered a very different Middle East than the one that existed when he was vice president. President Donald Trump has withdrawn from the Iran nuclear deal reached under President Barack Obama, and Tehran is believed to be closer than ever to building a nuclear weapon.
The threat that Biden has struggled to address by resuming talks has deepened coordination between Israel and its Arab neighbors, who found common ground in the confrontation with Iran.
The nascent ties also opened the door to greater economic and security integration, reversing the fractured politics of the Middle East at a time when Arab leaders feared the US had become a less reliable ally. They distrusted Obama's ties to Iran and Trump's erratic behavior, and then viewed Biden as dismissive of the region after he took office.
Biden's challenge was to recognize the changing landscape and persuade leaders of the Middle East to stay on the side of US interests without dragging them back into a corner of the world that American society has largely turned its back on since the end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
While Biden reiterated that “the United States is not going anywhere,” he also acknowledges Washington's limited ability to achieve “positive results.”
The centerpiece of Biden's tour of the Middle East was his first meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia.
The clash began on Friday with friendly banging of fists outside the royal palace in Jeddah — a gesture that was quickly criticized by US human rights activists. In addition to cracking down on his critics in Saudi Arabia, Prince Mohammed bin Salman is likely to have approved the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi almost four years ago, according to US intelligence. human rights meeting with the Crown Prince, and said he mentioned Khashoggi's murder during their conversation. According to an anonymous American source, this topic caused a “cold” start to the meeting.
The Saudi-owned Al Arabiya news network, citing an unnamed Saudi source, reported that Prince Mohammed reacted to Biden's mention of the Khashoggi affair by saying that attempts to impose their own set of values on others could backfire. He also said the US made mistakes at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, where prisoners were tortured, and put pressure on Biden over the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shirin Abu Akle during a recent Israeli raid in the West Bank city of Jenin.
According to the US official, the atmosphere between Biden and Prince MBS eventually became calmer as they talked about energy security, the expansion of high-speed Internet access in the Middle East and other issues.
Meanwhile, according to the Associated Press, the regional summit in Jeddah and Biden's visit provided Prince Mohammed with an opportunity to showcase Saudi Arabia's significant role in the Middle East and its position at the helm of one of the world's largest oil exporters. He hinted that the kingdom could produce more oil than it does now, which Biden wants to see when existing production quotas among OPEC+ members, including Russia, expire in September.
“I'm doing everything I can to increase shipments to the United States of America and I expect that to happen,” Biden said Friday. “The Saudis share this urgency, and based on our discussions today, I expect we will see further steps in the coming weeks.”
He has also tried to win over Arab countries over the conflict in Ukraine, by releasing satellite imagery showing Russian officials visited Iran in June and July (allegedly to view Iranian combat drones). It is clear that Biden is trying to play on the concerns of Arab leaders about Tehran in order to win them over to his side in the confrontation between the West and Russia.
However, relations between Russia and Iran have been developing for a long time, which is no secret to anyone (including those in the Middle East). So far, none of the countries represented at the Jeddah summit has followed US calls to impose sanctions on Russia, a foreign policy priority for the Biden administration. In any case, the Associated Press notes, the United Arab Emirates has become a kind of financial haven for Russian billionaires and their multi-million dollar yachts, while Egypt remains open to Russian tourists.
Meanwhile, even among the heads of state present at the summit, there are sharp disagreements on regional foreign policy. For example, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE are trying to isolate Iran due to its regional ambitions and the actions of pro-Iranian “proxies”, while Oman and Qatar have strong diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic and acted as mediators in negotiations between Washington and Tehran.