The president of the United States does not want to leave a strategic region at the risk of ceding the initiative to other powers. And up to here all the differences that Joe Biden has exhibited with respect to his predecessor, Donald Trump, during his tour of the Middle East. Yesterday, the so-called Security and Development Summit took place in Jeddah. Although the talk was once again the throes of the Khashoggi scandal, there was time for announcements and promises – some more and others less tangible.
Before meeting Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman again, Biden met separately with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Sisi, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhimi and United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed. Nahyan. Such packaging, in a meeting in which representatives and leaders of Jordan, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman also participated, shows how much Biden was expected.
In his pre-summit speech, bin Salman urged the Iranians to be “cooperative and not interfere in regional affairs.” His country has been rebuilding bridges with Iran for months. This week, the UAE presidential adviser opted to return his ambassador to Tehran. Joe Biden, who had just signed a commitment in Jerusalem to use “all the elements” of his national power to prevent an Iranian atomic weapon, once again outlined a sort of new “axis of evil”, which did not convince those present .
“We will not leave leaving a hole that can be filled by China, Russia or Iran,” the US president stressed during the summit. “Let me make it clear that the United States is going to continue to be an actively engaged partner in the Middle East. With the world becoming more competitive and facing increasingly complex challenges, it is becoming clear to me how closely intertwined US interests are with success.” of the Middle East,” Biden settled.
With those words, the White House tried to appease and gain the trust of leaders who have spent the last few years opening their own diplomatic channels, some outside of Washington and contrary to their interests. For these leaders, the alarm signal had been the fleeting withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan, together with the partial withdrawals in Iraq and Syria. The election of Biden and his promises to defend human rights at all costs also caused concern in the desert palaces.
Thus, aside from the US, the Saudis avoided condemning and sanctioning Russia for the invasion of Ukraine; the Emiratis have thrown their doors wide open to the oligarchs; Riyadh has leaned on China for a fledgling nuclear arms race and has forged a prolonged truce with the Iranian-backed Houthi movement in Yemen. According to the Pentagon, Moscow wants Iran to sell it combat drones, while the chances of reviving the nuclear deal are shrinking with each passing day.
Joe Biden came to the Middle East to show them an alternative path. One that goes through arming together with Israel a political and military front against Iran, reviving the Abraham agreements that Trump created. And despite the announcement that Riyadh would allow Israeli planes to fly freely through its airspace, Saudi foreign policy chief Faisal bin Farhan Saud stressed to reporters that such a gesture was not a precursor to a major step and that they were involved in a defensive alliance with Israel.
There was another jug of water, or rather oil, to Biden’s claims. While one of the goals of his visit and one of the reasons for burying his humanist promises was the demand to increase oil production, what he started from the Saudis fell far short. Yesterday’s announcement was that Saudi Arabia will increase its production capacity to 13 million barrels per day, not its production. The reality, that these were the Saudi plans for 2027, announced last May.
Therefore, it will be in the hands of OPEC, the cartel of oil exporting countries that includes Russia, which will meet on August 3, the decision to increase crude oil production to try to lower the global price of energy. Biden returned yesterday without an announcement about where Riyadh will stand when he sits at that table.
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